By Lorraine Anderson
I was around six or seven, and saw Fred McMurray’s version of The Shaggy Dog in a re-release at the local theater. Scared the bejeezus out of me. I had nightmares that night. Why? I’m still not sure. So, naturally, I became fascinated with literature in which humans are transmuted into something else.
“Animal Instinct” came out of that fascination. I remembered the old Greek myths, especially the one about “Io,” in which a nymph was transformed by Zeus into a heifer to hide her from Hera. I knew the Greek myths had many of these kinds of myths, but did the Native Americans?
Like many Michiganians, I’m descended from mostly German settlers, with possibly some English or Scottish thrown in. So I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Native American myths, particularly any of those about my native Michigan, and looking on the internet didn’t help me a whole lot. Possibly I was looking in the wrong spot, but an investigation of the myths of Michigan’s Pottawatomie led me to the local casinos, which really didn’t have anything about Native American myths.
I did find out that most of the stories were passed along orally, and many stories were common among all of the various tribes. So maybe I didn’t have to limit myself to Michigan’s Native Americans. I looked a little farther, trying to stay away from the Trickster tales, such as Coyote or Rabbit.
My research led me to an odd little book called Stories told in the Wigwam by Gower Glynn, published in 1911. In spite of the age, the stories seemed to treat the oral stories with dignity, and some of them were based in the Midwest. I found that many of the Spirits gave gifts to men, including one who gave maidens berries or seeds in order to transform unwanted lovers into animals or plants.
“Animal Instinct” is about one of those unwanted lovers: not a bad man, but someone who is a bit thoughtless about the quality and the quantity of his paramours and discovers a few things about himself.
ReDeus: Native Lands will be available in print and digital editions in August.