February 08, 2010

Kuekuatsheu in Wolverine

In the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Kayla Silverfox tells Logan (aka Wolverine) the following legend:KAYLA:  Why is the moon so lonely?

LOGAN:  Why?

KAYLA:  'Cuz she used to have a lover.

LOGAN:  Ohhh. You tell this to the kids?


KAYLA:  His name was Keukuatsheu and they lived in the Spirit World together.

LOGAN:  Oh, this is a true story.

KAYLA:  Mmm-hmm.

LOGAN:  All right.

KAYLA:  And every night, they would wander the skies together.


KAYLA:  But, one of the other spirits was jealous.


KAYLA:  Trickster wanted the moon for himself, so he told Keukuatsheu that the moon had asked for flowers.


KAYLA:  He told him to come to our world and pick her some wild roses. But Keukuatsheu didn't know that once you leave the Spirit World, you can never go back.


KAYLA:  And every night, he looks up in the sky, and sees the moon, and howls her name.

KAYLA:  But...he can never touch her again.

LOGAN:  Wow. "Koo-koo-ka-choo" got screwed.

KAYLA:  "Keukuatsheu."


KAYLA:  It means "the Wolverine."
Comment: A nice little legend, but wolverines don't howl at the moon. Wolves do, but a wolverine isn't a kind of wolf. Oops.

I presume this legend is made up. I couldn't find any evidence of it on the Web. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the name "Keukuatsheu." It's really a Native word for "wolverine." I gather it comes from the Innu of the Quebec-Labrador region.

About Kuekuatsheu

Information about Kuekuatsheu (Gulo gulo, carcajou, wolverine)

Wolverine myths and historical referencesLucien Turner. 1979 [1894]. Indians and Eskimos in the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula Ethnology of the Ungava District. Quebec, Presses COMEDITEX. p.163.

The Indian conceives the wolverine to be an animal embodying all the cunning and mischief that can be contained in the skin of a beast. To its cunning is added great bodily strength, enabling this medium-sized animal to accomplish destruction apparently much beyond its strength.
Leacock, Eleanor B. and Nan A. Rothschild (eds.). 1994. Labrador Winter: the Ethnographic Journals of William Duncan Strong, 1927-1928. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp.67-68.

The purpose of racks...in camp is to raise damageable articles and food above the reach of dogs, while those away from camp are for the protection of stores from wild animals. The wolverine (kwiwa'tchu) is the worst offender in this regard and the solid log storehouses are especially designed to circumvent the wiles of this powerful and ingenious animal.
I dreamed the animals: Kaniuekutat: the life of an Innu hunter by Kaneuketat, Georg HenriksenI know one story that tells how the animals made fire, and it's about the wolverine, Kuekuatsheu. He is crazy, but also very clever. Here is the myth about Kuekuatsheu.The Innu (the Montagnais-Naskapi) by Peter ArmitageThe Innu myth of the origin of the world is the Kuekuatsheu. In this tale, Kuekuatsheu (the wolverine) creates the world and everything in it.Myth of Kuekuatsheu

Kuekuatsheu Kutukuaniutshuahp, Quebec, Canada

Anyway, kudos to Wolverine for using a tiny bit of genuine Native lore. For more on the movie, see Debating Lynn Collins as Silver Fox and Wolverine Trailer.


dmarks said...

Wolverines make a lot of playful snarly growls. Nothing like a howl that I know of.

Anonymous said...

The name comes from the Innu or 'Montagnais' people from Quebec and Labrador. Not the Inuit. The Innu and Inuit are really distinct peoples, with different languages, customs, myths, etc.

Rob said...

Okay, thanks. I've updated the posting.