Adult Reading Level

ALGONQUIAN LEGENDS, Charles G. Leland; Dept. 23, Dover Publications, 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY, 11501; in Canada General Publishing Co Ltd, Toronto: 1992 reprint of 1884 publication. 379 pages, line drawings, list of Indian sources. $8.95 paperback, 0-486-26944-2

Leland (and a few others) collected these legends at the end of the 19th century from several Penobscot, Micmac, and Passamaquoddy elders, some of whom still spoke their language at that point. The tales are somewhat less antique in language than other 19th-century collections, but do contain mention of "fairies" and "elves" -- often, though, the Indian word is given for whatver these beings actually meant to Native people at the time. Some of the tales do seem to be as given by their identifid informants. Unfortunately, for others, Leland combined bits and pieces of different tales from different -- sometimes tribally-different -- tellers to make up what seemed to him to be the oldest, complete version. Leland had an axe to grind; he hopes to show that the structure of supernatural beliefs is similar to Scandinavian tales. He is also convinced that in the highly acculturated people he and others interviewed near the end of the 19th-century he is getting nearer the originals than for tales collected much further west among Algonquian people who had migrated there (mostly Ojibwe or Chippewa as he called it). Nevertheless, he does record some of the Indian words, tough it's really too bad there are not more in-Indian renditions of songs and verse. Tales in the book are divided into those about Glooscap (heroic creator-figure of the Micmacs, who is somewhat similar to Nanabozho further wst, but has no trickster element), Tales of Lox or Wolverine (evil trickster), Ice-Canibal tales, and tal4s of magic (M'teoulin, seemingly a verbal variant of Midewewin). Mysteriously, the book ends with 2 songs which are given both in Indian and English, but are not identified or related to anything else. The tales are actually quite interesting. Stringing together fragments makes for elaborate mini-novellas (but I wonder if the actual fragments really do go together like that?). You can check on the stories that do seem to have come directly from a storyteller source, and you can ignore his gonzo theories explained at some length between major sections and btween some stories. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated:Tuesday, April 09, 1996 - 9:32:24 AM