Eskimo Folktales
Author: Unknown
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"There will be no more ebb-tide or flood if you strangle me," said the Moon Man.

But the Obstinate One cared little for that; he only clutched the tighter.

"The seal will never breed again if you strangle me," cried the Moon Man.

But the Obstinate One did not care at all, though the Moon Man threatened more and more.

"There will never be dawn or daylight again if you kill me," said the Moon Man at last.

And at this the Obstinate One began to hesitate; he did not like the thought of living in the dark for ever. And he let the Moon Man go.

Then the Moon Man called his dog to life again, and made ready to leave that place. And he took his team and cast the dogs up into the air one by one, and they never came down again, and at last there was the whole team of sledge dogs hovering in the air.

"May I come and visit you in the Moon?" asked the Obstinate One. For he suddenly felt a great desire to do so.

"Yes, come if you please," said the Moon Man. "But when you see a great rock in your way, take great care to drive round behind it. Do not pass it on the sunny side, for if you do, your heart will be torn out of you."

And then the Moon Man cracked his whip, and drove off through the naked air.

Now the Obstinate One began making ready for his journey to the moon. It had been his custom to keep his dogs inside the house, and therefore they had a thick layer of ingrown dirt in their coats. Now he took them and cast them out into the sea, that they might become clean again. The dogs, little used to going out at all, were nearly frozen to death by that cold water; they ran about, shivering with the cold.

Then the Obstinate One took a dog, and cast it up in the air, but it fell down heavily to earth again. He took another and did so, and then a third, but they all fell down again. They were still too dirty.

But the Obstinate One would not give in, and now he cast them out into the sea once more.

And when he then a second time tried casting them up in the air, they stayed there. And now he made himself a sledge, threw his team up in the air, and drove off.

But when he came to the rock he was to drive round, this Obstinate One said to himself:

"Why should I drive round a rock at all? I will go by the sunny side."

When he came up alongside, he heard a woman singing drum songs, and whetting her knife; she kept on singing, and he could hear how the steel hummed as she worked.

Now he tried to overpower that old woman, but lost his senses. And when he came to himself, his heart was gone.

"I had better go round after all," he thought to himself. And he went round by the shady side.

Thus he came up to the moon, and told there how he had lost his heart merely for trying to drive round a rock by the sunny side.

Then the Moon Man bade him lie down at full length on his back, with a black sealskin under, which he spread on the floor. This the Obstinate One did, and then the Moon Man fetched his heart from the woman and stuffed it in again.

And while he was there, the Moon Man took up one of the stones from the floor, and let him look down on to the earth. And there he saw his wife sitting on the bench, plaiting sinews for thread, and this although she was in mourning. A thick smoke rose from her body; the smoke of her evil thoughts. And her thoughts were evil because she was working before her mourning time was passed.

And her husband grew angry at this, forgetting that he had himself but newly bidden her work despite her mourning.

And after he had been there some time, the Moon Man opened a stone in the entrance to the passage way, and let him look down. The place was full of walrus, there were so many that they had to lie one on top of another.

"It is a joy to catch such beasts," said the Moon Man, and the Obstinate One felt a great desire to harpoon one of them.

"But you must not, you cannot," said the Moon Man, and promised him a share of the catch he had just made himself. But the Obstinate One would not be content with this; he took harpoons from the Moon Man's store, and harpooned a walrus. Then he held it on the line—he was a man of very great strength, that Obstinate One—and managed to kill it. And in the same way he also dealt with another.

After his return from the Moon Man's place, he left off being obstinate, and never again forced his wife to work while she was in mourning.


A man who was out in his kayak saw another kayak far off, and rowed up to it. When he came up with it, he saw that the man in it was a very little man, a dwarf.

"What do you want," asked the dwarf, who was very much afraid of the man.

"I saw you from afar and rowed up," said the man.

But the dwarf was plainly troubled and afraid.

"I was hunting a little fjord seal which I cannot hit," he said.

"Let me try," said the other. And so they waited until it came up to breathe. Hardly had it come up, when the harpoons went flying towards it, and entered in between its shoulder-blades.

"Ai, ai—what a throw!" cried the dwarf in astonishment. And the man took the seal and made a tow-line fast.

Then the two kayaks set off together in towards land.

"Hum—hum. Wouldn't care to ... come and visit us?" [5] said the dwarf suddenly.

But this the man would gladly do.

"Hum—hum. I've a wife ... and a daughter ... very beautiful daughter ... hum—hum. Many men wanted her ... wouldn't have them ... can't take her by force ... very strong. Thought of taking her to wife myself ... hum—hum. But she is too strong for me ... own daughter."

They rowed on a while, and then the little one spoke again.

"Hum—hum. Might perhaps do for you ... you could manage her ... what?"

"Let us first see her," said the man. And now they rowed into a great deep fjord.

When they came to the place, they landed and went up at once to the house of the little old man. And those in the house did all they could that the stranger might be well pleased. When they had been sitting there a while, the old man said:

"Hum—hum ... our guest has made a catch ... he comes to us bringing game."

Now it was easy to see that they would gladly have tasted the flesh of that little seal. And so the guest said:

"If you care to cook that meat, then set to work and cut it up as soon as you please. Cut it up and give to those who wish to eat of it."

The little old man was delighted at this, and sent out his two women-folk to cut up that seal. But they stayed away a long while, and no one came in with any meat. So the little old man went out to look for them.

And there stood the two women, hauling at the little fjord seal, which they could not manage to drag up from the shore. They could not even manage it with the old man's help. They hauled away, all three of them, bending their bodies to the ground in their efforts, but the seal would not move. Then at last the stranger came out, and he took that seal by the flipper with one hand, and carried it up that way.

"What strength, what strength! The man is a giant indeed," cried the little folk. And they fell to work cutting up the seal, but to them it seemed as if they were cutting up a huge walrus, so hard did they find it to cut up that little seal.

And people came hurrying down from the houses up above, and all wished to share. The women of the house then shared out that seal. Each of the guests was given a little breastbone and no more, but this to them was a very great piece of meat. When they held such a piece in their hands, it reached to the ground, and their hands and clothes were covered with fat.

Inside on the bench sat an old hag who now began trying to make herself agreeable to the guest. She squeezed up close to him and kept on talking to him, and looking at him kindly. She was old and ugly, and the man would have nothing to do with her. Suddenly he gave a loud whistle.

"Ugh—ugh!" cried the old hag in a fright, and fell down from the bench. Then she stumbled down into the passage way, and disappeared.

And now after they had feasted on the seal meat, those from the houses up above cried out:

"Let the guest now come up here; we have foxes' liver to eat!"

And as he did not come at once, they cried again. And then he went up. The house was full of people, all busy eating foxes' liver.

"It is very hard to cut," said the dwarfs. "It is dried."

And the dwarfs worked away as hard as they could, but could not cut it through. But the guest took and munched and crunched as if it had been fresh meat.

"Ai, ai—see how he can eat," cried some.

But all those in the house were very kind to him, and would gladly have seen him married into their family. And the young women had dressed their hair daintily with mussel shells, that the guest might think them the finer. But he cared for none of them, for the little old man's daughter was the most beautiful.

And therefore he went down to that house again when it was time to go to rest. And he said he would have her to wife.

And so they lived happily together, and soon they had a child.

And now the man began to long for his own place and kin. He thought more and more of his old mother, who was still alive when he started off.

And so one day he said he was going to visit his home.

"We will all go with you," said the little old man; "we will visit your kinsfolk."

And so they made ready for the journey, and set out.

Now when they came to the place of real people, all these were greatly astonished to find their old comrade still alive. For they had thought him dead long since.

And the dwarf people lived happily enough among the real men, and after a little time they forgot to be troubled and afraid.

But one day when the little dwarf grandmother was sitting at the opening of the passage way with the little child, she dropped the child in the passage.

"Hlurp—hlurp—hlurp," was all she heard. A great dog, his face black on one side and white on the other, lay there in the passage, and it ate up the child on the spot.

"Ai—ai," she cried. "Nothing is left but a little smear on the ground."

And now the dwarf folk were filled with horror, and the little old man was for setting off at once. So they gathered their belongings together and set out.

And whenever they came to a village, they went up on shore, and the old man always went up with his tent-skins on his back.

"Are there any dogs here? Is there a great beast with a black-and-white face?" was always the first thing he asked.

"Yes, indeed." And before they could turn round, the old man was back in his boat again, so great was his fear of dogs.

And at last the skin was worn quite away from his forehead with carrying of tent-skins up on to the shore in vain. [6]

One day they were lying-to, when a wind began to blow from the north.

"Are there dogs here?" asked the old man, and groaned, for his forehead was flayed and smarting, so often had he borne those tent-skins up and down. But before any could answer, he heard the barking of the dogs themselves. And in a moment he was back in his boat again.

The wind had grown stronger. The seas were frothing white, and the foam was scattered about.

Then the old dwarf stood up in his boat and cried:

"The sky is clearing to the east with crested clouds."

Now this was a magic song, and as soon as he had sung it, the sea was calm and bright once more.

Then the old man went on again. So great was the power of his magic words that he could calm the sea. But for all that he had no peace, by reason of the dogs.

And he went on his way again, but whither he came at last I do not know.


Well, you see, it was the usual thing: "The Obstinate One" had taken a wife, and of course he beat her, and when he wanted to make it an extra special beating, he took a box, and banged her about with that.

One day, when he had been beating her as usual, she ran away. And she was just about to have a child at that time. She walked straight out into the sea, and was nearly drowned, but suddenly she came to herself again, and found that she was at the bottom of the sea. And there she built herself a house.

While she was down there, the child was born. And when she went to look at it, she nearly died of fright, it was so ugly. Its eyes were jellyfish, its hair of seaweed, and the mouth was like a mussel.

And now these two lived down there together. The child grew up, and when it was a little grown up, it could hear the children playing on the earth up above, and it said:

"I should like to go up and see."

"When you have grown stronger, then you may go," said his mother. And then the boy began practising feats of strength, with stones. And at last he was able to pick up stones as big as a chest, and carry them into the house.

One evening, when it was dark, they heard again a calling from above. The children, not content with simply shouting at their play, began crying out: "Iyoi-iyoi-iyoi," with all their might.

"Now I will go with you," said the mother. "But you must not go into the houses nearest the shore, for there I often fled in when your father would have beaten me; I have suffered much evil up there. And when you thrust in your head, be sure to look as angry as you can."

There were two houses on the shore, one a little way above the other. As they went up, the mother suddenly saw that her son was going into the one nearest the shore. And she cried:

"Ha-a; Ha-a! When your father beat me, I always ran in there. Go to the one up above."

And now the boy made his face fierce, and thrust in his head at the doorway, and all those inside fell down dead with fright. He would have beaten his father, but his father had died long since. Then he went down again to the bottom of the sea.

When the day dawned, the people from the house nearest the shore came out and said:

"Ai! What footsteps are these, all full of seaweed?"

And seeing that the tracks led up to the house a little way above, they followed there, and found that all inside had died of fright.


Do you know why the raven is so black, so dull and black in colour? It is all because of its own obstinacy. Now listen.

It happened in the days when all the birds were getting their colours and the pattern in their coats. And the raven and the goose happened to meet, and they agreed to paint each other.

The raven began, and painted the other black, with a nice white pattern showing between.

The goose thought that very fine indeed, and began to do the same by the raven, painting it a coat exactly like its own.

But then the raven fell into a rage, and declared the pattern was frightfully ugly, and the goose, offended at all the fuss, simply splashed it black all over.

And now you know why the raven is black.


Once, long ago, there was a time when the ravens could talk.

But the strange thing about the ravens' speech was that their words had the opposite meaning. When they wanted to thank any one, they used words of abuse, and thus always said the reverse of what they meant.

But as they were thus so full of lies, there came one day an old man, and by magic means took away their power of speech. And since that time the ravens can do no more than shriek.

But the ravens' nature has not changed, and to this day they are an ill-tempered, lying, thieving lot.


Makite, men say, took to wife the sister of many brothers, but he himself could never manage to catch a seal when he was out in his kayak. But his wife's brothers caught seal in great numbers. And so it was that one day he heard his wife say she would leave him, because he never caught anything. And in his grief at hearing this, he said to himself:

"This evening, when they are all asleep, I will go up into the hills and live there all alone."

When darkness had fallen, he set off up into the hills, but as he went, his wife's father, who was standing outside, saw him going, and cried in to the others in the house:

"Makite has gone up into the hills to live there all alone. Go after him."

The many brothers went out after him, but when they had nearly come up with him, he made his steps longer, and thus got farther and farther away from them, and at last they ceased to pursue him any more.

On his way he came to a house, and this was just as it was beginning to get light. He looked in, and saw that the hangings on the walls were of nothing but reindeer and foxes' skins. And now he said to himself:

"Hum—I may as well go in."

But as he went in, the hinge of the door creaked, and then a strange, deep sound was heard inside the house, and it began to shake.

At the same moment, the master of the house came in and said:

"Have you had nothing to eat yet?"

Makite said: "I will eat nothing until I know what are those things which look like candles, there in front of the window."

Then the lone-dweller said:

"That is no concern of one who is not himself a lone-dweller. Therefore he cannot tell you."

But then Makite said: "If you do not tell me, I will kill you."

And then at last he told.

"It may be you have seen to-day the great hills away in the blue to the south; if you go up to the top of the nearer hill, you will find nothing there, but he who climbs that one which lies farther away, and reaches the top, he will find such things there. But this cannot be done by one who is not a lone-dweller."

And not until he had said all this did Makite eat.

Then they both went to rest. And just as he was near falling asleep, the lone-dweller began to quiver slightly, but he pretended to sleep. And before Makite could see what he was about, the lone-dweller had strung his bow, and Makite, therefore, seeing he was preparing to kill him, pretended to wake up, and then the other laid aside his bow so quickly that it seemed as if he had not held anything at all. At last, when it was nearly dawn, the lone-dweller fell asleep, and then Makite tried very cautiously to get out, but as he was about to pass through the doorway, he again happened to draw the door to after him, and again it creaked as before with a strange sound. When he looked in through the window, the lone-dweller was about to get up.

Now Makite had laid his great spear a little way above the house, and he ran to the place. When he looked round, he saw that the man from the house was already in chase. Then he came to a big rock, and as there was no help for it, he commenced to run round. When he had run round it for the third time, he grasped his harpoon firmly, and without turning round, thrust it out behind him, and struck something soft. He had struck the other in the side.

Having now killed this one, and as there was no help for it, he wandered on at hazard, and came to a great plain. And in the middle of the plain was something which looked like a house. And he went up to it and found it was the house of a dwarf, and no end of people coming out of it. One went in and another came out, and so they kept on. He tried to get into the passage, but could not even get his foot in.

Then he heard someone inside saying:

"Heave up the passage way a little with your back, and then come in."

When he came in, it was a big place, and the old creature spoke to him, and said:

"When you go out, look towards the west; the inland-dwellers are coming."

And when Makite went out, he looked towards the west, and there he saw a great black thing approaching, and when he then came in again, the old man went to the window and called out:

"Here they are; they are close up now."

And then the dwarfs went out to fight, and took up their posts on the plain, one party opposite the other, and none said a word.

But suddenly the dog that was with the inland folk gave a great bark, and there came a mighty wave of water, rolling right up to the dwarfs.

But when it had come quite close to them, it suddenly grew quite small. And then the dwarfs' dog gave a bark. And at the same time the dwarfs' wave arose, and washed right up over the inland folk, and drowned them, and only few of them escaped alive.

When they came home again, Makite built himself a house, and from the high hill fetched some of those things which looked like candles, and hung them up in his house. And he lived there in his house until he died.

And here ends this story.


Asaloq, men say, had a foster-brother. Once when he had come home after having been out in his kayak, his foster-brother had disappeared. He sought for him everywhere, but being unable to find him, he built a big umiak, and when it was built, he covered it with three layers of skins.

Then he rowed off southwards with his wife. And while they were rowing, they saw a black ripple on the sea ahead. When they came to the place, they saw that it was the sea-lice. And the outermost layer of skins on the boat was eaten away before they got through them.

Now they rowed onwards again, and saw once more a black ripple ahead. When they came to the place, they saw that it was the sea-serpents. And once again they slipped through with the loss of one layer of skins.

Having now but one layer of skins left, they went in great fear of what they might chance to meet next. But without seeing anything strange, they rounded a point, and came in sight of a place with many houses. Hardly had they come into land when the strangers caught hold of their boat, and hauled it up, so that Asaloq had no need to help.

And now it was learned that these were folk who had a strong man in their midst. Asaloq had been but a short time in one of the houses, when they heard the sound of one coming from outside and in through the passage way; it was the strong man's talebearer boy, and to make matters worse, a boy with a squint.

And now the people of the house said:

"Now that wretched boy will most certainly tell him you are here." And indeed, the boy was just about to run out again, when they caught hold of him and set him up behind the lamp. But hardly had they turned their backs on him for a moment, when he slipped out before any could move, and they heard the sound of his running footsteps in the snow without. And after a while, the window grew red with a constant filling of faces looking in to say:

"We are sent to bid the stranger come."

And since there was no help for it, Asaloq went up there with them. When he came into the house, it was full of people, and he looked round and saw the strong man far in on the big bench. And at the moment Asaloq caught sight of him, the strong man said in a deep voice:

"Let us have a wrestling match."

And as he spoke, the others drew out a skin from under the bench, and spread it on the floor. And after the skin had been spread out, food was brought in. And Asaloq ate till there was no more left. But as he rose, all that he had eaten fell out of his stomach. And then they began pulling arms.

And now Asaloq began mightily pulling the arms of all the men there, until the skin was worn from his arm, leaving the flesh almost bare.

And when he had straightened out all their arms, he went out of that house the strongest of all, and went out to his umiak and rowed away southwards with his wife. And when they had rowed a little way, they came to a little island, and pitched their tent on the sunny side. And when Asaloq then went up on the hillside to look out, he saw many umiaks coming from the northward, and they camped on the shady side. Then he heard them say:

"Now search carefully about." And others said:

"He can hardly be on such a little island."

And now Asaloq sang magic songs over them from the top of the hill, and at last he heard them say:

"We may as well go home again."

Now Asaloq stood and watched them row away, and not until they were out of sight did he set off again to the southward. At last they reached Aluk, and there their bones still rest.

Here ends this story.


Ukaleq, men say, was a strong man. Whenever he heard news of game, even if it were a great bear, he had only to go out after it, and he never failed to kill it.

Once the winter came, and the ice grew firm, and then men began to go out hunting bears on the ice. One day there was a big bear. Ukaleq set off in chase, but he soon found that it was not to be easily brought down.

The bear sighted Ukaleq, and turned to pursue him. Ukaleq fled, but grew tired at length. Now and again he managed to wound the beast, but was killed himself at last, and at the same time the bear fell down dead.

Now when his comrades came to look at the bear, its teeth began to whisper, and then they knew that Ukaleq had been killed by a Magic Bear. [7] And as there was no help for it, they took the dead man home with them. And then his mother said:

"Lay him in the middle of the floor with a skin beneath him." She had kept the dress he had worn as a little child, and now that he was dead, she put it in her carrying bag, and went out with it to the cooking place in the passage. And when she got there, she said:

"For five days I will neither eat nor drink."

Then she began hushing the dress in the bag as if it were a child, and kept on hushing it until at last it began to move in the bag, and just as it had commenced to move, there came some out from the house and said:

"Ukaleq is beginning to quiver."

But she kept on hushing and hushing, and at last that which she had in the bag began trying to crawl out. But then there came one from the house and said:

"Ukaleq has begun to breathe; he is sitting up."

Hardly was this said when that which was in the bag sprang out, making the whole house shake. Then they made up a bed for Ukaleq on the side bench, and placed skins under him and made him sit up. And after five days had passed, and that without eating or drinking, he came to himself again, and commenced to go out hunting once more.

Then the winter came, and the winter was there, and the ice was over the sea, and when the ice had formed, they began to make spirit callings. The villages were close together, and all went visiting in other villages.

And at last Ukaleq set out with his family to a village near by, where there was to be a big spirit calling. The house where it was to be held was so big that there were three windows in it, and yet it was crowded with folk.

In the middle of the spirit calling, there was an old woman who was sitting cross-legged up on the bench, and she turned round towards the others and said:

"We heard last autumn that Ukaleq had been killed by a Magic Bear." Hardly had she said those words when an old wifeless man turned towards her and said:

"Was it by any chance your Magic Bear that killed him?"

Then the old woman turned towards the others and said:

"Mine? Now where could I have kept such a thing?"

But after saying that she did not move. She even forgot to breathe, for shame at having been discovered by the wifeless man, and so she died on the spot.

After that Ukaleq went home, and never went out hunting bears again.

Here ends this story.


Ikardlituarssuk, men say, had a little brother; they lived at a place where there were many other houses. One autumn the sea was frozen right out from the coast, without a speck of open water for a long way out. After this, there was great dearth and famine; at last their fellow-villagers began to offer a new kayak paddle as a reward for the one who should magic it away, but there was no wizard among the people of that village.

Then it came about that Ikardlituarssuk's little brother began to speak to him thus:

"Ikardlituarssuk, how very nice it would be to win that new paddle!"

And then it was revealed that Ikardlituarssuk had formerly sat on the knee of one of those present when the wizards called up their helping spirits.

Then it came about that Ikardlituarssuk one evening began to call upon his helping spirits. He called them up, and having called them up, went out, and having gone out, went down to the water's edge, crept in through a crack between the land and the ice, and started off, walking along the bottom of the sea.

He walked along, and when he came to seaweed, it seemed as if there lay dogs in among the weed. But these were sharks. Then on his way he saw a little house, and went towards it. When he came up to the entrance, it was narrow as the edge of a woman's knife. But he got in all the same, following that way which was narrow as the edge of a woman's knife. And when he came in, there sat the mother of Tornarssuk, the spirit who lived down there; she was sitting by her lamp and weeping. And picking behind her ears, she threw down many strange things. Inside her lamp were many birds that dived down, and inside the house were many seals that bobbed up.

And now he began tickling the weeping woman as hard as he could, to encourage her; and at last she was encouraged, and after this, she freed a number of the birds, and then made a sign to many of the seals to swim out of the house. And when they swam out, there was one of the fjord seals which she liked so much that she plucked a few of the hairs from its back, that she might have it to make breeches of when it was caught.

And when all this had been done, she went home, and went to rest without saying a word.

When they awoke next morning, the sea was quite dark ahead, and all the ice had gone. But when the villagers came out, she said to them:

"Do not kill more than one; if any of you should kill two, he will never kill again."

And furthermore she said:

"If any of you should catch a young fjord seal with a bare patch on its back, you must give it to me to make breeches."

When they came back, each of the hunters had made a catch; only one of them had caught two. And the man who had caught two seals that day never after caught any seal at all when he rowed out, but all the others always made a catch when they rowed out, and some of them even caught several at a time.

Thus it came about that Ikardlituarssuk with the little brother won the new paddle as a reward.


A little sparrow was mourning for her husband who was lost. She was very fond of him, for he caught worms for her.

As she sat there weeping, a raven came up to her and asked:

"Why are you weeping?"

"I am weeping for my husband, who is lost; I was fond of him, because he caught worms for me," said the sparrow.

"It is not fitting for one to weep who can hop over high blades of grass," said the raven. "Take me for a husband; I have a fine high forehead, broad temples, a long beard and a big beak; you shall sleep under my wings, and I will give you lovely offal to eat."

"I will not take you for a husband, for you have a high forehead, broad temples, a long beard and a big beak, and will give me offal to eat."

So the raven flew away—flew off to seek a wife among the wild geese. And he was so lovesick that he could not sleep.

When he came to the wild geese, they were about to fly away to other lands.

Said the raven to two of the geese:

"Seeing that a miserable sparrow has refused me, I will have you."

"We are just getting ready to fly away," said the geese.

"I will go too," said the raven.

"But consider this: that none can go with us who cannot swim or rest upon the surface of the water. For there are no icebergs along the way we go."

"It is nothing; I will sail through the air," said the raven.

And the wild geese flew away, and the raven with them. But very soon he felt himself sinking from weariness and lack of sleep.

"Something to rest on!" cried the raven, gasping. "Sit you down side by side." And his two wives sat down together on the water, while their comrades flew on.

The raven sat down on them and fell asleep. But when his wives saw the other geese flying farther and farther away, they dropped that raven into the sea and flew off after them.

"Something to rest on!" gasped the raven, as it fell into the water. And at last it went to the bottom and was drowned.

And after a while, it broke up into little pieces, and its soul was turned into little "sea ravens." [8]


There was once a man who wished to have a wife unlike all other wives, and so he caught a little fox, a vixen, and took it home to his tent.

One day when he had been out hunting, he was surprised to find on his return that his little fox-wife had become a real woman. She had a lovely top-knot, made of that which had been her tail. And she had taken off the furry skin. And when he saw her thus, he thought her very beautiful indeed.

Now she began to talk about journeyings, and how greatly she desired to see other people. And so they went off, and came to a place and settled down there.

One of the men there had taken a little hare to wife. And now these two men thought it would be a pleasant thing to change wives. And so they did.

But the man who had borrowed the little vixen wife began to feel scorn of her after he had lived with her a little while. She had a foxy smell, and did not taste nice.

But when the little vixen noticed this she was very angry, for it was her great desire to be well thought of by the men. So she knocked out the lamp with her tail, dashed out of the house, and fled away far up into the hills.

Up in the hills she met a worm, and stayed with him.

But her husband, who was very fond of her, went out in search of her. And at last, after a long time, he found her living with the worm, who had taken human form.

But now it was revealed that this worm was the man's old enemy. For he had once, long before, burned a worm, and it was the soul of that worm which had now taken human form. He could even see the marks of burning in its face.

Now the worm challenged the man to pull arms, and they wrestled. But the man found the worm very easy to master, and soon he won. After that he went out, no longer caring for his wife at all. And he wandered far, and came to the shore-dwellers. They had their houses on the shore, just by high-water mark.

Their houses were quite small, and the people themselves were dwarfs, who called the eider duck walrus. But they looked just like men, and were not in the least dangerous. We never see such folk nowadays, but our forefathers have told us about them, for they knew them.

And now when the man saw their house, which was roofed with stones, he went inside. But first he had to make himself quite small, though this of course was an easy matter for him, great wizard as he was.

As soon as he came in, they brought out meat to set before him. There was the whole fore-flipper of a mighty walrus. That is to say, it was really nothing more than the wing of an eider duck. And they fell to upon this and ate. But they did not eat it all up.

After he had stayed with these people some time he went back to his house. And I have no more to tell of him.


A woman ran away from her home because her child had died. On her way she came to a house. In the passage way there lay skins of bears. And she went in.

And now it was revealed that the people who lived in there were bears in human form.

Yet for all that she stayed with them. One big bear used to go out hunting to find food for them. It would put on its skin, and go out, and stay away for a long time, and always return with some catch or other. But one day the woman who had run away began to feel homesick, and greatly desired to see her kin. And then the bear spoke to her thus:

"Do not speak of us when you return to men," it said. For it was afraid lest its two cubs should be killed by the men.

Then the woman went home, and there she felt a great desire to tell what she had seen. And one day, as she sat with her husband in the house, she said to him:

"I have seen bears."

And now many sledges drove out, and when the bear saw them coming towards its house, it felt so sorry for its cubs that it bit them to death, that they might not fall into the hands of men.

But then it dashed out to find the woman who had betrayed it, and broke into her house and bit her to death. But when it came out, the dogs closed round it and fell upon it. The bear struck out at them, but suddenly all of them became wonderfully bright, and rose up to the sky in the form of stars. And it is these which we call Qilugtussat, the stars which look like barking dogs about a bear.

Since then, men have learned to beware of bears, for they hear what men say.


There was once an old man who stood out on the ice waiting for the seal to come up to their breathing holes to breathe. But on the shore, just opposite where he was, a crowd of children were playing in a ravine, and time after time they frightened away a seal just as he was about to harpoon it.

At last the old man grew angry with them for thus spoiling his catch, and cried out:

"Close up, Ravine, over those who are spoiling my hunting."

And at once the hillside closed over those children at play. One of them, who was carrying a little brother, had her fur coat torn.

Then they all fell to screaming inside the hill, for they could not come out. And none could bring them food, only water that they were able to pour down a crack, and this they licked up from the sides.

At last they all died of hunger.

And now the neighbours fell upon that old man who had shut up the children by magic in the hill. He took to flight, and the others ran after him.

But all at once he became bright, and rose up to heaven as a great star. We can see it now, in the west, when the lights begin to return after the great darkness. But it is low down, and never climbs high in the sky. And we call it Nalaussartoq: he who stands and listens. [9]


There was once a woman who had an iron tail. And more than this, she was also an eater of men. When a stranger came to visit her, she would wait until her guest had fallen asleep, and then she would jump up in the air, and fall down upon the sleeping one, who was thus pierced through by her tail.

Once there came a man to her house. And he lay down to sleep. And when she thought he had fallen asleep, she jumped up, and coming over the place where he lay, dropped down upon him. But the man was not asleep at all, and he moved aside so that she fell down on a stone and broke her tail.

The man fled out to his kayak. And she ran after.

When she reached him, she cried:

"Oh, if I could only thrust my knife into him."

And as she cried, the man nearly upset—for even her words had power.

"Oh, if only I could send my harpoon through her," cried the man in return. And so great was the power of his words that she fell down on the spot.

And then the man rowed away, and the woman never killed anyone after that, for her tail was broken.


There was a Mountain Spirit, which stole corpses from their graves and ate them when it came home. And a man, wishing to see who did this thing, let himself be buried alive. The Spirit came, and saw the new grave, and dug up the body, and carried it off.

The man had stuck a flat stone in under his coat, in case the Spirit should try to stab him.

On the way, he caught hold of all the willow twigs whenever they passed any bushes, and made himself as heavy as he could, so that the Spirit was forced to put forth all its strength.

At last the Spirit reached its house, and flung down the body on the floor. And then, being weary, it lay down to sleep, while its wife went out to gather wood for the cooking.

"Father, father, he is opening his eyes," cried the children, when the dead man suddenly looked up.

"Nonsense, children, it is a dead body, which I have dropped many times among the twigs on the way," said the father.

But the man rose up, and killed the Mountain Spirit and its children, and fled away as fast as he could. The Mountain Spirit's wife saw him, and mistook him for her husband.

"Where are you going?" she cried.

The man did not answer, but fled on. And the woman, thinking something must be wrong, ran after him.

And as he was running over level ground, he cried:

"Rise up, hills!"

And at once many hills rose up.

Then the Mountain Spirit's wife lagged behind, having to climb up so many hills.

The man saw a little stream, and sprang across.

"Flow over your banks!" he cried to the stream. And now it was impossible for her to get across.

"How did you get across?" cried the woman.

"I drank up the water. Do you likewise."

And the woman began gulping it down.

Then the man turned round towards her, and said:

"Look at the tail of your tunic; it is hanging down between your legs."

And when she bent down to look, her belly burst.

And as she burst, a steam rose up out of her, and turned to fog, which still floats about to this day among the hills.


This was in the old days, in those times when men were yet skilful rowers in kayaks. You know that there once came a great sickness which carried off all the older men, and the young men who were left alive did not know how to build kayaks, and thus it came about that the manner of hunting in kayaks was long forgotten.

But our forefathers were so skilful, that they would cross seas which we no longer dare to venture over. The weather also was in those times less violent than now; the winds came less suddenly, and it is said that the sea was never so rough.

In those times, there lived a man at Kangarssuk whose name was Angusinanguaq, and he had a very beautiful wife, wherefore all men envied him. And one day, when they were setting out to hunt eider duck on the islands, the other men took counsel, and agreed to leave Angusinanguaq behind on a little lonely island there.

And so they sailed out to those islands, which lie far out at sea, and there they caught eider duck in snares, and gathered eggs, and were soon ready to turn homeward again. Then they pushed out from the land, without waiting for Angusinanguaq, who was up looking to his snares, and they took his kayak in tow, that he might never more be able to leave that island.

And now they hastened over towards the mainland. And the way was long.

But when they came in sight of the tents, they saw a man going from one tent to another, visiting the women whom they left behind at that place. They rowed faster, and came nearer. All the men of that place had gone out together for that hunting, and they could not guess who it might be that was now visiting among the tents.

Then an old man who was steering the boat shaded his eyes with his hand and looked over towards land.

"The man is Angusinanguaq," he said.

And now it was revealed that Angusinanguaq was a great wizard. When the umiaks had left, and he could not find his kayak, he had wound his body about with strips of hide, bending it into a curve, and then, as is the way of wizards, gathered magic power wherewith to move through the air. And thus he had come back to that place, long before those who had sought his death.

And from that day onwards, none ever planned again to take his wife. And it was well for them that they left him in peace.

For at that time, people were many, and there were people in all the lands round about. Out on the islands also there were people, and these were a fierce folk whom none might come near. Moreover when a kayak from the mainland came near their village, they would call down a fog upon him, so that he could not see, and in this manner cause him to perish.

But now one day Angusinanguaq planned to avenge his fellow-villagers. He rowed out to those unapproachable ones, and took them by surprise, being a great wizard, and killed many of the men, and cut off their heads and piled them up on the side bench. And having completed his revenge, he rowed away.

There was great joy among the widows of all those dead hunters when they learned that Angusinanguaq had avenged their husbands. And they went into his hut one by one and thanked him.


Once in the days of our forefathers, a man went out along the coasts, making search for his son. For that son had gone out in his kayak and had not returned.

One day he saw a giant beside a great glacier, and rowed up to him then. When he had entered the house, the giant drew forth a drum, a beautiful drum with a skin that had been taken from the belly of a man. Now the giant was about to give him this drum, but at the same time he felt such a violent desire to eat him up, that he trembled all over.

Just then some great salmon began dropping down through a hole in the roof, and the man was so frightened at this that he could scarcely eat. And he could not get out of the place.

But he was himself a great wizard, and now he began calling upon his helping spirits. And they were great.

"Killer whales, killer whales—come forth, my helping spirits and show yourselves, for here is one who desires to eat me up."

And they came forth, and the house was crushed and the giant was killed, and the man set out again in search of his own.

Then he met another big man, and this man did nothing but eat men, and their kayaks he threw down into a great ravine. The man rowed up to this giant. And when he reached him, the man-eater said: "Come here and look," and led him to the deep ravine. And when the man looked down, the giant tried to thrust him backwards down into the depth.

But the man caught hold of the giant's legs and cast him down instead. And then he went on again.

And as he was rowing on, he heard the bone of a seal calling to him: "Take away the moss which has stopped up the hole that goes through me." And he did so, and went on again.

Another time he heard a mussel at the bottom of the sea crying:

"Here is a mussel that wishes to see you; come down to the bottom; row your kayak straight down through the water—this way!"

That mussel wanted to eat him. But he did not heed it.

Then at last one day he saw an old woman, and rowed towards her, and came up to her. And she said:

"Let me dry your boots." And she took them and hung them up so high that he could not reach them. The man would have slept, but he could not sleep for fear.

"Give me my boots," he said. For it was now revealed that she was a man-eater. And so he got hold of his boots and fled down to his kayak, and the woman ran after him.

"If only I could catch him, and cut him up," she said. And as she spoke, the kayak nearly upset.

"If only I could send a bird dart through her," said the man. And as he spoke, the woman fell down on her back and broke her knife.

And then he rowed on his way. And on his way he met a man, and rowed up to him.

"See what a skin I have stretched out here," said the stranger. And he knew at once it was his son's kayak. The stranger had eaten his son, and there was his skin stretched out. The man therefore went up on land and trampled that man-eater to death, so that all his bones were crushed.

And then he went home again.


Atungait, that great man, had once, it is said, a fancy to go out on a sledge trip with a strong woman.

He took a ribbon seal and had it flayed, and forbade his wife to scrape the meat side clean, so that the skin might be as thick as possible. And so he had it dried.

When the winter had come, he went out to visit a tribe well known for their eagerness in playing football. He stayed among them for some time, and watched the games, carefully marking who was strongest among the players. And he saw that there was one among them a woman small of stature, who yet always contrived to snatch the ball from the others. Therefore he gave her the great thick skin he had brought with him, and told her to knead it soft. And this she did, though no other woman could have done it. Then he took her on his sledge and drove off on a wandering through the lands around.

On their way they came to a high and steep rock, rising up from the open water. Atungait sprang up on to that rock, and began running up it. So strong was he that at every step he bored his feet far down into the rock.

When he reached the top, he called to his dogs, and one by one they followed by the way of his footsteps, and reached the top, all of them save one, and that one died. And after that he hoisted up his sledge first, and then his wife after, and so they drove on their way.

After they had driven for some time, they came to a place of people. And the strange thing about these people was that they were all left-handed. And then they drove on again and came to some man-eaters; these ate one another, having no other food. But they did not succeed in doing him any harm.

And they drove on again and came to other people; these had all one leg shorter than the other, and had been so from birth. They lay on the ground all day playing ajangat. [10] And they had a fine ajangat made of copper.

Atungait stayed there some time, and when the time came for him to set out once more, he stole their plaything and took it away with him, having first destroyed all their sledges.

But the lame ones, being unable to pursue, dealt magically with some rocky ridges, which then rushed over the ice towards the travellers.

Atungait heard something like the rushing of a river, and turning round, perceived those rocks rolling towards him.

"Have you a piece of sole-leather?" he asked his wife. And she had such a piece.

She tied it to a string and let it drag behind the sledge. When the stones reached it, they stopped suddenly, and sank down through the ice. And the two drove on, hearing the cries of the lame ones behind them:

"Bring back our plaything, and give us our copper thing again."

But now Atungait began to long for his home, and not knowing in what part of the land they were, he told the woman with him to wait, while he himself flew off through the air. For he was a great wizard.

He soon found his house, and looked in through the window. And there sat his wife, rubbing noses with a strange man.

"Huh! You are not afraid of wearing away your nose, it seems." So he cried.

On hearing this, the wife rushed out of the house, and there she met her husband.

"You have grown clever at kissing," he said.

"No, I have not kissed any one," she cried.

Then Atungait grasped her roughly and killed her, because she had lied.

The strange man also came out now, and Atungait went towards him at once.

"You were kissing inside there, I see," he said.

"Yes," said the stranger. And Atungait let him live, because he spoke the truth.

And after that he flew back to the strong woman and made her his wife.


Kumagdlak, men say, lived apart from his fellows. He had a wife, and she was the only living being in the place beside himself.

One day his wife was out looking for stones to build a fireplace, and looking out over the sea, she saw many enemies approaching.

"An umiak and kayaks," she cried to her husband. And he was ill at ease on hearing this, for he lay in the house with a bad leg.

"My arrows—bring my arrows!" he cried. And his wife saw that all his arrows lay there trembling. And that was because their points were made of the shinbones of men. And they trembled because their master was ill at ease.

Kumagdlak had made himself arrows, and feathered them with birds' feathers. He was a great wizard, and by breathing with his own breath upon those arrows he could give them life, and cause them to fly towards his enemies and kill them. And when he himself stood unprotected before the weapons of his enemies, he would grasp the thong of the pouch in which his mother had carried him as a child, and strike out with it, and then all arrows aimed at him would fly wide of their mark.

Now all the enemies hauled up on shore, and the eldest among them cried out:

"Kumagdlak! It is time for you to go out and taste the water in the land of the dead under the earth—or perhaps you will go up into the sky?"

"That fate is more likely to be yours," answered Kumagdlak.

And standing at the entrance to his tent, he aimed at them with his bow. If but the first arrow could be sent whirling over the boats, then he knew that none of them would be able to harm him. He shot his arrow, and it flew over the boats. Then he aimed at the old man who had spoken, and that arrow cut through the string of the old man's bow, and pierced the old man himself. Then he began shooting down the others, his wife handing him the arrows as he shot. The men from the boats shot at him, but all their arrows flew wide. And his enemies grew fewer and fewer, and at last they fled.

And now Kumagdlak took all the bodies down by the shore and plundered them, taking their knives, and when the boats had got well out to sea, he called up a great storm, so that all the others perished.

But the waves washed the bodies this way and that along the coast, until the clothes were worn off them.

Here ends this story.


There was once a man who had a giant dog. It could swim in the sea, and was so big that it could haul whale and narwhal to shore. The narwhal it would hook on to its side teeth, and swim with them hanging there.

The man who owned it had cut holes in its jaws, and let in thongs through those holes, so that he could make it turn to either side by pulling at the thongs.

And when he and his wife desired to go journeying to any place, they had only to mount on its back.

The man had long wished to have a son, but as none was born to him, he gave his great dog the amulet which his son should have had. This amulet was a knot of hard wood, and the dog was thus made hard to resist the coming of death.

Once the dog ate a man, and then the owner of the dog was forced to leave that place and take land elsewhere. And while he was living in this new place, there came one day a kayak rowing in towards the land, and the man hastened to take up his dog, lest it should eat the stranger. He led it away far up into the hills, and gave it a great bone, that it might have something to gnaw at, and thus be kept busy.

But one day the dog smelt out the stranger, and came down from the hills, and then the man was forced to hide away the stranger and his kayak in a far place, lest the dog should tear them in pieces, for it was very fierce.

Now because the dog was so big and fierce, the man had many enemies. And once a stranger came driving in a sledge with three dogs as big as bears, to kill the giant dog. The man went out to meet that sledge, and the dog followed behind him. The dog pretended to be afraid at first, but then, when the stranger's dog set upon it in attack, it turned against them, and crushed the skulls of all three in its teeth.

After a time, the man noticed that his giant dog would go off, now and again, for long journeys in the hills, and would sometimes return with the leg of an inland-dweller. And now he understood that the dog had made it a custom to attack the inland-dwellers and bring back their legs to its master. He could see that the legs were legs of inland-dwellers, for they wore hairy boots.

And it is from this giant dog that the inland-dwellers got their great fear of all dogs. It would always appear suddenly at the window, and drag them out. But it was a good thing that something happened to frighten the inland-dwellers, for they had themselves an evil custom of carrying off lonely folk, especially women, when they had lost their way in the fog.

And that is all I know about the Giant Dog.


There came a sledge driving round to the east of Etah, up into the land, near the great lake. Suddenly the dogs scented something, and dashed off inland over a great plain. Then they checked, and sniffed at the ground. And now it was revealed that they were at the entrance to an inland-dweller's house.

The inland-dwellers screamed aloud with fear when they saw the dogs, and thrust out an old woman, but hurried in themselves to hide. The old woman died of fright when she saw the dogs.

Now the man went in, very ill at ease because he had caused the death of the old woman.

"It is a sad thing," he said, "that I should have caused you to lose that old one."

"It is nothing," answered the inland-dwellers; "her skin was already wrinkled; it does not matter at all."

Then the sledges drove home again, but the inland-dwellers were so terrified that they fled far up into the country.

Since then they have never been seen. The remains of their houses were all that could be found, and when men dug to see if anything else might be there, they found nothing but a single narwhal tusk.

The inland-dwellers are not really dangerous, they are only shy, and very greatly afraid of dogs. There was a woman of the coast-folk, Suagaq, who took a husband from among the inland folk, and when that husband came to visit her brothers, the blood sprang from his eyes at sight of their dogs.

And they train themselves to become swift runners, that they may catch foxes. When an inland-dweller is to become a swift runner, they stuff him into the skin of a ribbon seal, which is filled with worms, leaving only his head free. Then the worms suck all his blood, and this, they say, makes him very light on his feet.

There are still some inland-dwellers left, but they are now gone very far up inland.


There was once a man whose name was Neruvkaq, and his wife was named Navarana, and she was of the tunerssuit, the inland-dwellers. She had many brothers, and was herself their only sister. And they lived at Natsivilik, the place where there is a great stone on which men lay out meat.

But Neruvkaq was cruel to his wife; he would stab her in the leg with an awl, and when the point reached her shinbone, she would snivel with pain.

"Do not touch me; I have many brothers," she said to her husband.

And as he did not cease from ill-treating her, she ran away to those brothers at last. And they were of the tunerssuit, the inland-dwellers.

Now all these many brothers moved down to Natsivilik, and when they reached the place, they sprang upon the roof of Neruvkaq's house and began to trample on it. One of them thrust his foot through the roof, and Neruvkaq's brother cut it off at the joint.

"He has cut off my leg," they heard him say. And then he hopped about on one leg until all the blood was gone from him and he died.

But Neruvkaq hastened to put on his tunic, and this was a tunic he had worn as a little child, and it had been made larger from time to time. Also it was covered with pieces of walrus tusk, sewn all about. None could kill him as long as he wore that.

And now he wanted to get out of the house. He put the sealskin coat on his dog, and thrust it out. Those outside thought it was Neruvkaq himself, and stabbed the dog to death.

Neruvkaq came close on the heels of the dog, and jumped up to the great stone that is used to set out meat on. So strongly did he jump that his footmarks are seen on the stone to this day. Then he took his arrows all barbed with walrus tusk, and began shooting his enemies down.

His mother gave him strength by magic means.

Soon there were but few of his enemies left, and these fled away. They fled away to the southward, and fled and fled without stopping until they had gone a great way.

But Navarana, who was now afraid of her husband, crept in under the bench and hid herself there. And as she would not come out again, her husband thrust in a great piece of walrus meat, and she chewed and gnawed at it to her heart's content.

"Come out, come out, for I will never hurt you any more," he said. But she had grown so afraid of him that she never came out any more, and so she died where she was at last—the old sneak!


There was a man whose name was Avovang. And of him it is said that nothing could wound him. And he lived at Kangerdlugssuaq.

At that time of the year when it is good to be out, and the days do not close with dark night, and all is nearing the great summer, Avovang's brother stood one day on the ice near the breathing hole of a seal.

And as he stood there, a sledge came dashing up, and as it reached him, the man who was in it said:

"There will come many sledges to kill your brother."

The brother now ran into the house to tell what he had heard. And then he ran up a steep rocky slope and hid away.

The sledges drove up before the house, and Avovang went out to meet them, but he took with him the skin of a dog's neck, which had been used to wrap him in when he was a child. And when then the men fell upon him, he simply placed that piece of skin on the ground and stood on it, and all his enemies could not wound him with their weapons, though they stabbed again and again.

At last he spoke, and said mockingly:

"All my body is now like a piece of knotty wood, with the scars of the wounds you gave me, and yet you could not bring about my death."

And as they could not wound him with their stabbing, they dragged him up to the top of a high cliff, thinking to cast him down. But each time they caught hold of him to cast him down, he changed himself into another man who was not their enemy. And at last they were forced to drive away, without having done what they wished.

It is also told of Avovang, that he once desired to travel to the south, and to the people who lived in the south, to buy wood. This men were wont to do in the old days, but now it is no longer so.

And so they set off, many sledges together, going southward to buy wood. And having done what they wished, they set out for home. On the way, they had made a halt to look for the breathing holes of seal, and while the men had been thus employed, the women had gone on. Avovang had taken a wife on that journey, from among the people of the south.

And while the men stood there looking for seal holes, all of them felt a great desire to possess Avovang's wife, and therefore they tried to kill him. Qautaq stabbed him in the eyes, and the others caught hold of him and sent him sliding down through a breathing hole into the sea.

When his wife saw this, she was angry, and taking the wood which they had brought from the south, she broke it all into small pieces. So angry was she at thus being made a widow.

Then she went home, after having spoiled the men's wood. But the sledges drove on.

Suddenly a great seal came up ahead of them, right in their way, where the ice was thin and slippery. And the sledges drove straight at it, but many fell through and were drowned at that hunting. And a little after, they again saw something in their way. It was a fox, and they set off in chase, but driving at furious speed up a mountain of screw-ice, they were dashed down and killed. Only two men escaped, and they made their way onward and told what had come to the rest.

And it was the soul of Avovang, whom nothing could wound, that had changed, first into a seal and then into a fox, and thus brought about the death of his enemies. And afterwards he made up his mind to let himself be born in the shape of every beast on earth, that he might one day tell his fellow-men the manner of their life.

At one time he was a dog, and lived on meat which he stole from the houses. When he was pressed for food, he would carefully watch the men about the houses, and eat anything they threw away.

But Avovang soon tired of being a dog, on account of the many beatings which fell to his lot in that life. And so he made up his mind to become a reindeer.

At first he found it far from easy, for he could not keep pace with the other reindeer when they ran.

"How do you stretch your hind legs at a gallop?" he asked one day.

"Kick out towards the farthest edge of the sky," they answered. And he did so, and then he was able to keep pace with them.

But at first he did not know what he should eat, and therefore he asked the others.

"Eat moss and lichen," they said.

And he soon grew fat, with thick suet on his back.

But one day the herd was attacked by a wolf, and all the reindeer dashed out into the sea, and there they met some kayaks in their flight, and one of the men killed Avovang.

He cut him up, and laid the meat in a cairn of stones. And there he lay, and when the winter came, he longed for the men to come and bring him home. And glad was he one day to hear the stones rattling down, and when they commenced to eat him, and cracked the bones with pieces of rock to get at the marrow, Avovang escaped and changed himself into a wolf.

And now he lived as a wolf, but here as before he found that he could not keep up with his comrades at a run. And they ate all the food, so that he got none.

"Kick up towards the sky," they told him. And then at once he was able to overtake all the reindeer, and thus get food.

And later he became a walrus, but found himself unable to dive down to the bottom; all he could do was to swim straight ahead through the water.

"Take off as if from the middle of the sky; that is what we do when we dive to the bottom," said the others. And so he swung his hindquarters up to the sky, and down he went to the bottom. And his comrades taught him what to eat; mussels and little white stones.

Once also he was a raven. "The ravens never lack food," he said, "but they often feel cold about the feet."

Thus he lived the life of every beast on earth. And at last he became a seal again. And there he would lie under the ice, watching the men who came to catch him. And being a great wizard, he was able to hide himself away under the nail of a man's big toe.

But one day there came a man out hunting who had cut off the nail of his big toe. And that man harpooned him. Then they hauled him up on the ice and took him home.

Inside the house, they began cutting him up, and when the man cast the mittens to his wife, Avovang went with them, and crept into the body of the woman. And after a time he was born again, and became once more a man.


There was once a man whose name was Papik, and it was his custom to go out hunting with his wife's brother, whose name was Ailaq. But whenever those two went out hunting together, it was always Ailaq who came home with seal in tow, while Papik returned empty-handed. And day by day his envy grew.

Then one day it happened that Ailaq did not return at all. And Papik was silent at his home-coming.

At last, late in the evening, that old woman who was Ailaq's mother began to speak.

"You have killed Ailaq."

"No, I did not kill him," answered Papik.

Then the old woman rose up and cried:

"You killed him, and said no word. The day shall yet come when I will eat you alive, for you killed Ailaq, you and no other."

And now the old woman made ready to die, for it was as a ghost she thought to avenge her son. She took her bearskin coverlet over her, and went and sat down on the shore, close to the water, and let the tide come up and cover her.

For a long time after this, Papik did not go out hunting at all, so greatly did he fear the old woman's threat. But at last he ceased to think of the matter, and began to go out hunting as before.

One day two men stood out on the ice by the breathing holes. Papik had chosen his place a little farther off, and stood there alone. And then it came. They heard the snow creaking, with the sound of a cry, and the sound moved towards Papik, and a fog came down over the ice. And soon they heard shouts as of one in a fury, and the screaming of one in fear; the monster had fallen upon Papik, to devour him.

And now they fled in towards land, swerving wide to keep away from what was happening there. On their way, they met sledges with hunters setting out; they threw down their gear, and urged the others to return to their own place at once, lest they also should be slain by fear.

When they reached their village, all gathered together in one house. But soon they heard the monster coming nearer over the ice, and then all hurried to the entrance, and crowding together, grew yet more greatly stricken with fear. And pressing thus against each other, they struggled so hard that one fatherless boy was thrust aside and fell into a tub full of blood. When he got up, the blood poured from his clothes, and wherever they went, the snow was marked with blood.

"Now we are already made food for that monster," they cried, "since that wretched boy marks out the way with a trail of blood."

"Let us kill him, then," said one. But the others took pity on him, and let him live.

And now the evil spirit came in sight out on the ice; they could see the tips of its ears over the hummocks as it crept along. When it came up to the houses, not a dog barked, and none dared try to surround it, for it was not a real bear. But at last an old woman began crying to the dogs:

"See, there is your cousin—bark at him!" And now the dogs were loosed from the magic that bound them, and when the men saw this, they too dashed forward, and harpooned that thing.

But when they came to cut up the bear, they knew its skin for the old woman's coverlet, and its bones were human bones.

And now the sledges drove out to find the gear they had left behind, and they saw that everything was torn to pieces. And when they found Papik, he was cut about in every part. Eyes, nose and mouth and ears were hacked away, and the scalp torn from his head.

Thus that old woman took vengeance for the killing of her son Ailaq.

And so it was our fathers used to tell: when any man killed his fellow without good cause, a monster would come and strike him dead with fear, and leave no part whole in all his body.

The people of old times thought it an ill thing for men to kill each other.

This story I heard from the men who came to us from the far side of the great sea.


There lived a woman at Kugkat, and she was very beautiful, and Alataq was he who had her to wife. And at the same place lived Patussorssuaq, and Alataq was his uncle. He also had a wife, but was yet fonder of his uncle's wife than of his own.

But one day in the spring, Alataq was going out on a long hunting journey, and made up his mind to take his wife with him. They were standing at the edge of the ice, ready to start, when Patussorssuaq came down to them.

"Are you going away?" he asked.

"Yes, both of us," answered Alataq.

But when Patussorssuaq heard thus, he fell upon his uncle and killed him at once, for he could not bear to see the woman go away.

When Patussorssuaq's wife saw this, she snatched up her needle and sewing ring, and fled away, following the shadow of the tent, over the hills to the place where her parents lived. She had not even time to put on her skin stockings, and therefore her feet grew sore with treading the hills. On her way up inland she saw people running about with their hoods loose on their heads, as is the manner of the inland folk, but she had no dealings with them, for they fled away.

Then, coming near at last to her own place, she saw an old man, and running up, she found it was her father, who was out in search of birds. And the two went gladly back to his tent.

Now when Patussorssuaq had killed his uncle, he at once went up to his own tent, thinking to kill his own wife, for he was already weary of her. But she had fled away.

Inside the tent sat a boy, and Patussorssuaq fell upon him, crying:

"Where is she? Where is she gone?"

"I have seen nothing, for I was asleep," cried the boy, speaking falsely because of his great fear. And so Patussorssuaq was forced to desist from seeking out his wife.

And now he went down and took Alataq's wife and lived with her. But after a little time, she died. And thus he had but little joy of the woman he had won by misdeed. And he himself was soon to suffer in another way.

At the beginning of the summer, many people were gathered at Natsivilik, and among them was Patussorssuaq. One day a strange thing happened to him, while he was out hunting: a fox snapped at the fringe of his coat, and he, thinking it to be but a common fox, struck out at it, but did not hit. And afterwards it was revealed that this was the soul of dead Alataq, playing with him a little before killing him outright. For Alataq's amulet was a fox.

And a little time after, he was bitten to death by the ghost of Alataq, coming upon him in the shape of a bear. His daughter, who was outside at that time, heard the cries, and went in to tell of what she had heard, but just as she came into the house, behold, she had quite forgotten all that she wished to say. And this was because that vengeful spirit had by magic means called down forgetfulness upon her.

Afterwards she remembered it, but then it was too late. They found Patussorssuaq torn to pieces, torn limb from limb; he had tried to defend himself with great pieces of ice, as they could see, but all in vain.

Thus punishment falls upon the man who kills.


There were once two men, Talilarssuaq and Navssarssuaq, and they changed wives. Talilarssuaq was a mischievous fellow, who was given to frightening people.

One evening, sitting in the house with the other's wife, whom he had borrowed, he thrust his knife suddenly through the skins of the bench. Then the woman ran away to her husband and said:

"Go in and kill Talilarssuaq; he is playing very dangerous tricks."

Then Navssarssuaq rose up without a word, and put on his best clothes, and took his knife, and went out. He went straight up to Talilarssuaq, who was now lying on the bench talking to himself, and pulled him out on the floor and stabbed him.

"You might at least have waited till I had dressed," said Talilarssuaq. But Navssarssuaq hauled him out through the passage way, cast him on the rubbish heap and went his way, saying nothing.

On the way he met his wife.

"Are you not going to murder me, too?" she asked.

"No," he answered in a deep voice. "For Pualuna is not yet grown big enough to be without you." Pualuna was their youngest son.

But some time after that deed he began to perceive that he was haunted by a spirit.

"There is some invisible thing which now and again catches hold of me," he said to his comrades. And that was the avenging spirit, watching him.

But about this time, many in the place fell sick. And among them was Navssarssuaq. The sickness killed him, and thus the avenging spirit was not able to tear him in pieces.


A man whose name was Artuk had buried his wife, but refused to remain aloof from doings which those who have been busied with the dead are forbidden to share. He said he did not hold by such old customs.

Some of his fellow-villagers were at work cutting up frozen meat for food. After watching them for a while as they worked at the meat with their knives, he took a stone axe and hacked at the meat, saying:

"That is the way to cut up meat."

And this he did although it was forbidden.

And on the same day he went out on to the ice and took off his inner coat to shake it, and this he did although it was forbidden.

Also he went up on to an iceberg and drank water which the sun had melted there, knowing well that this was likewise forbidden.

And all these things he did in scorn of that which his fellows believed. For he said it was all lies.

But one day when he was starting out with his sledge, fear came upon him, and he dared not go alone. And as his son would not go with him willingly, he took him, and bound him to the uprights of the sledge, and carried him so.

He never returned alive.

Late in the evening, his daughter heard in the air the mocking laughter of two spirits. And she knew at once that they were laughing so that she might know how her father had been punished for his ill-doing.

On the following day, many sledges went out to search for Artuk. And they found him, far out on the ice, torn to pieces, as is the way with those whom the spirits have punished for refusing to observe the customs of their forefathers. And the son, who was bound to the sledge, had not been touched, but he had died of fright.


Two sisters, men say, were playing together, and their father could not bear to hear the noise they made, for he had but few children, and was thus not wont to hear any kind of noise. At last he began to scold them, and told them to go farther away with their playing.

When the girls grew up, and began to understand things, they desired to run away on account of their father's scolding. And at last they set out, taking with them only a little dogskin, and a piece of boot skin, and a fire stone. They went up into a high mountain to build themselves a house there.

Their father and mother made search for them in vain, for the girls kept hiding themselves; they had grown to be true mountain dwellers, keeping far from the places of men. Only the reindeer hunters saw them now and again, but the girls always refused to go back to their kin.

And when at last the time came when they must die of hunger, they turned into evil spirits, and became thunder.

When they shake their dried boot skin, then the gales come up, the south-westerly gales. And great fire is seen in the heavens whenever they strike their fire stone, and the rain pours down whenever they shed tears.

Their father held many spirit callings, hoping to make them return. But this he ceased to do when he found that they were dead.

But men say that after those girls had become spirits, they returned to the places of men, frightening many to death. They came first of all to their father and mother, because of the trouble they had made. The only one they did not kill was a woman bearing a child on her back. And they let her live, that she might tell how terrible they were. And tales are now told of how terrible they were.

When the thunder spirits come, even the earth itself is stricken with terror. And stones, even those which lie on level ground, and not on any slope at all, roll in fear towards men.

Thus the thunder comes with the south-westerly gales; there is a noise and crackling in the air, as of dry skins shaken, and the sky glows from time to time with the fire from their firestone. Great rocks, and everything which stands up high in the air, begin to glow.

When this happens, men use to take out a red dog, and cut its ear until the blood comes, and then lead the beast round about the house, letting the blood drip everywhere, for then the house will not take fire.

A red dog was the only thing they feared, those girls who were turned to thunder.


A bird once wished to marry a woman. He got himself a fine sealskin coat, and having weak eyes, made spectacles out of a walrus tusk, for he was greatly set upon looking as nice as possible. Then he set off, in the shape of a man, and coming to a village, took a wife, and brought her home.

Now he began to go out catching fish, which he called seal, and brought home to his wife.

Once it happened that he lost his spectacles, and his wife, seeing his bad eyes, burst out weeping, because he was so ugly.

But her husband only laughed. "Oho, so you saw my eyes? Hahaha!" And he put on his spectacles again.

Then her brothers, who longed for their sister, came out one day to visit her. And her husband being out hunting, they took her away with them. The husband was greatly distressed when he came home and found her gone, and thinking someone must have carried her off, he set out in pursuit. He swung his wings with mighty force, and raised a violent storm, for he was a great wizard.

When the storm came up, the boat began to take in water, and the wind grew fiercer, as he doubled the beating of his wings. The waves rose white with foam, and the boat was near turning over. And when those in the boat began to suspect that the woman was the cause of the storm, they took her up and cast her into the sea. She tried to grasp the side of the boat, but then her grandfather sprang up and cut off her hand.

And so she was drowned. But at the bottom of the sea, she became Nerrivik, the ruler over all the creatures in the sea. And when men catch no seal, then the wizards go down to Nerrivik. Having but one hand, she cannot comb her hair, and this they do for her, and she, by way of thanks, sends seal and other creatures forth to men.

That is the story of the ruler of the sea. And men call her Nerrivik [11] because she gives them food.


Navaranapaluk, men say, came of a tribe of man-eaters, but when she grew up, she was taken to wife by one of a tribe that did not eat men.

Once when she was going off on a visit to her own people, she put mittens on her feet instead of boots. And this she did in order to make it appear that her husband's people had dealt ill by her.

It was midwinter, and her kinsfolk pitied her greatly when they saw her come to them thus. And they agreed to make war against the tribe to which her husband belonged.

So they set out, and came to that village at a time when all the men were away, and only the women at home; these they took and slew, and only three escaped. One of them had covered herself with the skin which she was dressing when they came, the second had hidden herself in a box used for dog's meat, and the third had crept into a store shed.

When the men came home, they found all their womenfolk killed, and at once they thought of Navaranapaluk, who had fled away. And they were the more angered, that the slayers had hoisted the bodies of the women on long poles, with the points stuck through them.

They fell to at once making ready for war against those enemies, and prepared arrows in great numbers. The three women who were left alive plaited sinew thread to fix the points of the arrows; and so eagerly did they work that at last no more flesh was left on their fingers, and the naked bone showed through.

When all things were ready, they set out, and coming up behind the houses of their enemies, they hid themselves among great rocks.

The slayers had kept watch since their return, believing that the avengers would not fail to come, and the women took turns at the watching.

And now it is said that one old woman among them had a strange dream. She dreamed that two creatures were fighting above her head. And when she told the others of this, they all agreed that the avengers must be near. They gathered together in one house to ask counsel of the spirits, and when the spirit calling had commenced, then suddenly a dog upon the roof of the house began to bark.

The men dashed out, but their enemies had already surrounded the house, and now set about to take their full revenge, shooting down every man with arrows. At last, when there were no more left, they chose themselves wives from among the widows, and bore them off to their own place.

But two of them took Navaranapaluk and hurried off with her.

And she, thinking that both wished to have her to wife, cried out:

"Which is it to be? Which is it to be?"

The men laughed, and made no answer, but ran on with her.

Then suddenly they cut through both her arms with their knives. And soon she fell, and the blood went from her, and she died.

This fate they meted out to her because she lied.


One day, it is said, when the men and women in the place had gone to a spirit calling, the children were left behind, all in one big house, where they played, making a great noise.

A homeless boy named Kagssagssuk was walking about alone outside, and it is said that he called to those who were playing inside the house, and said:

"You must not make so much noise, or the Great Fire will come."

The children, who would not believe him, went on with their noisy play, and at last the Great Fire appeared. Little Kagssagssuk fled into the house, and cried:

"Lift me up. I must have my gloves, and they are up there!"

So they lifted him up to the drying frame under the roof.

And then they heard the Great Fire come hurrying into the house from without. He had a great live ribbon seal for a whip, and that whip had long claws. And then he began dragging the children out through the passage with his great whip, and each time he drew one out, that one was frizzled up. And at last there were no more. But before going away, the Great Fire reached up and touched with his finger a skin which was hanging on the drying frame.

As soon as the Great Fire had gone away, little Kagssagssuk crawled down from the drying frame and went over to the people who were gathered in the wizard's house, and told them what had happened. But none believed what he said.

"You have killed them yourself," they declared.

"Very well, then," he said, "if you think so, try to make a noise yourselves, like the children did."

And now they began cooking blubber above the entrance to the house, and when the oil was boiling and bubbling as hard as it could, they began making a mighty noise. And true enough, up came the Great Fire outside.

But little Kagssagssuk was not allowed to come into the house, and therefore he hid himself in the store shed. The Great Fire came into the house, and brought with it the live ribbon seal for a whip. They heard it coming in through the passage, and then they poured boiling oil over it, and his whip being thus destroyed, the Great Fire went away.

But from that time onward, all the people of the village were unkind to little Kagssagssuk, and that although he had told the truth. Up to that time he had lived in the house of Umerdlugtoq, who was a great man, but now he was forced to stay outside always, and they would not let him come in. If he ventured to step in, though it were for no more than to dry his boots, Umerdlugtoq, that great man, would lift him up by the nostrils, and cast him over the high threshold again.

And little Kagssagssuk had two grandmothers; the one of these beat him as often as she could, even if he only lay out in the passage. But his other grandmother took pity on him, because he was the son of her daughter, who had been a woman like herself, and therefore she dried his clothes for him.

When, once in a while, that unfortunate boy did come in, Umerdlugtoq's folk would give him some tough walrus hide to eat, wishing only to give him something which they knew was too tough for him. And when they did so, he would take a little piece of stone and put it between his teeth, to help him, and when he had finished, put it back in his breeches, where he always kept it. When he was hungry, he would sometimes eat of the dogs' leavings on the ground outside, finding there walrus hide which even the dogs refused to eat.

He slept among the dogs, and warmed himself up on the roof, in the warm air from the smoke hole. But whenever Umerdlugtoq saw him warming himself there, he would haul him down by the nostrils.

Thus a long time passed, and it had been dark in the winter, and was beginning to grow light near the coming of spring. And now little Kagssagssuk began to go wandering about the country. Once when he was out, he met a big man, a giant, who was cutting up his catch, and on seeing him, Kagssagssuk cried out in a loud voice:

"Ho, you man there, give me a piece of that meat!"

But although he shouted as loudly as he could, that giant could not hear him. At last a little sound reached the big man's ears, and then he said:

"Bring me luck, bring me luck!"

And he threw down a little piece of meat on the ground, believing it was one of the dead who thus asked.

But little Kagssagssuk, who, young as he was, had already some helping spirits, made that little piece of meat to be a big piece, just as the dead can do, and ate as much as he could, and when he could eat no more, there was still so much left that he could hardly drag it away to hide it.

Some time after this, little Kagssagssuk said to his mother's mother:

"I have by chance become possessed of much meat, and my thoughts will not leave it. I will therefore go out and look to it."

So he went off to the place where he had hidden it, and lo! it was not there. And he fell to weeping, and while he stood there weeping, the giant came up.

"What are you weeping for?"

"I cannot find the meat which I had hidden in a store-place here."

"Ho," said the giant, "I took that meat. I thought it had belonged to another one."

And then he said again: "Now let us play together." For he felt kindly towards that boy, and had pity on him.

And they two went off together. When they came to a big stone, the giant said: "Now let us push this stone." And they began pushing at the big stone until they twirled it round. At first, when little Kagssagssuk tried, he simply fell backwards.

"Now once more. Make haste, make haste, once more. And there again, there is a bigger one."

And at last little Kagssagssuk ceased to fall over backwards, and was able instead to move the stones and twirl them round. And each time he tried with a larger stone than before, and when he had succeeded with that, a larger one still. And so he kept on. And at last he could make even the biggest stones twirl round in the air, and the stone said "leu-leu-leu-leu" in the air.

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