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The Myths And Folklore From Pacific Northwest Contain Some Truly Terrifying Legends

Updated June 14, 2019 2.5k votes 543 voters 34.9k views12 items

List RulesVote up the most fascinating tales from the forests and mountains of the PNW.

There's something magical about the Pacific Northwest. Maybe it's the geography that inspires Pacific Northwest legends; those towering trees, mammoth mountains, and icy waters seem like the perfect place for a fantastical creature to hide.

Stories about this region have been told for centuries. American Indian mythology connects the land with powerful beings, like the thunderbird. In more recent years, people swap tales of the sasquatch, the gentle (or not so gentle) giant that supposedly roams remote areas. Some of these Pacific Northwest myths were first told to explain the way the natural world worked; others seem to simply exist for entertainment. But they all offer a thoughtful new perspective on a corner of the United States that's often seen as remote and isolated.

Straight from the tales of native peoples, here are some of the most fascinating myths and legends from the forests of the Northwest.

  • Photo: US National Park Service / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Powerful Mountain Spirits

    Throughout the stories of the myriad tribes of Native Americans who populated the Pacific Northwest, there is a constant: the mountain. High peaks often represented the focal point of their unique mythological foundations.

    Powerful forces were often said to live at the tops of the mountains, whether they were benevolent creators or evil spirits. Mount Rainier, for instance, was supposedly crowed by a lake of fire, in which a dark force lingered. Anyone who climbed above the snow line was surely doomed.

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  • Photo: KevinM~commonswiki / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

    The Sasquatch Who Became A Tree

    Many native tribes tell stories about wild, hairy men. They all go by different names, but in the Pacific Northwest, the title that has stuck is "Sasquatch." This creature often has special abilities, too, ranging from super strength to invisibility.

    The people of the Colville Confederation once followed Sasquatch – who they called "Skanicum" – to a ravine surrounded by trees. There, the creature vanished without a trace. The pursuers knew he was hiding; his natural camouflage allowed him to blend in seamlessly with the trees.

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  • Photo: Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Evil Spirit Of Mount Hood

    According to legend, the people who lived around Mount Hood were once as tall as trees. Then, an evil spirit took up residence at the top of the mountain and began spewing lava and molten rock, destroying the surrounding land.

    The god Changer appeared to the people's chief in a dream, telling him to conquer the evil spirit in order to save everyone. The chief climbed the summit and began hurling rocks back at the spirit, and the resulting epic battle lasted for days. The chief ultimately defeated the spirit, but when he looked back, he realized their conflict had decimated the land. Heartbroken, he wept himself to death.

    As for the people, they managed to survive. But the burned land caused them to starve and shrink.

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  • Photo: Terry Tollefsbol / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Little Daughter And The Grizzlies

    The Shasta tribe of northern California told the story of the Old Man Above, who lived with Little Daughter in their great tepee at the top of a mountain. One day, Wind conjured up a great storm. So, the Old Man Above told Little Daughter to stick her arm through the hole at the top of the tepee and tell Wind to settle down.

    But Little Daughter was curious about the world outside the teepee. Instead of just sticking her arm out, Little Daughter put her whole head through the opening. Wind took this opportunity to carry Little Daughter down the mountain, where she was taken in by the hospitable Grizzlies. In those days, the Grizzlies walked on two legs and spoke the language of men.

    When the Old Man Above showed up, he found that Little Daughter had married into the Grizzly clan and had spawned a new race: man. The Old Man Above was so outraged he commanded the Grizzlies to cease speaking and walk on four legs, always staring down at the ground. The Old Man Above drove the new race of men out of the land and took Little Daughter back to the tepee, which he closed permanently.

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