Newfoundland and Labrador, which form the easternmost province of Canada, is the land where the Viking Leif Erikson first came to the shores of North America. Newfoundland, an island, and Labrador, the mainland, are about 405,000 square kilometres, which makes the province one of Canada’s smallest (not Prince Edward Island small, but compared to the massive territory Nunavut, it’s tiny). Newfoundland became a Canadian province in 1949 (up until then it was still a British colony) and in 2001 included Labrador into the name. The population of the province is not large, at 526,000 people, which is about the size of Tucson, Arizona. The province is made up of coastline, forestland, World Heritage rock formations and mountains; the Long Range Mountains are the northernmost arm of the Appalachians. Famous people from the province include arctic explorer Robert Bartlett, one of the fathers of the Canadian confederation Sir Frederick Carter, the last surviving member Beothuk people Shanawdithit, inventor of the gas mask Dr. Cluny MacPherson and actress Natasha Henstridge. Then there’s the Nennorluk.
For centuries, an enormous sea monster capable of treading on land terrorized Inuit tribes from Labrador to Greenland – the Nennorluk. This creature, that’s name roughly translates to “evil polar bear,” was first seen by Europeans in the 1700s. David Crantz’s “History of Greenland” (1773), describes the Nennorluk as huge, with ears “large enough for the covering of a capacious tent.” Inuits claimed the white creature was as large as “a huge ice-berg.” The monster’s diet was largely seals, which the Nennorluk would completely devour, but it didn’t shy away from eating humans if they happened to be in the way when it was hungry.
The Inuits believed the Nennorluk to be even larger than Crantz described. According to legend, the Nennorluk does not swim, it walks on the bottom of the ocean and is so large it can often be seen on the surface.
One-legged Natives vs. the Vikings
When the Vikings came to Vinland (the area of Newfoundland where Leif Erikson landed in 1000 C.E.), they encountered something they didn’t expect – native tribes of einfæting, or one-legged people.
When Eirik the Red’s son Thorvald Eiriksson, spied an einfæting one day, the meeting was deadly, according to the book, “Wonderful Strange: Ghosts, Fairies, and Fabulous Beasties,” by Dale Jarvis (2005).
“One morning Karlsefni’s people beheld as it were a glittering speck above the open space in front of them, and they shouted at it. It stirred itself, and it was a being of the race of men that have only one foot, and he came down quickly to where they lay,” Jarvis wrote. The einfæting shot an arrow that pierced Thorvald’s body, killing him.
The einfæting ran and Thorvald’s men gave chase, but the one-legged native escaped.
First Nations people who lived near Crescent Lake in Newfoundland had legends of the Swimming Demon, a giant eel-like creature that could appear in human form and would seduce people to follow it into the depths where it would devour them.
The first European settlers who saw something unexplained in the lake was in the 1950s when fishermen reported what at first appeared to be an overturned boat. When they coasted toward it in an attempt to right the craft, the monster flipped over and dove beneath the waves. Other notable sightings occurred in the 1980s when scuba divers encountered a school of enormous eels, and in 2003 when people saw something at least five metres long swimming on the surface of the lake.
When people immigrate to an area, they don’t just bring their personal belongings, they bring their language, their customs and their legends. Early settlers from the British Isles found their fairy stories didn’t stay home in Britain. They followed them to the New World.
European fairies aren’t Disney fairies. They are more often described as gnomes, although they can appear smaller, larger, in animal shape or as glowing lights. They’re also mischievous. According to the book “Strange Terrain: The Fairy World in Newfoundland,” by Dr. Barbara Rieti, encounters with fairies can turn deadly. "They play tricks and lead you over the edge or a cliff,” Rieti wrote. “They'll change people. Or you'll get a fairy blast when they hit you, and then nasty stuff comes out of the wound, like sticks, balls of wool and fish bones."
These fairies, like their European counterparts, have also been known to swap their sickly babies (known as changelings) for a healthy human baby, tie together the tails of livestock if they feel slighted in some way, or spirt people into the fairy realm.
In an article written by Burton K. Janes in The (Carbonear) Compassnewspaper, back in the early days, a Newfoundland and Labrador woman walked into the hills to find a missing cow and vanished. Despite extensive searches by the townspeople, after fourteen days the woman was still missing – until a person in town had a dream of where the missing woman was. A search party went to this spot and found the woman who claimed she was, “taken astray by the fairies."
Sea Monster of Bonavista
The waters that slap the coastline of Bonavista, Newfoundland, may be home to a monster. In 2000, Bonavista resident Bob Crewe drove along Lane Cove Road near Dungeon Provincial Park when he saw something he couldn’t explain. “I saw its body in the water measuring about nine metres across, just lying there and moving slightly,” Crewe told the UK’s Telegram. “It looked something like a rock in the water, but I knew there was no rock there.”
Wanting to determine if what he saw was alive, he honked the vehicle’s horn and discovered that yes, it was. The beast pushed its head out of the water. It rested atop a slender neck about one-and-a-half-metres long. Crewe told the newspaper the neck looked like a gigantic snake. Startled by the horn, the creature took off swimming. “It seemed like it was using its body to push itself along and it was going very fast,” Crewe said.
A similar creature with “grey, scaly skin” was reported by fisherman Charles Bungay in Fortune Bay, in May 1997. The monster had a horse-like head on a nearly two-metre-long neck. Another fisherman said he saw what looked like a dinosaur in Bay L’Argent in the early 1990s.
Legends of squid so large it can entangle sailing ships and drag them beneath the waves have existed since man sailed the seas. Those legends are taken a bit more seriously in parts of Newfoundland and Labrador because tentacled monsters of nearly-Kraken size have been seen on its shores.
A squid measuring six metres washed onto the shores of Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, in 1873 and was photographed by Rev. Moses Harvey of St. Johns, but that specimen was dwarfed by one that washed up on the shores of Glovers Harbour in 1878 – it was nearly 17 metres long, according to the Nov. 26, 1949 edition of The Illustrated London News. Seventeen metres is nearly as long as a bowling lane.
The existence of such creatures in the area appear in the work of Danish zoologist Japetus Steenstrup who recorded evidence of squid of enormous size from whalers who retrieved jaws, tentacles, and eyes from the belly of sperm whales. Science has discovered a large species of squid – the giant squid – to live off the coast of Newfoundland. These squid grow to approximately 14 metres long.
The Inuits of Newfoundland and Labrador spoke about the Adlet, the offspring of a woman who had sex with a gigantic dog. The Adlet appear human, but have dog legs which allow them to run as fast as dogs.
The woman gave birth to ten puppies, five of them (as legend has it) ran across a great sheet of ice all the way to Europe and became the first Europeans. The other five fell into depravity and fed upon the Inuits.
Why not? Canada is rife with them.
Next up: Nova Scotia.