The Unicorn Rescue Society series is packed with magical creatures, adventure, folklore, and fun. Author Joseph Bruchac, who teamed up with author Adam Gidwitz to tackle Sasquatch in the third book in the series, The Unicorn Rescue Society: Sasquatch and the Muckleshoot, was kind enough to share with us a few other magical creatures that haven’t yet made it into a book…but not for lack of being awesome.
Says Adam Gidwitz, “Three books so far, and three amazing creatures. But there are so many wonderful myths that feature amazing animals and beasts and creatures and monsters. We can’t fit them all into the Unicorn Rescue Society books. Since Joseph Bruchac, my co-author for The Unicorn Rescue Society: Sasquatch and the Muckleshoot, is a legendary Abenaki story-teller who has studied the stories of Native American cultures around the continent, he is going to share some of the most amazing creatures and monsters that haven’t made it into a Unicorn Rescue Society book. At least, not yet…”
Three Amazing Creatures and Monsters from Native American Legends:
Writes Joseph Bruchac, “Native American legends of monsters and amazing creatures are so many and so varied that it’s hard to pick out just three. After all, we have more than 500 indigenous tribal nations still surviving today in the United States alone, all of them with monster stories. So, I am going to concentrate on some—just a few—of those found in our northeastern Alnobak (Abenaki) and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) traditions. Here are three of my favorites:
Skoks is our Abenaki name for a snake, and Padoskoks is the biggest snake of them all, the one who has been seen for generations in the lake we call Petonbowk, the Between Waters. That lake is known in English as Lake Champlain, which is why our aquatic friend is known to Native and non-Native folks alike as “Champ.” It might be seen as just one of the several Native American equivalents of the Loch Ness monster. In Abenaki traditions, Padoskoks is not a dangerous creature, as long as you show respect. For example, the name “Padoskoks” is traditionally never spoken while on, or close to, the lake. There are stories of our people walking next to the lake on a foggy night and finding a large long log across their path, stepping over it and then seeing it move because it was Champ’s tail.
I first heard stories of Nyah-gwa-ih-he-go-wah from such Haudenosaunee elders as Ray Fadden. Its name means the “Naked Bear” or the “Monster Bear.” It can take the shape of a giant bear or, in some tales, a human being. It’s a very scary creature, one that likes to lure people away by taking the shape of a human, then transforming into a bear and tearing them apart. In one story, the Monster Bear is pursued by three hunters into the sky land, where it becomes the Big Dipper. In another tale, a monster bear is defeated by a small boy in a foot race.
The Flying Head is a being that flies through the air. It has a very small body, a huge head with long hair, and two giant paws like those of a bear. It is greedy and voracious and in Haudenosaunee stories is often tricked by humans who then escape it. Interestingly enough, some of the earliest Abenaki stories about these monsters say that they lived in the Adirondack mountains in the valley of the Sacandaga River—now the great Sacandaga Reservoir, only 20 miles from my home. One traditional tale tells how the Flying Heads drove the local native people out of the valley. As recently as three years ago, people who live near the Sacandaga Reservoir have told me they have seen Flying Heads and asked me to come and investigate them.
Don’t miss the fourth book in the series, The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Chupacabras of the Río Grande, on B&N bookshelves now!