Native American Myths:
The Man-Fish

Many native American myths concern what are called emergence stories. This is a story that explains how a tribe had come to live in this world after journeying here from another. I suspect that usually this records an historical event when a tribe moved from one location to another. There is a myth that may be from the Shawnees, or maybe the Passamaquoddy, about a Man-Fish that appeared at the shore when the tribe lived by the Great Salt Lake. He came riding on the back of a dolphin, and he had the face of a dolphin, a green beard and two long scaly legs like the bodies of fish. He spoke their language and sang them songs of a wonderful, distant Spirit Island. He invited them repeatedly to go there, but they were afraid.

While this strange man was present no work was done in the village and soon their supplies were exhausted. Some warriors set off in a canoe to catch fish, but were unsuccessful. The Man-Fish laughed at them and again invited them to leave this land and travel with him to the wonderful Spirit Island. The warriors asked how some place else could be as good as were they were, and the Man-Fish reminded them of the terrible winters and war-like tribes that existed in their country. Finally convinced, but cautious, the warriors agreed and followed the Man-Fish out into the open ocean.

The trip was a long one, and a huge storm raged constantly. Difficulty in the journey from one world to another is common in native American myths. Nothing of value is accomplished without effort. After many days the warriors arrived at the Spirit Island, which was inhabited by a creature with a head like a goat. This creature spoke their language and told them he would take them to a land where they would find good hunting and beautiful wives. The Man-Fish departed and the goat-creature led them inland. He was as good as his word and brought them to a new land where they married and raised a great nation.

The primary event in native American history, or prehistory, is when they came over from Asia across the Bering Strait. This entry into a new continent may be the ultimate source of all the emergence myths. Of course, native American myths are shaped by each tribe's unique history - this accounts for the different details in each story.



Native American Myths --> Mermaid Mythology