What a cute little cryptid… or not!
Say hello to the Kushtaka, shape-shifting, otter-esque creature from the folklore of the Tlingit people of the Pacific coast of Alaska and Canada. Kushtaka literally translates to “land otter man”, and descriptions, although varied, generally include some degree of otter-ness. A shape-shifter, the Kushtaka is most often said to take only the form of either human or otter, with some saying it can take the form of only one type of otter, and others saying it can assume the form of any type of otter. Others report the Kushtaka exists as a man-otter hybrid, with a human body and somewhat hairy, otter-like facial characteristics. Less often, the Kushtaka is said to be able to transform into any animal form, and others describing it as a Sasquatch-like entity with the facial features of an otter. So… I guess this could be a cute little fella, or maybe not so much. It all depends on who you talk to!
Looks can be deceiving… or, maybe not??
If you thought the Kushtaka’s physical appearance was all over the map, you are really in for a treat! The Kushtaka’s disposition is every bit as befuddling as its appearance. Again, it depends on who you talk to.
In some Tlingit legends, the Kushtaka is said to be a dangerous prankster, known to lure sailors to their deaths, and for coaxing villagers to the river by mimicking the cries of women and children before tearing them into pieces! In stark contrast, other tales describe Kushtaka as benevolent creatures that are said to have helped the lost find their way and prevented others from freezing in harsh conditions. Said to possess supernatural abilities, both good and bad, Kushtaka are believed to have the power to turn humans into Kushtaka, which could be either a blessing or a curse…
If you should find yourself in the presence of the evil variety of this otterish cryptid critter, there is hope. Kushtaka are said to be deterred by dogs, copper, fire and even urine! The latter being most convenient in the event you’re about to wet yourself!