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

Updated June 14, 2019 2.5k votes 519 voters 34.0k 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.

  • The Powerful Mountain Spirits
    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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  • The Sasquatch Who Became A Tree
    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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  • The Evil Spirit Of Mount Hood
    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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  • Thunderbird And The Immortal Tinne
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / Wikimedia Commons / No Restrictions

    Thunderbird And The Immortal Tinne

    It was Thunderbird who created the land when the world was nothing but a great sheet of water. By simply touching his mighty wings to the still surface of that great expanse, Thunderbird drew forth the land. Another beat of his wings brought forth the animals.

    When Dog created the race of man, Thunderbird also gifted the Tinne a sacred arrow that granted immortality. For a time, the Tinne were happy. Then, for unknown reasons, the Tinne used the sacred arrow. The gift of immortality was revoked, which is why the Tinne now die.

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