In print, the tale of the Flying Canoe, La Chasse Galerie dates back to 1891 but it was an old tale then and told across Canada. It’s told about French-Canadian lumbermen as well. Logging as a career probably came after that of canoe paddling/fur trading.
There’s lots of variation. One ends with the voyageurs being condemned to fly the canoe through hell and appear in the sky every New Year’s Eve. Another is that the devil is the steersman who tries to get the others to break the rules and is thrown out of the canoe by the voyageurs in order to save themselves.
The Flying Canoe stays alive in popular culture.
David Perrett, an artist in Winnipeg recently created an amazing sculpture from a diseased elm tree — the flying canoe held by a giant hand.
The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver Opening Ceremony featured a canoe containing a fiddler was lowered from the ceiling—reminding viewers of the legend.
A feature film Chasse Galerie:La Legende was released Feb. 2016.
The tale inspired one of the oldest rides at Montreal’s La Ronde amusement park. Called La Pitoune, it’s a log flume ride, but overhead is a representation of the flying canoe, with the devil perched behind the terrified men. The high bench at the back of the log-cars is therefore referred to as “the devil-seat.” The ride La Pitoune closed May 2017, having been operating since 1967.
This story is so much fun that I’ve rewritten it as a Readers’ Theater script: Characters from “Waters Like the Sky” exaggerate as they tell it to each other. I’ll post the script on my website under “Resources” and then and “Do.”