It is said the Inuit have 50 words for snow. That may or may not be the case (it's not, they have way more) but, after researching this map, I can tell you they have at least 50 names for Bigfoot. I'm unsure if Canada would be a linguist's dream or nightmare, but it certainly made researching this map harder than the average one.
I've wanted to make this map for a while but had put off starting as I suspected I wouldn't be able to make it as balanced as I'd like, with the Southern cities having plenty of myths and legends, a smattering of things near the coasts, and getting sparser the more North and central you go. And, in a way I was right. That certainly is the case in broad strokes, but fortunately, there was a rich and long enough history to keep finding little bits here and there which helped create a more balanced map. There were a lot of beasts located in vaguely named places such as 'Arctic coasts' which made tying them down to a specific area impossible.
Canada is full of enough things that will kill you: bears, snakes, spiders, the Arctic conditions and the vast wilderness. It's in these environments that people conjure up beasts and stories to help them make sense of, and navigate, the potentially hostile environment.
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Onto the beasts!
There are many stories of giants in the northern regions of Canada. This one is from the Copper Inuit and talks of a giant so large that, when crossing seas, the water would rarely rise above his knees. As large and imposing as he sounds, he seems to have been fairly benevolent. When he encountered a group of Inuit, he didn't eat them, chase them or do anything vaguely threatening. What he did was pick up some nearby boulders and do a little bit of juggling. The locals seem to have taken this as a show of strength and perceived it as a threat. They reacted in a totally normal way when encountering juggling, and responded by throwing out a curse. It may have been a bit of an overreaction - no one has juggled confrontationally, and it is not an inherently threatening activity. Yes, granted they were big old bits of rock but I've seen people juggle chainsaws and still at no point are the audience and juggler pitted against each other. Anyway, the big fella gets turned to stone for his attempts to show off his party trick. I bet they'd have hated Poi.
Ch'ii Choo is another of the Arctic giants, and is less sound than the previously mentioned juggler, due to his tendency to eat people. His story is used to explain certain geographical features in the areas surrounding the Mackenzie River, which were made as he gave chase to Atachùukąįį.
Atachùukąįį was a Gwich'in leader and, whilst travelling across the Yukon, he encountered Ch'ii Choo who was in the mood for his favourite snack. Atachùukąįį fled by canoe. Eventually, realising this wasn't getting the distance required between him and a healthy dash of seasoning, he decided that he would have to outsmart the giant. He pulled his canoe from the water (a rock in the area that is said to look like an upturned canoe) and took off on foot. As the giant chased him, he created 6 massive footprints, which created the lakes between Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope.
His plan was to wait for every time Ch'ii Choo washed up before eating, and steal his food. Exploiting the man-eating giant's good habits seemed to work. Ch'ii Choo's need for cleanliness had driven him to that most desperate of scenarios: cutting off his own butt and turning it into pemmican (apparently some kind of fatty dried meat snack). Which is a solid plan, unless you then instilled all your trust in a muskrat to take said butt pemmican to a spring to cool. Taking his eyes off the prize again, Ch'ii Choo's muskrat is ambushed by Atachùukąįį who beans him in the head with a rock and eats the butt meat right in front of the muskrat. The muskrat returns to Ch'ii Choo to tell him of yet another lost dinner. Surrendering to his fate, he sings a sad song and proceeds to starve to death.
Crescent Lakes' own legend. Cressie is the name given to a brown eel-like monster who has been sighted from the 50s.
The most commonly used name is 'Adlet', which changes to Erqigdlit west of Hudson Bay. They are a race of half-man, half-dog warriors usually associated with the popular tale of 'The Girl and the Dogs'. It tells of a woman who would not take a suitor, so instead marries a dog. Eventually, they have 10 babies; 5 of which are dogs, and the other 5 are the Adlet. Her canine husband for some reason gives up hunting right when he has 10 mouths to feed. So now the woman's father has to provide for his hairy, hungry grandkids. He gets them all in a boat and heads to an island and tells his "son-in-law" to swim over each day and collect meat. He'll even handily put it in some boots that he can wear over his shoulders as he swims back.
From here, a classic revenge tale takes place. Obviously, the father isn't too pleased with his daughter marrying a dog so, instead of meat, he fills the boots with rocks and inevitably the fuzzy suitor is drowned. Devastated and furious, she sends her dog children to gnaw off Pop Pop's hands and feet. In turn, he gives his daughter a shove over the edge of the boat. While clinging on to the edge, he hacks off her fingers which fall to the sea and become whales and seals. Sensing that things may have escalated somewhat and that if this carries on someone could get really hurt, she sends her offspring away. The Adlet are to go inland where they form new tribes, the dogs she sends in a boat East, and that is apparently where the Scandinavians originated from. Classic.
'Meteor Dragon' is a pretty metal name. Probably 80's hair metal, but still. Anyway, this beast is the closest thing you will find to a dragon in Canada. Associated with Lake Ontario, it is a fire-breathing dragon said to have come to Earth on a meteor and is able to cross the sky on a trail of fire. Metal.
An ally or, potentially, a weapon of the Thunderbirds (the mythical beasts, not the puppets). The Haietlik are lightning serpents with a head sharper than a knife and, for good measure, they can also shoot lightning from their tongues. They are said to either inhabit inland coastal waters or live within the Thunderbird's feathers, ready to be unleashed. The Thunderbird utilises the Haietlik like a harpoon when hunting for whales, and when they strike the unfortunate whale it is stunned for long enough for the Thunderbird to carry it away.
A child-stealing shapeshifter that can slip in between realms. When in its human form its eyes and mouth appear sideways, and its eyes remain red no matter what form it takes. So it has some pretty clear tells. You will only be able to see Ijiraq on the periphery of your vision, if you try to focus on them they will disappear.
So this is one of the strangest beings I've encountered, certainly in Canada, potentially anywhere. However, there are 2 similar creatures that often become interwoven and confusing. The common theme is they are giant heads walking around on legs, with breasts starting at their cheeks and a vulva on their chin. I went back and forth on whether to include this or not, as I try to keep the maps open to any age group. I decided it was too unique to leave, and did my best to represent it as family-friendly as I could - if you want to make up a lie about a beard, that's your call.
The motif can be broken down into 2 separate creatures: The Kajutajuq and the Tunituaruk (I've seen different spellings of each name). I don't want to go on a limb and say which is which, as I've read contradicting sources, but one lives in abandoned huts and igloos and will make you gravely ill if you see one, the other seems totally shy and benevolent. So if you encounter one of these, apologies that I couldn't clear it up for you.
The famous Kraken of Nordic myth has also found a home in Canada. And it makes perfect sense, given Nordic people settled in Iceland, Greenland and ultimately Canada. Records of the Kraken go back to the 12th century, although it wasn't until about the 18th century that the image of the Kraken as a giant squid became the agreed form. Before then it could take many shapes, the key identifiers were that it was as large as an island and that it was capable of sinking a ship.
A troll with extremely long and sharp claws, they are said to live in snow huts just like the other residents of the area, though don't think about calling over to ask to borrow a bowl of sugar. The Kukilialuit are not the friendly type, they are certainly susceptible to "red mist" and, once they attack their victim, they will be unable to stop - they will use their sharp claws to scratch and tear until there is no flesh left on them.
The Kushtaka are shapeshifters, able to change from a man to an otter. The stories of them vary greatly from being helpful and benevolent to being murderous or somewhere in between, playing the role of the trickster. They have been used by mothers as a warning to keep their children away from dangerous waters. The Kushtaka are also capable of turning people into a new Kushtaka. In some cases, they do it as a way to save a lost person from freezing to death, distracting them whilst the process unfolds with comforting images of their families. In other cases, the process isn't as pleasant and they will lure a woman away from the village by imitating the cries of their child and proceed to tear them apart.
The Canadian Lutins are very similar to the Lutin stories of Europe. They are household spirits who can help around the house if treated well, completing a number of tasks whilst the homeowner sleeps. They can also handily control the weather. They are, however, prone to a bit of mischief and will tire out the horses by riding them all night and compulsively braiding their hair. Which to me sounds nice and decorative, fancy even. But it is generally spoken of as a negative - I assume there is some equestrian knowledge I am not privy to.
Lutins are easily offended and become mildly malevolent when they feel slighted. If wronged, they will go out of their way to make your life just that bit harder, much like modern governments. Unlike the government, Lutins are mainly limited to small annoyances such as blunting work tools, or filling your boots with gravel. To my knowledge, they've never tanked the economy or stripped the health care service.
As well as the gnome-esque image we associate with Lutin, they are known to take the form of animals; white cats near the home are generally regarded as Lutin.
So, this one tickles you, sounds fairly banal right? But no, it takes it way too far and uses its creepy long nails to tickle you to death. The Mahahaa is an embodiment of the brutal Arctic conditions, and victims are found with tortured, frozen grins across their faces. It sounds like a really irritating way to go.
Like the witch from Hansel and Gretal but lacking the baking skills. She lures children to her cave through a trail of coloured pebbles or rudimentary carvings, before trapping them in the cave to hunt at her leisure. Her organs are made of metals and stones and rather than eating the bodies, she removes the heads and then feeds off the rot and goo that seeps from the noses. Nasty.
Canada is absolutely in love with lake monsters; there are so many of them, which is great, but really there isn't much to say about them. They all follow a similar motif, have similar potential explanations, and are very similar visually. I do like drawing a lake monster, but I find it a challenge to write about them.
Manipogo is a lake serpent from Lake Manitoba, very similar to its counterparts Opopogo, Winnipogo, etc. Sightings go back a long way and there are apparently stories that go back further into native accounts. The most fun thing about this is that locals hold an annual Manipogo festival, which is no doubt great craic.
Even by my standards, this one is obscure. I managed to scrabble together a few bits from here and there to try and form what we think it looks like. Hudson Bay is a huge feature in Canada's geography and we wanted to include something there, which led us down some rabbit holes, eventually leading to the Miqqiayuuq. It is described as a hairy faceless creature, sometimes giant in scale, that will wait to mess with locals - particularly when they are trying to draw water. They like to tangle the ropes around rocks and generally be a big hairy pain in the arse - I think it's likely it's just someone's dad, doing goofy dad stuff.
I wanted to include Mishipeshu when I initially made the "Mythical Beasts of the United States" map, but it didn't fit quite right in the layout, so I was glad to include it here.
Mishipeshu is the 'great-lynx' the natural enemy of the Thunderbird and, whilst the Thunderbird has dominion of the skies, the water belongs to Mishipeshu. They live in Lake Superior, specifically Michipicoten Island, where they guard their hoards of copper.
Mishipeshu can control the water creating whirlpools and storms or splitting the frozen ice sheets. Generally, they are viewed as malevolent but to be greatly respected. Offerings would be made to Mishipeshu for safe crossings and, although people had taken copper from the river prior to white settlers arriving, by the time Europeans had turned up it was considered taboo and no longer done. Cue white people breaking native rules and paying for it. There are many accounts of people who tried to take copper from the lake and paid with their lives, many ships sunk in freak storms. Despite Mishipeshus being feared, they are also revered, and they can provide good luck on fishing expeditions, are tied to medicinal beliefs, and help keep the world in balance. So don't touch its stuff and it'll likely be ok.
The Nakani are similar in a lot of ways to Bigfoot/Sasquatch, and you will find a lot of creatures like this in Canadian folklore: a huge, hairy, bi-pedal man, with great strength. Though, unlike our benevolent buddy the Sasquatch, the Nakani was a bit of a horror. The locals live in constant fear of them and believed them to be at all times surrounding them just past the light of camp, waiting to steal women or rip off people's heads. The Nakani would taunt the villagers by throwing rocks and sticks into their camps, making horrible noises, and, if they couldn't lure anyone out, they weren't above just wandering in and stealing food or a woman.
What would make a Polar bear, one of the world's fiercest predators even more scary? Make it the size of an island, so big that when it walked across the sea its feet still touched the bottom. Yeah, you aren't escaping that. They fed on, well, just about anything. Whales, seals, people, anything - when you're an island-sized bear nothing is off the menu.
Canada's answer to Nessie. It is possibly Canada's most famous mythical beast, and certainly the one I would get yelled at me repeatedly on forums if I didn't include it. The unfortunate thing is that it occupied the same space as other potentially more interesting lake monsters.
In the exact same water, there is a much older beast known as Naitaka, who was revered but altogether more fiercesome, demanding live sacrifice in exchange for safe travel across the water. If the offering was not acceptable, Naitaka would whip up the surface of the water pulling canoes to the bottom. Another interesting lake monster from the same region is the Seelkee, which has a head at both ends. Still, Ogopogo is the most well-known, and I had to include it - I'm not here to gatekeep myths, I'm not someone who's gonna hate on a band because they've had some success. Ogopogo gets people into myths and that is awesome; we need the Nessies and Ogopogos.
This is one I wanted to include as it comes up quite often when looking into Canadian myths but finding sources was pretty tricky, especially finding ones tied to a particular place but, eventually, I got there. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Jenny Greenteeth from British folklore - there to warn young children to stay away from dangerous water - only as the environment gets more extreme, so does the beast. They are ugly slimy and scaly creatures, with webbed hands, fins and reeking of sulfur. They will snatch children from the edges of the Arctic water.
This is possibly my favourite one I encountered making this map. The Qamulek pulls a sledge in a straight line across the Arctic and he has a face that is beyond human comprehension, so it is best not to have a cheeky peek. In conjunction with his unimaginable face, on the sledge, he has a bag full of unimaginable horror. Do not look in there either. Symptoms may include (but are not limited to) lack of appetite, uncontrollable shaking, unexpected weeping, suicidal ideation and ultimately a case of the full-blown brain scramblies. Think of its face as the briefcase from Pulp Fiction, and the bag as the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Who knows where they came from or where they are going but they are going there in a distinctly Roman fashion and, if you block their path, they will freeze in place unable to proceed. This gives you the leverage to ask of the Qamulek anything your heart desires - probably something obvious like money, longevity, wisdom or land. So long as you then move out of the Qamulek's path and don't look back, you will receive your boon.
Interestingly, there are stories of a Qamulek being responsible for the Klondike gold rush.
A large hairless dog with tufts of hair here or there, it's a bit of a state the poor thing, and I'd have sympathy for it if the sight of the thing didn't induce convulsions. Rudyard Kipling warps the image of the Qiqirn for a short story but jazzes it up significantly by giving it 2 heads and 8 pairs of legs. That's too many legs Rudyard, way too many legs.
They are known as the halfway people and are similar to a mermaid, only they are tiny. They can be are generally gentle and gracious and will protect fishermen at sea, but if they feel slighted or attacked they will use their voices to sing songs that control storms. It is said you can learn to understand their songs and thus be able to predict the weather.
Canada has a deep love and obsession with the Sasquatch, it is right up there with lake monsters. He goes by many names, and there is a chance that other mythical beasts are a regional variation that has developed from the Sasquatch myth, or that old myths have adapted to fit a more generic Sasquatch motif.
The areas more associated with the Sasquatch are the wooded areas of the southwest, particularly British Columbia and Alberta. However, it is truly ubiquitous and you could have some variation almost anywhere, It may be possible to make a map with 100 Bigfoots covering Canada like a hairy wallpaper.
I don't think there is much for me to say about the Sasquatch, we are all pretty aware of the king of cryptids. Sasquatch has older and more important roles in the Inuit community, where he is seen as a guardian of the land and an omen of good luck. There are similar myths the world over. We all love the Squatch.
An addition from our favourite book of hooched-up moonshiners, 'Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwood'. The book that never fails to deliver classic and absolutely bonkers beasts, and thankfully a few have leaked up into Canada. Though the Snow Wassett is not as out there as many of the others, I'm always happy to open this book up.
In the warmer months, the Snow Wassett migrates to warmer climates to hibernate in a cranberry marsh; during this time its fur is green and it has teeny little legs to help it sneak about the shade avoiding the light. When it feels the first snow storms approach it sheds its legs, turns white and starts getting a bit hungry. 4 times the size of a wolverine but 40 times snackier, it starts with the rabbits and birds, before moving on to wolves and then, ultimately, people.
There isn't much to say about Talillajjuut, they are similar to mermaids though the lower half is a whale. They are just said to be gentle. And as much as that may sound like I am not really that interested in this creature, you would be totally wrong; I really enjoy it when I get to draw these regional twists on a common theme - in this case, a mermaid. It reminds me of another regional mermaid from Scotland: the Ceasg, which is half salmon.
Turtle Lake Monster
The name tells you everything you need to know. It's a monster in Turtle Lake. It looks similar to most other lake monsters and has the same explanations. With all respect to the Turtle Lake Monster, there's just not a lot to say so let's just move on.
The Inuit have a popular children's game where you try to make a figure out of string between your fingers quicker than the other player. It's what we'd refer to as cat's cradle here in the UK, and I'm sure there are versions scattered across the globe. Unlike cat's cradle though, it contains a mythical creature that would punish children who played it too late. It is part of that global weird paternal thing of scaring the living daylights out of your child by creating boogeymen to terrify children into obedience. So if the child is playing late, and asking for the neverending "just one more level", the threat of the Tuutarjuit would be deployed. Basically, if you win it will graciously accept the loss and move on, and if you lose, well, it is taking you with it. Chances are you're going to lose though; the Tuutarjuit is a pretty passionate player of the string game and has been known to rip itself open and play with its own guts. He makes McEnroe seem like a Buddhist monk.
A large otter-like animal that can swim through water and land. They are described as being evil and protective, known to kill people for harming their young or destroying infrastructure being built in their territory. To me, Uenitshikumishiteu sounds pretty fair in its doling out of Karmic justice, if someone messes with your kids or your house, I think it is fair to dole out some good old-fashioned revenge.
A jacked-up wolf, way bigger and stockier, with a body somewhere between that of a wolf and a bear. It is considered an evil spirit and rightly so given its tendency to remove people's heads. It is located in the Nahanni Valley also known as "the headless valley", which sounds super chill. It is full of beasts, curses, cryptids, hidden treasures and, of course, bodies with no heads turning up on a more frequent than ideal basis. The Waheela is one of the candidates for why this happens but really you can take your pick, there are also many of the aforementioned Nakini that frequent the area. In the words of Wu, "protect ya neck".
Wasgo / Gonakadet
Half wolf, half killer whale - yes I would very much like to draw that, thank you. I've found it hard to find a definitive myth about Wasgo; there seem to be several, none of which I can find a second corroborating source for so, given it isn't my culture, I want to tread carefully with how I describe these stories. I'm guessing others feel similar as most articles/journals you will find on Wasgo very quickly pivot into telling you about a sub-species of grey wolves who will swim long stretches of water and whose main diet is fish. Which is cool, but seems like quickly distracting you with a shiny object. The general vibe of the Wasgo is strong, humble, generous and kind, so despite its fierce appearance, it is viewed as fortunate if you are to ever encounter one.
Probably the most popular story of the Wasgo comes from the Haida people, it tells the story of a young high-born man and his troubles with his mother-in-law.
She was the wife of the chief and did not like her new son one bit; she believed he was not good enough for her daughter. After constant snipes, he had enough and built himself a cabin by the river where he went to live. He had not given up but had decided he would prove his worth but capturing a Wasgo.
Eventually, he managed to trap one and skin it. When wearing the skin, he found he gained the Wasgo's powers. He began to explore the lake bottom, where he found the house in which the Wasgo had lived. He kept this a secret from everyone but his wife.
Using his newfound abilities, he caught a salmon and left it outside his mother-in-law's house who assumed it had drifted in with the tide and, according to custom, it must be shared with the community. The next day he left 2 salmon - at this point, she assumed it must be spirits. The next day, he left a halibut. The mother-in-law, seeing a pattern, said I predict there will be 2 halibut tomorrow. Wanting full credit for the finds, she ordered her husband to demand that no one else go to the beach each day before her.
Upping the stakes, she predicted the next day would deliver a seal and sure enough, the next day, a fully prepared and cooked seal was delivered to the community. At this point, the mother-in-law goes a bit power mad and orders a headdress to be made and declares herself to be a great shaman and, knowing no different, the community assume she must be. She then places orders for 2 seals, a sea lion, 2 sea lions, and then a whale. The young man completes these tasks but is starting to feel the strain of hunting ever harder animals all night and putting up with his mother-in-law's increasing cruelty all day. He senses something and says to his wife, "Do not take any of the food your mother is storing unless it is offered and, if I die in this skin, put me and the skin in the place where I have been hiding it and you will receive help."
The next day, upping the stakes as ever, 2 whales were demanded. Obviously, hunting 2 whales proves too much and as he drags them onto the shore he dies, falling between them. The next day the mother-in-law reaches the beach and sees the 2 whales and a strange creature in between them. The villagers came down and were amazed at the sight of 2 whales. Their amazement turned to confusion when the daughter came running down crying and lamenting the passing of her husband. The villagers investigate and reveal her husband within the skin and she berates her mother for her lies, unkindness and ever-greater demands.
She follows her husband's instructions and they take his body and the skin to the hiding place where all the villagers see the traps he had made and realise the truth of what had been going on. The village all praise the man for his efforts and for saving them all from starvation - that is except one person, the mother-in-law, who through her shame starts to convulse and drops dead.
The woman goes to the spot each day to mourn her husband until, one day, a Wasgo with her husband's voice arises from the water and says to hold on tight to him. She does so and he dives below the water to the house where they live happily and raise a family together.
Mother-in-law jokes are a bit retro and cringey now, and mine is pretty sound, so we'll just move on shall we?
The Wechuge are similar to the more famous Wendigo in a few regards. They are cannibalistic giants who have an insatiable hunger, never satisfied. They are formed when someone breaks a cultural taboo or becomes too powerful; the corruption allows the spirit of one of the ancient giant animals to possess and warp them.
They are smart and absolutely evil, often depicted as made of ice. There is a lot of symbology in the Wechuge and, similar to the Wendigo, it serves as an important moral tale to communities. To kill a Wechuge you need to capture it and roast it over a campfire for days until it melts, but good luck with that.
This is one legend that I hope returns back to its proper usage at some point. Hollywood and the creative community in general have a lot to answer for in terms of taking the more sensational parts of a myth and discarding anything that doesn't suit their means. Google Wendigo or Windigo and you will mostly see images of giant antlered skeletal beasts - which, admittedly, look very cool but bear little resemblance to the true legends. You will see similarities for so many myths, for example; Gorgons (such as Medusa) look so different when you look into how they were originally depicted. And it's a shame, mainly because culture and history get lost when we choose to follow these modern interpretations, and secondly because the originals are often so much better. I hope I do a good job of digging out the original forms. I'm sure inevitably on the deep dives that I do, I may get misled from time to time, but I try my best to find the truth and represent these cultural icons as faithfully and respectfully as I can, whilst still injecting just a little bit of fun.
The Wendigo/Windigo is a complex myth - there are so many stories given the important role it played in culture. It was used as a cautionary tale about greed: to warn members of the community not to take more than was needed; to look after each other and not to believe you are entitled to more than the next person; to not take too much from nature; not to self-aggrandise. It's an important lesson and one that in current times seems as relevant as ever. When a person is so out of balance with the natural world and the community, it unravels them until they become a fearsome cannibalistic giant who will never be satisfied - despite their constant consumption they will always be empty. The only solution at this point is to destroy them; the person warped by the Wendigo is beyond saving. You've been warned, Bezos.
It's probably the deepest dig on the list. The Yes-yu or "weird/ghastly wolf". I found very little on it, but for some reason, I found it fascinating and I'd certainly like to know more. From the bits I could gather, it is an extremely long-armed, long-clawed wolfman-like spirit said to help medicine men. It is not good for adults to encounter the Yes-yu though, if it caresses the head of a sleeping child, that child will grow up to be a great medicine man.
I hope you have enjoyed our journey through the mythical beasts of Canada. If you would like to support the project please give us a share (with credits), or better still pick up a copy of one of our many maps.
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