Gonakadeit the Monster

Tlingit legend Gonakadeit is the Sea-Wolf pictured above.

Gunakadeit is based on a story told by Katishan, chief of the Kaasx’agweid of Wrangell, to ethnographer John Swanton in 1904. It was published in “Tlingit Myths and Texts” in 1909. The story chronicles a man who turns into a sea monster. This creature, who is part wolf, part whale, figures in numerous folk tales about a young man who uses the skin of a sea creature for night fishing; he is caught by a pair of whales who punish his deception by transforming him into a creature of the sea.

While in some stories he brings prosperity and good luck to a village in crisis, in other stories he is an evil sea creature that comes up in the fog to drag unsuspecting visitors in small boats down to the bottom of the sea.

On days when the dragon’s breath covers the inlet, I often think of Gonakadeit and the poor souls over the years who have drowned out there.



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