Native American legend Pamola is lots of things to lots of people, and almost all of them are objectively terrible.
Saying something is “Native American” is like saying it’s European, so more specifically, Pamola is from stories of the Penobscot, Abenaki and Micmac. Almost all paint him as a dangerous flying spirit that lives on Mount Katahdin in New England, but since these stories were collected by 19th century white Europeans, I’m happy to be corrected. Very happy, in fact, given what they say about him.
For the Penobscot, Pamola was why people never went up the mountain. A snowed-in man only remained un-eaten because he offered Pamola fried animal fats and greeted him as a partner. Pamola then whisked him away to his comfy wigwam inside the mountain, married him off to his daughter, and said he would always be welcome to visit. If he remarried, however, he would be forced to stay with them forever. Unfortunately, the man’s village nagged him into nuptials, and the day after he disappeared. While not great as a father-in-law, Pamola does far worse when he’s the bridegroom.
In another story, a young woman refused to believe he existed until he appeared on the lake shore, raped her, and took her back to Mount Katahdin. He kept her there for a year – although she was apparently “treated well”– and plopped her back on the shore ready to pop, explaining their child would have the power to kill anything by pointing, and if protected until adulthood, save the village from its enemies. Of course, the inevitable happened and the boy accidentally killed someone. The woman was also nagged into marriage – another Pamola no-no – and she and her son were never seen again after the wedding. At least the first guy got to enjoy his wedding night.
According to Native American story collector Charles Leland, the spirit of Mount Katahdin gets the blame for this, not Pamola, who was a night spirit or night hawk, or early thunder spirit.
To the Micmac, he’s an evil night spirit whose gift was squandered, but at least this time it was actually wanted.
A would-be comedian sought the power to make people laugh without fail. Said power was contained in a magic root from “Bmola”, and when he used it earlier than instructed, it backfired and left him a broken man. When he later killed himself, Bmola swept him away to the land of darkness.
He’s slightly less threatening in Abenaki legend, as a giant bird who causes cold weather by flapping his wings, and at some point he’s also been given the head of a moose, the body of a man and the feet of an eagle. This version can be a lot friendlier though, especially in the “Chimney Pond Tales” of late Katahdin guide Leroy Dudley, where he river-surfs on a crowbar raft. Certainly a more wholesome pleasure than forced marriage and rape, although I can’t argue with the fry-ups.
Meaning: (Abenaki-Penobscot) “he curses on the mountain”
What? Mythical bird/night spirit
Where? Mount Katahdin, Maine, New England, USA
How big? Enough to pick up a moose
Probable motto: “I told you not to get married”/ “Yoink! Off to the darkness with you!”/ SQUAWWWK
Just to prove I’m not fibbing
“Abenaki“. No date. New World Encyclopedia (this link is currently broken, hopefully they’ll sort it soon – 23rd July 2018).
Hall, Clayton. 1991. “Chimney Pond Tales: yarns told by Leroy Dudley”. Pamola Press.
“How Glooskap, leaving the World, all the animals mourned for him, and how, Ere he departed, he gave gifts to men“. No date. First People of America and Canada – Turtle Island.
Leland, Charles G. 1884. “The Algonquian legends of New England“. Unknown publisher.
“Pamola“. No date. Native Languages of the Americas.
“Penobscot“. No date. New World Encyclopedia (as above, this link is currently broken, 23rd July 2018).
Featured image credit: “Pomola”, by grayREALM.