Thomas Doty – Storyteller
A Native View
Monsters in the Depths, Monsters in the Darkness
Our human fear of depths and darkness has spawned an amazing number of amazing stories all over the planet, from the Loch Ness Monster, to Wally in Wallowa Lake, to Bigfoot and Yeti and Dash Kayah the Cannibal Woman. And let's not forget Grendel! In one of my own stories, I asked Coyote where the monsters live. He replied, "Monsters are never far away."
In my neighborhood, there are monsters in the woods waiting to suck our brains out of our ears if we stray too deep after dark. There are two-headed monsters in the redwoods, and in Lake Earl near Crescent City, a monster lives in the depths that is so big, he sleeps on the bottom using a submerged redwood tree for a pillow. There are huge monsters sleeping in caves. When they roll over, we feel earthquakes.
In a Takelma myth, Panther AND his canoe were swallowed by a sea monster. "Before he saw a thing, a giant head burst through the surface, hollow eyes filled with sea mist, the mouth opening wider than wide, and with a whistling, sucking noise, swallowed down Panther, canoe and all." With a basket woven out of sunrays for light, Mudcat Woman journeyed to the bottom of the ocean, retrieved Panther's bones from the monster's cave, and brought him back to life.
After darkness there is light. At the end of each telling of a scary story, we are left sitting in the firelight of our hearth, or the light of our campfire, safe from what looms in the depths of darkness just a few feet away.
Crater Lake's Old Time monster was called Llao. He lived in the depths of the lake and kept giant crawfish for pets. Every so often he encouraged one to snatch some unsuspecting native off the rim of the lake and gobble him down. There are numerous stories of battles between Llao from the Below World and Skell, a spirit of the Above World. In their Last Great Battle, Llao is finally killed by Skell and his body drawn and quartered. To trick Llao's pets, Skell threw pieces of Llao off the rim, shouting that these were parts of Skell. The crawfish were thrilled for this tasty meal of their enemy and they filled their bellies. The last part he tossed was Llao's head. The crawfish recognized the head of their master, refused to eat it, and left it floating in the lake as Wizard Island.
Not all monsters in Crater Lake are from ancient stories. Here's an 1884 article from the Ashland Daily Tidings.
We have frequently, for the past seven or eight years, heard different stories told concerning a dreadful monster that inhabited a body of water known as Crater Lake, which is situated about fifty-five miles west of north of Linkville, but up to this time paid little attention to it, supposing that it was nothing more than a superstitious story circulated only by the native Indian. But since the return of Mr. John Shallock, who with others, has seen the monster, and no mistake, we are now compelled to believe otherwise, and that there is a very huge animal of some kind that inhabits Crater Lake is a fixed fact. Mr. Shallock in describing this animal, says it looked to be as large as a man's body and was swimming about two or three feet out of the water, and going at a rapid rate, as fast as a man could row a skiff, leaving a similar wave behind it. Its face or head looked white, and although it was a long way off they could plainly see it was of an immense size. Several shots were fired at it while swimming, but it was so far off they could not even see where their bullets struck the water. Mr. Chas. Moore who has visited the lake says the bluffs around the lake are from 1,500 to 3,000 feet above the water and almost perpendicular, there being only one place that parties can descend to the lake, and when seen at that distance look like small children. If this be the case, the animal seen by Shallock and party must indeed be a huge animal of some kind.
Now I've seen some wildly primal things out there ... after midnight on the Table Rocks, or several levels down in a lava cave at Lava Beds, or before first light at Crater Lake. But this fellow is new to me. Perhaps one of Llao's hungry pets still roams the lake? That's some food for thought!
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