Pitch Dress Ogresses

So this is kind of a long delayed follow up to the last two posts about Giants and Wild Beings (been kinda busy).

Nuusgili (or nuusgili) are translated as ‘giantess’ or ‘ogress’. You can read 3 stories about them in Frachtenberg’s Coos Texts (see sidebar) – the stories begin on page 71. Annie Miner Peterson and Lottie Evanoff also told stories about them (Annie’s story can be found in Jacobs’ Coos Myth Texts, Lottie’s was unpublished but I’ve included it below).

Of the nuusgili, Annie said “There are various nuusgíli hechits (legends). They are rough women, dressed in pitch, and various obscenities may be told of them. They refer to these women as nuusgíli húumek’e (Hanis), ‘witch women’. They also call them ‘bad women’ ínta humek’e” (Hanis) (Jacobs 93:135)

In the stories, sometimes the nuusgili work alone or in pairs. Sometimes they steal children, and if a child is touched by one or even looks at one, that child dies. These stories were used as warnings to children to always get in the house at sunset, or else something dangerous (like an ogress) might come among them and cause death.

Nuusgili are also grave robbers and kidnappers of handsome young men. Some stories involve men kidnapped by an ogress to be a ‘husband’, and he has to use his wits to escape. The stories often end with ogresses being burnt to death (apparently their pitchy dresses are very flammable)

The Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw were also familiar with nuusgili but unfortunately the name for them in that language as forgotten. Spencer Scott tried to recall the name, but couldn’t so he called them mishk’lai which roughly means ‘dangerous being, devil’. It is an equivalent to the Hanis & Milluk word xuutluush.

Lottie Evanoff told this story to JP Harrington in 1942 about nuusgili:

Nuusgili is giant woman, ogress. It is a woman who steals a man. And if a woman sees a nice looking young man, and she marries him, they call her nuusgili.

One of these was getting camas, and as she earth-ovened it, she said, “Huh, I smell sákan (newt). She called salmon sakan cause she ate nothing but camas herself. But that woman’s husband managed to eat one salmon. That woman wore dress with pitch on.

When she was away from home, that young man, whom she was raising for a husband, there was something that made him return. One day there was a bird who told him: “Your heart is in the corner”.

He took it, put it under his arms and fled. The young man reached an Indian house & asked them to dig a pit. The ogress arrived and talked on a mat and talked together. “You stole something & came here And then they pushed her over in to the fire & from there into the hole & put a plank on top of the hole & she flopped around in there & died.

She was the one who was stealing a young fellow maybe 15 yrs old, while the ones at Rocky Pt were the ones who were stealing children. But those who lived at Rocky-Point were 1 man & his wife & wd be spoken of as child-eaters. (not nuusgili—translates child-eaters as: hiime dluwiwa) (Harrington 24:600ab):


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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2 Responses to Pitch Dress Ogresses

  1. Pingback: A compilation of some spooky stories for Halloween | Shichils's Blog

  2. Pingback: The annual Halloween-inspired post of strange stories | Shichils's Blog

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