In this episode, we look at the thunderbird, an extremely large supernatural creature of great power and strength, best known for its ability to control the weather. The legend of the thunderbird is widespread throughout the traditions of native people throughout America and Canada, but it is especially important and most frequently depicted in the Native American legends from the Pacific Northwest. Because the thunderbird belongs to so many different cultures, legends can vary pretty widely; though there are certain commonalities. In most cases, thunderbirds are able to control the weather, and each flap of their giant wings creates a clap of thunder— hence their name. In most cases, they are seen as protectors, bringing beneficial rains that help nourish crops and ward off drought; however, they can also be vengeful. They’re often described as enforcers of morality, and if you happen to be a person of low moral integrity— you better run if you see a thunderbird coming. They might bring punishment in the form of lightening, strong winds, or floods. This week’s episode features two stories. The first is called “Thunderbird Turns People to Stone” and is adapted from a tale that was published in a 1933 edition of The Journal of American Folklore from an article titled “Tales from the Hoh and Quileute.” The second story is called “The Last of the Thunderbirds” and was first published in 1911 in Katharine Berry Judson’s book, Myths and Legends of Alaska. Find a transcript of this episode here

Niall Cooper