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Sunday, October 9, 2011



Legends of any kind have always fascinated me, and while researching for my book, Widow’s Walk, I’ve become even more interested in them. Since the action in the book takes places in Northern Minnesota, including among an Ojibwe tribe, that is where I began my research. One of the more interesting, and dangerous, legends is that of The Sleeping Giant.
Looking across from Thunder Bay, you can see a formation of land called The Sleeping Giant. According to the Ojibwe legend, the Spirit of the Deep Sea, Nanna Bijou, rewarded the tribe for their loyalty. The chief learned from the Spirit about a tunnel leading to the center of rich silver mine. He warned that if the Ojibwe tribe were ever to tell the White Man of this mine he, Nanna Bijou, would be turned to stone. Thereafter, the Ojibwe became famous for their silver ornaments.
But, as often happens, others learned of this and the Sioux even tortured and killed to learn where the tribe got the silver for their beautiful ornaments.
Unwilling to accept defeat when the Ojibwe refused to divulge the secret, a Sioux warrior disguised himself as an Ojibwe, learned of the mine’s location, and took large pieces of the silver.
Unfortunately, he stopped at a white trader’s for food, and because he had no furs to trade, used a piece of silver instead. The traders filled him with firewater and then persuaded him to lead them to the “silver islet.”
But they were not to succeed. They were within sight of the “Silver Islet” when a terrible storm struck. The white men drowned and the Sioux warrior ended up drifting in a canoe – crazed.
That wasn’t all. According to Native American Legends,
“Where once was a wide opening to the bay, now lay what appeared to be a great sleeping figure of a man. The Great Spirit’s warning had come true and he had been turned to stone.
“Today, partly submerged shaft to what was once the richest silver mine in the northwest, can still be seen. White men have repeatedly attempted to pump out the water that floods in from Lake Superior, but their efforts have been in vain. Is it still under the curse of Nanna Bijou, Spirit of the Deep Sea Water? Perhaps….who can tell?”
There are other myths that abound among Native American legends and the three I’ve listed below could certainly fire an author’s imagination.
Underwater Panther (Ojibwe name variously spelled Mishibizhiw, Mishibizhii, Mishipeshu, Mishipizheu, and other ways): This is a powerful mythological creature something like a cross between a cougar and a dragon. It is a dangerous monster who lives in deep water and causes men and women to drown.
Mishiginebig (also spelled Mishiginebig, Mishi-Ginebig, Meshkenabec, Msi-Knebik, Kichikinebik, or other ways): An underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. Its name literally means Great Serpent, and it is laid to lurk in lakes and eat humans.
Animikii or Binesi (also spelled Animiki, Animkii, Nimkii, Bnesi, Bineshi, and other ways): Thunderbird, a giant mythological bird common to the northern and western tribes. Thunder is caused by the beating of their immense wings. Although thunderbirds are very powerful beings, they rarely bother humans, and were treated with reverence by Ojibwe people. Animikii, which means “thunderer,” is pronounced uh-nih-mih-kee, and Binesi, which means “great bird,” is pronounced bih-nay-sih.”
My WIP so far has none of these legends, though it does contain that of the witch tree. I may use one of these, but no more. However, my imagination is working on another story, maybe several, where I can write around one of these most interesting legends.
Joan K. Maze
Writing as J. K. Maze
Murder By Mistake, book 1 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, B&N, Fictionwise and Amazon.
Murder By Mistake, book 1 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available in paperback from Amazon.
Murder For Kicks, book 2 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, Fictionwise and Amazon
Framed In Fear, romantic suspense set in Colorado, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, Fictionwise and Amazon
Murder By Spook, book 3 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, in progress


marybelle said...

I'm not familiar with THE SLEEPING GIANT legend. I would actually love to know more Native American legends - just fascinating.

J K Maze said...


There are a great many legends, so many I couldn't possibly cover them in one article. I'll do more later. I've just recently become interested in them, mainly because of my WIP. I googled Native American legends and got many hits.
Thanks for commenting.