Form and Content
Cyrus Macmillan first published these thirty-eight tales as elements of two separate collections, Canadian Wonder Tales (1918) and Canadian Fairy Tales (1922). He takes the myths and legends of the Micmac and Blackfoot peoples of Canada and rewrites them as stories for young readers. Overall, Macmillan preserves the plots and characters, although he provides imaginative details that do not come from his sources. For example, in “How Summer Came to Canada,” he mentions items such as the Southern Cross and orange blossoms, the existence of which the indigenous peoples of Canada did not know until fairly recent times.
Many ontological tales appear in this collection. Readers discover why rabbits and bears have short tails, why seasons alternate, why birds migrate, and why leaves change color. Although only seven tales actually relate the deeds of Glooskap, Macmillan links those seven with eleven others concerning figures associated with Glooskap into a series of eighteen tales, from “Glooskap’s Country” to “The Passing of Glooskap.” The first of these recounts the mysterious background accorded Glooskap by legend. For example, he dwells with old Dame Bear, who may or may not be his mother, and a seemingly eternal child, who may or may not be his younger brother. “The Passing of Glooskap” relates his departure from North America to an unknown land across the sea, which, again in the ambiguity of legend, appears to be both an otherworldly afterlife and a physical resting place. Between these tales are others in which Glooskap punishes evildoers and regulates the universe. Six tales of the series deal with Rabbit, one of Glooskap’s followers and one of the tricksters familiar in North American traditions.
The remaining twenty tales are gathered without concern for plot connections, although “The Indian Cinderella,” the first story after “The Passing of Glooskap,” mentions that an aged man had lived at the time of Glooskap. The first eighteen tales, plus the twelve that follow them immediately, are Micmac legends from the eastern woodlands, while the final eight are Blackfoot legends from the prairies. The Blackfoot stories present a universe distinct from that of the Micmac legends; the first Blackfoot narrative, “Star-Boy and the Sun Dance,” describes the Sun in very different terms than does “The Moon and His Frog-Wife,” showing the Sioux solar concept to be much different from that of the Algonquin peoples.