Eskimo Folktales
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Eskimo Folk-Tales

Collected by

Knud Rasmussen

Edited and rendered into English by

W. Worster

With illustrations by native Eskimo artists

Gyldendal 11 Burleigh St., Covent Garden, London, W.C. 2 Copenhagen Christiania 1921


These stories were collected in various parts of Greenland, taken down from the lips of the Eskimo story-tellers themselves, by Knud Rasmussen, the Danish explorer.

No man is better qualified to tell the story of Greenland, or the stories of its people. Knud Rasmussen is himself partly of Eskimo origin; his childhood was spent in Greenland, and to Greenland he returned again and again, studying, exploring, crossing the desert of the inland ice, making unique collections of material, tangible and otherwise, from all parts of that vast and little-known land, and his achievements on these various expeditions have gained for him much honour and the appreciation of many learned societies.

But it is as an interpreter of native life, of the ways and customs of the Eskimos, that he has done his greatest work. "Kununguaq"—that is his native name—is known throughout the country and possesses the confidence of the natives to a superlative degree, forming himself, as it were, a link between them and the rest of the world. Such work, as regards its hither side, must naturally consist to a great extent of scientific treatises, collections of facts and specimens, all requiring previous knowledge of the subject for their proper comprehension. These have their great value as additions to the sum of human knowledge, but they remain unknown to the majority of men. The present volume is designed to be essentially a popular, as distinct from a scientific work.

The original collection of stories and legends made by Knud Rasmussen under the auspices of the Carlsberg Foundation has never yet been published. In making the present selection, I have endeavoured to choose those which are most characteristic and best calculated to give an idea of the life and thought of the people. The clearest variants have been chosen, and vague or doubtful passages omitted, so as to render the narratives easily understandable for the ordinary reader. In many cases also, the extreme outspokenness of the primitive people concerned has necessitated further editing, in respect of which, I can confidently refer any inclined to protest, to the unabridged English version, lodged with the Trustees of the Carlsberg Foundation in Copenhagen, for my defence. For the rest, I have endeavoured to keep as closely as possible to the spirit and tone of the originals, working from the Eskimo text and Knud Rasmussen's Danish version side by side.

The illustrations are by native Eskimo artists. They are not drawn to illustrate the particular stories, but represent typical scenes and incidents such as are there described. In the selection of these, preference has been given to those of unusual character, as for instance those dealing with the "tupilak" theme, and matters of wizardry or superstition generally, which the reader would find more difficult to visualize for himself than ordinary scenes of daily life.

As regards their contents, the stories bring before us, more clearly, perhaps, than any objective study, the daily life of the Eskimos, their habit of thought, their conception of the universe, and the curious "spirit world" which forms their primitive religion or mythology.

In point of form they are unique. The aim of the Eskimo story-teller is to pass the time during the long hours of darkness; if he can send his hearers to sleep, he achieves a triumph. Not infrequently a story-teller will introduce his chef-d'oeuvre with the proud declaration that "no one has ever heard this story to the end." The telling of the story thus becomes a kind of contest between his power of sustained invention and detailed embroidery on the one hand and his hearers' power of endurance on the other. Nevertheless, the stories are not as interminable as might be expected; we find also long and short variants of the same theme. In the present selection, versions of reasonable length have been preferred. The themes themselves are, of course, capable of almost infinite expansion.

In the technique of an ordinary novel there is a certain balance, or just proportion, between the amount of space devoted to the various items, scenes and episodes. The ordinary reader does not notice it as a rule, for the simple reason that it is always there. The Eskimo stories are magnificently heedless of such proportion. Any detail, whether of fact or fancy, can be expanded at will; a journey of many hundred miles may be summarized in a dozen words: "Then he went away to the Northward, and came to a place." Thus with the little story of the Man who went out to search for his Son; the version here employed covers no more than a few pages, yet it is a record of six distinct adventures, threaded on to the main theme of the search. It is thus a parallel in brief to the "Wandering" stories popular in Europe in the Middle Ages, when any kind of journey served as the string on which to gather all sorts of anecdote and adventure. The story of Atungait, who goes on a journey and meets with lame people, left-handed people, and the like, is an example of another well-known classical and mediaeval type.

The mythical stories present some interesting features when compared with the beliefs and folk-lore of other peoples. The legend of the Men who travelled round the World is based on a conception of the world as round. There is the tradition of a deluge, but here supported by geological evidence which is appreciated by the natives themselves: i.e. the finding of mussel shells on the hills far inland. The principle of the tides is recognized in what is otherwise a fairy tale; "There will be no more ebb-tide or flood if you strangle me," says the Moon Man to the Obstinate One.

The constellation of the Great Bear is explained in one story, the origin of Venus in another. The spirits of the departed are "stellified" as seen in "The Coming of Men." There seems to be a considerable intermingling of Christian culture and modern science in the general attitude towards life, but these foreign elements are coated over, as it were, like the speck of grit in an oyster, till they appear as concentrations of the native poetic spirit that forms their environment.

We find, too, constant evidence of derivation from the earliest, common sources of all folk-lore and myth; parallels to the fairy tales and legends of other lands and other ages. There is a version of the Bluebeard theme in Imarasugssuaq, "who, it is said, was wont to eat his wives." Instances of friendship and affection between human beings and animals are found, as in the tale of the Foster-mother and the Bear. Various resemblances to well-known fairy tales are discernible in such stories as that of the Eagle and the Whale, where the brothers set out to rescue their sisters from the husbands who hold them captive. Here too, we encounter that ancient and classical expedient of fugitives; throwing out objects behind to check pursuit.

The conception of the under-world, as shown in the story of Kunigseq and others, is a striking example of this kinship with ancient and well-known legends. Kunigseq comes to the land of shades, and meets there his mother, who is dead. But she must not kiss him, for "he is only here on a visit." Or again: "If you eat of those berries, you will never return." The under-world is partly an Elysium of existence without cares; partly Dantesque: "Bring ice when you come again, for we thirst for cold water down here." And the traveller who has been away from earth for what seems an hour, finds that years of earthly time have passed when he returns.

Spirits of the departed appearing to their kin upon earth do so with an injunction "not to tell." (In England we write to the newspapers about them.) Magic powers or gifts are lost by telling others how they came. Spirit gifts are made subject to some condition of restraint: "Choose only one and no more." "If you kill more than one seal to-day, you will never kill seal again hereafter."

The technique of the fairy tale is frequently apparent. One test fulfilled is followed by the demand for fulfilment of another. Qujavarssuk, having found the skeleton as instructed, is then sent off to search for a lamb stone. This, of course, apart from its aesthetic value as retardation, is particularly useful to the story-teller aiming principally at length. We also find the common progression from one great or splendid thing to other greater or more splendid; a woman appears "even more finely dressed than on the day before." English children will perhaps remember Hans Andersen's dog with "eyes as big as saucers ... eyes as big as Rundetaarn."

The use of "magic power" is of very frequent occurrence; it seems, indeed, to be the generally accepted way of solving any difficulty. As soon as the hero has been brought into a situation from which no ordinary way of escape appears, it then transpires—as an afterthought—that he is possessed of magic powers, when the rest, of course, is easy. A delightful instance of the extent to which this useful faculty can be watered down and yet remain effective is seen in the case of the village where no wizard can be found to help in time of famine, until it is "revealed" that Ikardlituarssuk "had formerly sat on the knee of one of those present when the wizards called up their helping spirits." In virtue of which very distant connection he proceeds to magic away the ice.

There is a general tendency towards anthropomorphic conception of supernatural beings. The Moon Man has his stock of harpoons like any mortal hunter; the Mountain Spirit has a wife and children. The life and domestic arrangements of "spirits" are mostly represented as very similar to those with which the story-teller and his hearers are familiar, much as we find, in early Italian paintings, Scriptural personages represented in the costume and environment of the artist's own place and period.

The style of narrative is peculiar. The stories open, as a rule, with some traditionally accepted gambit. "There was once a man ..." or "A fatherless boy lived in the house of the many brothers." The ending may occasionally point a sort of moral, as in the case of Ukaleq, who after having escaped from a Magic Bear, "never went out hunting bear again." But the usual form is either a sort of equivalent to "lived happily ever after," or a frank and direct intimation: "Here ends this story," or "That is all I know of so-and-so." Some such hint is not infrequently necessary, since the "end" of a story often leaves considerable scope for further development.

It is a characteristic feature of these stories that one never knows what is going to happen. Poetic justice is often satisfied, but by no means always (Kagssagssuk). One or two of them are naively weak and lacking in incident; we are constantly expecting something to happen, but nothing happens ... still nothing happens ... and the story ends (Puagssuaq). It is sometimes difficult to follow the exact course of a conversation or action between two personages, owing to the inadequate "he" which is used for both.

The story-teller, while observing the traditional form, does not always do so uncritically. Occasionally he will throw in a little interpolation of his own, as if in apology: "There was once a wifeless man—that is the way a story always begins." Or the entertainer starts off in a cheerfully familiar style: "Well, it was the usual thing; there was a Strong Man, and he had a wife. And, of course, he used to beat her...."

Here and there, too, a touch of explanation may be inserted. "This happened in the old days," or "So men thought in the olden time." There is a general recognition of the difference between old times and new. And the manner in which this difference is viewed reveals two characteristic attitudes of mind, the blending of which is apparent throughout the Eskimo culture of to-day. There is the attitude of condescension, the arrogant tolerance of the proselyte and the parvenu: "So our forefathers used to do, for they were ignorant folk." At times, however, it is with precisely opposite view, mourning the present degeneration from earlier days, "when men were yet skilful rowers in 'kayaks,' or when this or that might still be done 'by magic power.'"

And it is here, perhaps, that the stories reach their highest poetic level. This regret for the passing of "the former age," whether as an age of greater strength and virtue, greater courage and skill, or as the Golden Age of Romance, is a touching and most human trait. It gives to these poor Eskimo hunters, far removed from the leisure and security that normally precede the growth of art, a place among the poets of the world.

W. W. Worster.



Introduction 5 The two Friends who set off to travel round the world 15 The coming of Men, a long, long while ago 16 Nukunguasik, who escaped from the Tupilak 18 Qujavarssuk 20 Kunigseq 38 The woman who had a bear as a foster-son 40 Imarasugssuaq, who ate his wives 44 Qalaganguase, who passed to the land of Ghosts 46 Isigaligarssik 49 The Insects that wooed a wifeless man 52 The very obstinate man 56 The Dwarfs 60 The Boy from the Bottom of the Sea, who frightened the people of the house to death 64 The Raven and the Goose 66 When the Ravens could speak 67 Makite 68 Asaloq 71 Ukaleq 73 Ikardlituarssuk 75 The Raven who wanted a wife 77 The man who took a Vixen to wife 79 The great bear 81 The man who became a star 82 The woman with the iron tail 83 How the fog came 84 The man who avenged the widows 86 The man who went out to search for his son 88 Atungait, who went a-wandering 90 Kumagdlak and the living arrows 93 The Giant Dog 95 The Inland-dwellers of Etah 97 The man who stabbed his wife in the leg 98 The soul that lived in the bodies of all beasts 100 Papik, who killed his wife's brother 104 Patussorssuaq, who killed his uncle 107 The men who changed wives 109 Artuk, who did all forbidden things 110 The thunder spirits 111 Nerrivik 113 The wife who lied 115 Kagssagssuk, the homeless boy who became a strong man 117 Qasiagssaq, the great liar 123 The Eagle and the Whale 130 The two little Outcasts 133 Atdlarneq, the great glutton 136 Angangujuk 139 Atarssuaq 142 Puagssuaq 146 Tungujuluk and Saunikoq 148 Anarteq 150 The Guillemot that could talk 152 Kanagssuaq 154 The sources of the various legends 157


Man and wife from Angmagssalik Frontispiece

To face page

Making a tupilak. Note the bones of various animals used: The monster is on the point of coming to life 18 Hunter in kayak. The creature behind is a monster that frightens all the seal away 34 Hunters encountering Sarqiserasak, a dangerous troll, who rows in a half kayak himself, and upsets all he meets with his paddle 34 Wizard preparing for a "spirit fight." He is bound head to knees and hands behind; the magic drum resting on his foot is beating itself. Bird's wings are fastened to his back 50 "Inland-dweller" armed with bow and arrow 70 An "inland-dweller," half dog, half human, pointing out a settlement for destruction 96 A tupilak frightening a man to death in his kayak 96 Evil spirit entering a house 116 Wizard calling up a "helping spirit" 140 Flying race between two wizards, one of whom, unable to keep up, has fallen to earth, and is vainly begging the other to stop 148 Angiut, a "helping spirit," who knows all about everywhere 148



Once there were two men who desired to travel round the world, that they might tell others what was the manner of it.

This was in the days when men were still many on the earth, and there were people in all the lands. Now we grow fewer and fewer. Evil and sickness have come upon men. See how I, who tell this story, drag my life along, unable to stand upon my feet.

The two men who were setting out had each newly taken a wife, and had as yet no children. They made themselves cups of musk-ox horn, each making a cup for himself from one side of the same beast's head. And they set out, each going away from the other, that they might go by different ways and meet again some day. They travelled with sledges, and chose land to stay and live upon each summer.

It took them a long time to get round the world; they had children, and they grew old, and then their children also grew old, until at last the parents were so old that they could not walk, but the children led them.

And at last one day, they met—and of their drinking horns there was but the handle left, so many times had they drunk water by the way, scraping the horn against the ground as they filled them.

"The world is great indeed," they said when they met.

They had been young at their starting, and now they were old men, led by their children.

Truly the world is great.


Our forefathers have told us much of the coming of earth, and of men, and it was a long, long while ago. Those who lived long before our day, they did not know how to store their words in little black marks, as you do; they could only tell stories. And they told of many things, and therefore we are not without knowledge of these things, which we have heard told many and many a time, since we were little children. Old women do not waste their words idly, and we believe what they say. Old age does not lie.

A long, long time ago, when the earth was to be made, it fell down from the sky. Earth, hills and stones, all fell down from the sky, and thus the earth was made.

And then, when the earth was made, came men.

It is said that they came forth out of the earth. Little children came out of the earth. They came forth from among the willow bushes, all covered with willow leaves. And there they lay among the little bushes: lay and kicked, for they could not even crawl. And they got their food from the earth.

Then there is something about a man and a woman, but what of them? It is not clearly known. When did they find each other, and when had they grown up? I do not know. But the woman sewed, and made children's clothes, and wandered forth. And she found little children, and dressed them in the clothes, and brought them home.

And in this way men grew to be many.

And being now so many, they desired to have dogs. So a man went out with a dog leash in his hand, and began to stamp on the ground, crying "Hok—hok—hok!" Then the dogs came hurrying out from the hummocks, and shook themselves violently, for their coats were full of sand. Thus men found dogs.

But then children began to be born, and men grew to be very many on the earth. They knew nothing of death in those days, a long, long time ago, and grew to be very old. At last they could not walk, but went blind, and could not lie down.

Neither did they know the sun, but lived in the dark. No day ever dawned. Only inside their houses was there ever light, and they burned water in their lamps, for in those days water would burn.

But these men who did not know how to die, they grew to be too many, and crowded the earth. And then there came a mighty flood from the sea. Many were drowned, and men grew fewer. We can still see marks of that great flood, on the high hill-tops, where mussel shells may often be found.

And now that men had begun to be fewer, two old women began to speak thus:

"Better to be without day, if thus we may be without death," said the one.

"No; let us have both light and death," said the other.

And when the old woman had spoken these words, it was as she had wished. Light came, and death.

It is said, that when the first man died, others covered up the body with stones. But the body came back again, not knowing rightly how to die. It stuck out its head from the bench, and tried to get up. But an old woman thrust it back, and said:

"We have much to carry, and our sledges are small."

For they were about to set out on a hunting journey. And so the dead one was forced to go back to the mound of stones.

And now, after men had got light on their earth, they were able to go on journeys, and to hunt, and no longer needed to eat of the earth. And with death came also the sun, moon and stars.

For when men die, they go up into the sky and become brightly shining things there.


Nukunguasik, it is said, had land in a place with many brothers. When the brothers made a catch, they gave him meat for the pot; he himself had no wife.

One day he rowed northward in his kayak, and suddenly he took it into his head to row over to a big island which he had never visited before, and now wished to see. He landed, and went up to look at the land, and it was very beautiful there.

And here he came upon the middle one of many brothers, busy with something or other down in a hollow, and whispering all the time. So he crawled stealthily towards him, and when he had come closer, he heard him whispering these words:

"You are to bite Nukunguasik to death; you are to bite Nukunguasik to death."

And then it was clear that he was making a Tupilak, and stood there now telling it what to do. But suddenly Nukunguasik slapped him on the side and said: "But where is this Nukunguasik?"

And the man was so frightened at this that he fell down dead.

And then Nukunguasik saw that the man had been letting the Tupilak sniff at his body. And the Tupilak was now alive, and lay there sniffing. But Nukunguasik, being afraid of the Tupilak, went away without trying to harm it.

Now he rowed home, and there the many brothers were waiting in vain for the middle one to return. At last the day dawned, and still he had not come. And daylight came, and then as they were preparing to go out in search of him, the eldest of them said to Nukunguasik:

"Nukunguasik, come with us; we must search for him."

And so Nukunguasik went with them, but as they found nothing, he said:

"Would it not be well to go and make search over on that island, where no one ever goes?"

And having gone on to the island, Nukunguasik said:

"Now you can go and look on the southern side."

When the brothers reached the place, he heard them cry out, and the eldest said:

"O wretched one! Why did you ever meddle with such a thing as this!"

And they could be heard weeping all together about the dead man.

And now Nukunguasik went up to them, and there lay the Tupilak, still alive, and nibbling at the body of the dead man. But the brothers buried him there, making a mound of stones above him. And then they went home.

Nukunguasik lived there as the oldest in the place, and died at last after many years.

Here I end this story: I know no more.


A strong man had land at Ikerssuaq. The only other one there was an old man, one who lived on nothing but devil-fish; when the strong man had caught more than he needed, the old man had always plenty of meat, which was given him in exchange for his fish.

The strong one, men say, he who never failed to catch seal when he went out hunting, became silent as time went on, and then very silent. And this no doubt was because he could get no children.

The old one was a wizard, and one day the strong one came to him and said:

"To-morrow, when my wife comes down to the shore close by where you are fishing, go to her. For this I will give you something of my catch each day."

And this no doubt was because he wanted his wife to have a child, for he wished greatly to have a child, and could not bring it about.

The old man did not forget those words which were said to him.

And to his wife also, the strong one said:

"To-morrow, when the old one is out fishing, go you down finely dressed, to the shore close by."

And she did it as he had said. When they had slept and again awakened, she watched to see when the old one went out. And when he rowed away, she put on her finest clothes and followed after him along the shore. When she came in sight of him, he lay out there fishing. Then eagerly she stood up on the shore, and looked out towards him. And now he looked at her, and then again out over the sea, and this went on for a long time. She stood there a long time in vain, looking out towards him, but he would not come in to where she was, and therefore she went home. As soon as she had come home, her husband rowed up to the old one, and asked:

"Did you not go to my wife to-day?"

The old one said:


And again the strong one said a second time:

"Then do not fail to go to her to-morrow."

But when the old one came home, he could not forget the strong man's words. In the evening, the strong one said that same thing again to his wife, and a second time told her to go to the old one.

They slept, and awakened, and the strong man went out hunting as was his wont. Then his wife waited only until the old one had gone out, and as soon as he was gone, she put on her finest clothes and followed after. When she came in sight of the water, the old one was sitting there in his boat as on the other days, and fishing. Now the old one turned his head and saw her, and he could see that she was even more finely dressed than on the day before. And now a great desire of her came over him, and he made up his mind to row in to where she was. He came in to the land, and stepped out of his kayak and went up to her. And now he went to her this time.

Then he rowed out again, but he caught scarcely any fish that day.

When only a little time had gone, the strong man came rowing out to him and said:

"Now perhaps you have again failed to go to my wife?"

When these words were spoken, the old one turned his head away, and said:

"To-day I have not failed to be with her."

When the strong one heard this, he took one of the seals he had caught, and gave it to the old man, and said:

"Take this; it is yours."

And in this way he acted towards him from that time. The old one came home that day dragging a seal behind him. And this he could often do thereafter.

When the strong one came home, he said to his wife:

"When I go out to-morrow in my kayak, it is not to hunt seal; therefore watch carefully for my return when the sun is in the west."

Next day he went out in his kayak, and when the sun was in the west, his wife went often and often to look out. And once when she went thus, she saw that he had come, and from that moment she was no longer sleepy.

As the strong one came nearer and nearer to land, he paddled more and more strongly.

Now his wife went down to that place where he was about to land, and turned and sat down with her back to the sea. The man unfastened his hunting fur from the ring of his kayak, and put his hand into the back of the kayak, and took out a sea serpent, and struck his wife on the back. At this she felt very cold, and her skin smarted. Then she stood up and went home. But her husband said no word to her. Then they slept, and awakened, and then the old one came to them and said:

"Now you must search for the carrion of a cormorant, with only the skeleton remaining, for your wife is with child."

And the strong one went out eagerly to search for this.

One day, paddling southward in his kayak, as was his custom, he started to search all the little bird cliffs. And coming to the foot of one of them, he saw that which he so greatly wished to see; the carrion of a big cormorant, which had now become a skeleton. It lay there quite easy to see. But there was no way of coming to the place where it was, not from above nor from below, nor from the side. Yet he would try. He tied his hunting line fast to the cross thongs on his kayak, and thrust his hand into a small crack a little way up the cliff. And now he tried to climb up there with his hands alone. And at last he got that skeleton, and came down in the same way back to his kayak, and got into it, and rowed away northward to his home. And almost before he had reached land, the old one came to him, and the cormorant skeleton was taken out of the kayak. Now the old one trembled all over with surprise. And he took the skeleton, and put it away, and said:

"Now you must search for a soft stone, which has never felt the sun, a stone good to make a lamp of."

And the strong man began to search for such a stone.

Once when he was on this search, he came to a cliff, which stood in such a place that it never felt the sun, and here he found a fine lamp stone. And he brought it home, and the old one took it and put it away.

A few days passed, and then the strong one's wife began to feel the birth-pangs, and the old one went in there at once with his own wife. Then she bore a son, and when he was born, the strong man said to the old one:

"This is your child; name him after some dead one." [2]

"Let him be named after him who died of hunger in the north, at Amerdloq."

This the old one said. And then he said:

"His name shall be Qujavarssuk!"

And in this way the old one gave him that name.

Now Qujavarssuk grew up, and when he was grown big enough, the strong man said to the old one:

"Make a kayak for him."

Now the old one made him a kayak, and the kayak was finished. And when it was finished, he took it by the nose and thrust him out into the water to try it, but without loosing his hold. And when he did this, there came one little seal up out of the water, and others also. This was a sign that he should be a strong man, a chief, when the seals came to him so. When he drew him out of the water, they all went down again, and not a seal remained.

Now the old one began to make hunting things. When they were finished, and there was nothing more to be done in making them, and he thought the boy was of a good age to begin going out to hunt seal, he said to the strong one:

"Now row out with him, for he must go seal hunting."

Then he rowed out with him, and when they had come so far out that they could not see the bottom, he said:

"Take the harpoon point with its line, and fix it on the shaft."

They had just made things ready for their hunting and rowed on farther, when they came to a flock of black seal.

The strong one said to him:

"Now row straight at them."

And then he rowed straight at them, and he lifted his harpoon and he threw it and he struck. And this he did every day in the same manner, and made a catch each time he went out in his kayak.

Then some people who had made a wintering place in the south heard, in a time of hunger, of Qujavarssuk, the strong man who never suffered want. And when they heard this, they began to come and visit the place where he had land. In this way there came once a man who was called Tugto, and his wife. And while they were there—they were both great wizards—the man and his wife began to quarrel, and so the wife ran away to live alone in the hills. And now the man could not bring back his wife, for he was not so great a wizard as she. And when the people who had come to visit the place went away, he could do nothing but stay there.

One day when he was out hunting seal at Ikerssuaq, he saw a big black seal which came up from the bottom with a red fish in its mouth.

Now he took bearings by the cliffs of the place where the seal went down, and after that time, when he was out in his kayak, he took up all the bird wings that he saw, and fastened all the pinion feathers together.

Tugto was a big man, yet he had taken up so much of this that it was a hard matter for him to carry it when he took it on his back, and then he thought it must be enough for that depth of water.

At last the ice lay firm, and when the ice lay firm, he began to make things ready to go out and fish. One morning he woke, and went away over land. He came to a lake, and walked over it, and came again on to the land. And thus he came to the place where lay that water he was going to fish, and he went out on the ice while it was still morning. Then he cut a great hole in the ice, and just as he cast out the weight on his line, the sun came up. It came quite out, and went across the sky, all in the time he was letting out his line. And not until the sun had gone half through the day did the weight reach the bottom. Then he hauled up the line a little way, and almost before it was still, he felt a pull. And he hauled it up, and it was a mighty sea perch. This he killed, but did not let down his line a second time, for in that way it would become evening. He cut a hole in the lower jaw of the fish, and put in a cord to carry it with. And when he took it on his head, it was so long that the tail struck against his heel.

Then in this manner he walked away, and came to land. When he came to the big lake he had walked over in the morning, he went out on it. But when he had come half the way over, the ice began to make a noise, and when he looked round, it seemed to him that the noise in the ice was following him from behind.

Now he went away running, but as he ran he fainted suddenly away, and lay a long time so. When he woke again, he was lying down. He thought a little, and then he remembered. "Au: I am running away!" And then he got up and turned round, but could not find a break in the ice anywhere. But he could feel in himself that he had now become a much greater wizard than before.

He went on farther, and chose his way up over a little hilly slope, and when he could see clearly ahead, he perceived a mighty beast.

It was one of those monsters which men saw in the old far-off times, quite covered with bird-skins. And it was so big that not a twitch of life could be seen in it. He was afraid now, and turned round, until he could no longer see it. Then he left that way, and came out into another place, where he saw another looking just the same. He now went back again in such a manner that it could not find him, but then he remembered that a wizard can win power to vanish away, even to vanish into the ground, if he can pull to pieces the skin of such a monster.

When his thoughts had begun to work upon this, he threw away his burden and went towards it and began to wrestle with it. And it was not a long time before he began to tear its covering in pieces; the flesh on it was not bigger than a thumb. Then he went away from it, and took up his burden again on his head, and went wandering on. When he was again going along homewards, he felt in himself that he had become a great wizard, and he could see the door openings of all the villages in that countryside quite close together.

And when he came home, he caused these words to be said:

"Let the people come and hear."

And now many people came hurrying into the house. And he began calling up spirits. And in this calling he raised himself up and flew away towards his wife.

And when he came near her in his spirit flight, and hovered above her, she was sitting sewing. He went straight down through the roof, and when she tried to escape through the floor he did likewise, and reached her in the earth. After this, she was very willing when he tried to take her home with him, and he took her home with him, and now he had his wife again, and those two people lived together until they were very old.

One winter, the frost came, and was very hard and the sea was frozen, and only a little opening was left, far out over the ice. And hither Qujavarssuk was forced to carry his kayak each day, out to the open water, but each day he caught two seals, as was his custom.

And then, as often happens in time of dearth, there came many poor people wandering over the ice, from the south, wishing to get some good thing of all that Qujavarssuk caught. Once there came also two old men, and they were his mother's kinsmen. They came on a visit. And when they came, his mother said to them:

"Now you have come before I have got anything cooked. It is true that I have something from the cooking of yesterday; eat that if you will, while I cook something now." Then she set before them the kidney part of a black seal, with its own blubber as dripping. Now one of the two old men began eating, and went on eagerly, dipping the meat in the dripping. But the other stopped eating very soon.

Then Qujavarssuk came home, as was his custom, with two seals, and said to his mother:

"Take the breast part and boil it quickly."

For this was the best part of the seal. And she boiled it, and it was done in a moment. And then she set it on a dish and brought it to those two.

"Here, eat."

And now at last the one of them began really to eat, but the other took a piece of the shoulder. When Qujavarssuk saw this, he said:

"You should not begin to eat from the wrong side."

And when he had said that, he said again:

"If you eat from that side, then my catching of the seals will cease." But the old man became very angry in his mind at this order.

Next morning, when they were about to set off again southward, Qujavarssuk's mother gave them as much meat as they could carry. They went home southward, over the ice, but when they had gone a little way, they were forced to stop, because their burden was so heavy. And when they had rested a little, they went on again. When they had come near to their village, one said to the other:

"Has there not wakened a thought in your mind? I am very angry with Qujavarssuk. Yesterday, when we came there, they gave us only a kidney piece in welcome, and that is meat I do not like at all."

"Hum," said the other. "I thought it was all very good. It was fine tender meat for my teeth."

At these words, the other began again to speak:

"Now that my anger has awakened, I will make a Tupilak for that miserable Qujavarssuk."

But the other said to him:

"Why will you do such a thing? Look; their gifts are so many that we must carry the load upon our heads."

But that comrade would not change his purpose, not for all the trying of the other to turn him from it. And at last the other ceased to speak of it.

Now as the cold grew stronger, that opening in the ice became smaller and smaller, at the place where Qujavarssuk was used to go with his kayak. One day, when he came down to it, there was but just room for his kayak to go in, and if now a seal should rise, it could not fail to strike the kayak. Yet he got into the kayak, and at the time when he was fixing the head on his harpoon, he saw a black seal coming up from below. But seeing that it must touch both the ice and the kayak, it went down again without coming right to the surface. Then Qujavarssuk went up again and went home, and that was the first time he went home without having made a catch, in all the time he had been a hunter.

When he had come home, he sat himself down behind his mother's lamp, sitting on the bedplace, so that only his feet hung down over the floor. He was so troubled that he would not eat. And later in the evening, he said to his mother:

"Take meat to Tugto and his wife, and ask one of them to magic away the ice."

His mother went out and cut the meat of a black seal across at the middle. Then she brought the tail half, and half the blubber of a seal, up to Tugto and his wife. She came to the entrance, but it was covered with snow, so that it looked like a fox hole. At first, she dropped that which she was carrying in through the passage way. And it was this which Tugto and his wife first saw; the half of a black seal's meat and half of its blubber cut across. And when she came in, she said:

"It is my errand now to ask if one of you can magic away the ice."

When these words were heard, Tugto said to his wife:

"In this time of hunger we cannot send away meat that is given. You must magic away the ice."

And she set about to do his bidding. To Qujavarssuk's mother she said:

"Tell all the people who can come here to come here and listen!"

And then she began eagerly going in to the dwellings, to say that all who could come should come in and listen to the magic. When all had come in, she put out the lamp, and began to call on her helping spirits. Then suddenly she said:

"Two flames have appeared in the west!"

And now she was standing up in the passage way, and let them come to her, and when they came forward, they were a bear and a walrus. The bear blew her in under the bedplace, but when it drew in its breath again, she came out from under the bedplace and stopped at the passage way. In this manner it went on for a long time. But now she made ready to go out, and said then to the listeners:

"All through this night none may yawn or wink an eye." And then she went out.

At the same moment when she went out, the bear took her in its teeth and flung her out over the ice. Hardly had she fallen on the ice again, when the walrus thrust its tusks into her and flung her out across the ice, but the bear ran along after her, keeping beneath her as she flew through the air. Each time she fell on the ice, the walrus thrust its tusks into her again. It seemed as if the outermost islands suddenly went to the bottom of the sea, so quickly did she move outwards. They were now almost out of sight, and not until they could no longer see the land did the walrus and the bear leave her. Then she could begin again to go towards the land.

When at last she could see the cliffs, it seemed as if there were clouds above them, because of the driving snow. At last the wind came down, and the ice began at once to break up. Now she looked round on all sides, and caught sight of an iceberg which was frozen fast. And towards this she let herself drift. Hardly had she come up on to the iceberg, when the ice all went to pieces, and now there was no way for her to save herself. But at the same moment she heard someone beside her say:

"Let me take you in my kayak." And when she looked round, she saw a man in a very narrow kayak. And he said a second time:

"Come and let me take you in my kayak. If you will not do this, then you will never taste the good things Qujavarssuk has paid you."

Now the sea was very rough, and yet she made ready to go. When a wave lifted the kayak, she sprang down into it. But as she dropped down, the kayak was nearly upset. Then, as she tried to move over to the other side of it, she again moved too far, and then he said:

"Place yourself properly in the middle of the kayak."

And when she had done so, he tried to row, for it was his purpose to take her with him in his kayak, although the sea was very rough. Then he rowed out with her. And when he had come a little way out, he sighted land, but when they came near, there was no place at all where they could come up on shore, and at the moment when the wave took them, he said:

"Now try to jump ashore."

And when he said this, she sprang ashore. When she now stood on land, she turned round and saw that the kayak was lost to sight in a great wave. And it was never seen again. She turned and went away. But as she went on, she felt a mighty thirst. She came to a place where water was oozing through the snow. She went there, and when she reached it, and was about to lay herself down to drink, a voice came suddenly and said:

"Do not drink it; for if you do, you will never taste the good things Qujavarssuk has paid you."

When she heard this she went forward again. On her way she came to a house. On the top of the house lay a great dog, and it was terrible to see. When she began to go past it, it looked as if it would bite her. But at last she came past it.

In the passage way of the house there was a great river flowing, and the only place where she could tread was narrow as the back of a knife. And the passage way itself was so wide that she could not hold fast by the walls.

So she walked along, poising carefully, using her little fingers as wings. But when she came to the inner door, the step was so high, that she could not come over it quickly. Inside the house, she saw an old woman lying face downwards on the bedplace. And as soon as she had come in, the old woman began to abuse her. And she was about to answer those bad words, when the old woman sprang out on to the floor to fight with her. And now they two fought furiously together. They fought for a long time, and little by little the old woman grew tired. And when she was so tired that she could not get up, the other saw that her hair hung loose and was full of dirt. And now Tugto's wife began cleaning her as well as she could. When this was done, she put up her hair in its knot. The old woman had not spoken, but now she said:

"You are a dear little thing, you that have come in here. It is long since I was so nicely cleaned. Not since little Atakana from Sardloq cleaned me have I ever been cleaned at all. I have nothing to give you in return. Move my lamp away."

And when she did so, there was a noise like the moving of wings. When she turned to look, she saw a host of birds flying in through the passage way. For a long time birds flew in, without stopping. But then the woman said:

"Now it is enough." And she put the lamp straight. And when that was done, the other said again:

"Will you not put it a little to the other side?"

And she moved it so. And then she saw some men with long hair flying towards the passage way. When she looked closer, she saw that it was a host of black seal. And when very many of them had come in this manner, she said:

"Now it is enough." And she put the lamp in its place. Then the old woman looked over towards her, and said:

"When you come home, tell them that they must never more face towards the sea when they empty their dirty vessels, for when they do so, it all goes over me."

When at last the woman came out again, the big dog wagged his tail kindly at her.

It was still night when Tugto's wife came home, and when she came in, none of them had yet yawned or winked an eye. When she lit the lamp, her face was fearfully scratched, and she told them this:

"You must not think that the ice will break up at once; it will not break up until these sores are healed."

After a long time they began to heal slowly, and sometimes it might happen that one or another cried in mockingly through the window:

"Now surely it is time the ice broke up and went out to sea, for that which was to be done is surely done."

But at last her sores were healed. And one day a black cloud came up in the south. Later in the evening, there was a mighty noise of the wind, and the storm did not abate until it was growing light in the morning. When it was quite light, and the people came out, the sea was open and blue. A great number of birds were flying above the water, and there were hosts of black seal everywhere. The kayaks were made ready at once, and when they began to make them ready, Tugto's wife said:

"No one must hunt them yet; until five days are gone no one may hunt them."

But before those days were gone, one of the young men went out nevertheless to hunt. He tried with great efforts, but caught nothing after all. Not until those days were gone did the witch-wife say:

"Now you may hunt them."

And now the men went out to sea to hunt the birds. And not until they could bear no more on their kayaks did they row home again. But then all those men had to give up their whole catch to Tugto's house. Not until the second hunting were they permitted to keep any for themselves.

Next day they went out to hunt for seal. They harpooned many, but these also were given to Tugto and his wife. Of these also they kept nothing for themselves until the second hunting.

Now when the ice was gone, then that old man we have told about before, he put life into the Tupilak, and said to it then:

"Go out now, and eat up Qujavarssuk."

The Tupilak paddled out after him, but Qujavarssuk had already reached the shore, and was about to carry up his kayak on to the land, with a catch of two seals. Now the Tupilak had no fear but that next day, when he went out, it would be easy to catch and eat him. And therefore, when it was no later than dawn, it was waiting outside his house. When Qujavarssuk awoke, he got up and went down to his kayak, and began to make ready for hunting. He put on his long fur coat, and went down and put the kayak in the water. He lifted one leg and stepped into the kayak, and this the Tupilak saw, but when he lifted the other leg to step in with that, he disappeared entirely from its sight. And all through the day it looked for him in vain. At last it swam in towards land, but by that time he had already reached home, and drawn the kayak on shore to carry it up. He had a catch of two seal, and there lay the Tupilak staring after him.

When it was evening, Qujavarssuk went to rest. He slept, and awoke, and got up and made things ready to go out. And at this time the Tupilak was waiting with a great desire for the moment when he should put off from land. But when he put on his hunting coat ready to row out, the Tupilak thought:

"Now we shall see if he disappears again."

And just as he was getting into his kayak, he disappeared from sight. And at the end of that day also, Qujavarssuk came home again, as was his custom, with a catch of two seal.

Now by this time the Tupilak was fearfully hungry. But a Tupilak can only eat men, and therefore it now thought thus:

"Next time, I will go up on land and eat him there."

Then it swam over towards land, and as the shore was level, it moved swiftly, so as to come well up. But it struck its head on the ground, so that the pain pierced to its backbone, and when it tried to see what was there, the shore had changed to a steep cliff, and on the top of the cliff stood Qujavarssuk, all easy to see. Again it tried to swim up on to the land, but only hurt itself the more. And now it was surprised, and looked in vain for Qujavarssuk's house, for it could not see the house at all. And it was still lying there and staring up, when it saw that a great stone was about to fall on it, and hardly had it dived under water when the stone struck it, and broke a rib. Then it swam out and looked again towards land, and saw Qujavarssuk again quite clearly, and also his house.

Now the Tupilak thought:

"I must try another way. Perhaps it will be better to go through the earth."

And when it tried to go through the earth, so much was easy; it only remained then to come up through the floor of the house. But the floor of the house was hard, and not to be got through. Therefore it tried behind the house, and there it was quite soft. It came up there, and went to the passage way, and there was a big black bird, sitting there eating something. The Tupilak thought:

"That is a fortunate being, which can sit and eat."

Then it tried to get up over the walls at the back part of the house, by taking hold of the grass in the turf blocks. But when it got there, the bird's food was the only thing it saw. Again it tried to get a little farther, seeing that the bird appeared not to heed it at all, but then suddenly the bird turned and bit a hole just above its flipper. And this was very painful, so that the Tupilak floundered about with pain, and floundered about till it came right out into the water.

And because of all these happenings, it had now become so angered that it swam back at once to the man who had made it, in order to eat him up. And when it came there, he was sitting in his kayak with his face turned towards the sun, and telling no other thing than of the Tupilak which he had made. For a long time the Tupilak lay there beneath him, and looked at him, until there came this thought:

"Why did he make me a Tupilak, when afterwards all the trouble was to come upon me?"

Then it swam up and attacked the kayak, and the water was coloured red with blood as it ate him. And having thus found food, the Tupilak felt well and strong and very cheerful, until at last it began to think thus:

"All the other Tupilaks will certainly call this a shameful thing, that I should have killed the one who made me."

And it was now so troubled with shame at this that it swam far out into the open sea and was never seen again. And men say that it was because of shame it did so.

One day the old one said to Qujavarssuk:

"You are named after a man who died of hunger at Amerdloq."

It is told of the people of Amerdloq that they catch nothing but turbot.

And Qujavarssuk went to Amerdloq and lived there with an old man, and while he lived there, he made always the same catch as was his custom. At last the people of Amerdloq began to say to one another:

"This must be the first time there have been so many black seal here in our country; every time he goes hunting he catches two seal."

At last one of the big hunters went out hunting with him. They fixed the heads to their harpoons, and when they had come a little way out from land, Qujavarssuk stopped. Then when the other had gone a little distance from him, he turned, and saw that Qujavarssuk had already struck one seal. Then he rowed towards him, but when he came up, it was already killed. So he left him again for a little while, and when he turned, Qujavarssuk had again struck. Then Qujavarssuk rowed home. And the other stayed out the whole day, but did not see a single seal.

When Qujavarssuk had thus continued as a great hunter, his mother said to him at last that he should marry. He gave her no answer, and therefore she began to look about herself for a girl for him to marry, but it was her wish that the girl might be a great glutton, so that there might not be too much lost of all that meat. And she began to ask all the unmarried women to come and visit her. And because of this there came one day a young woman who was not very beautiful. And this one she liked very much, for that she was a clever eater, and having regard to this, she chose her out as the one her son should marry. One day she said to her son:

"That woman is the one you must have."

And her son obeyed her, as was his custom.

Every day after their marriage, the strongest man in Amerdloq called in at the window:

"Qujavarssuk! Let us see which of us can first get a bladder float for hunting the whale."

Qujavarssuk made no answer, as was his custom, but the old man said to him:

"We use only speckled skin for whales. And they are now at this time in the mouth of the river."

After this, they went to rest.

Qujavarssuk slept, and awoke, and got up, and went away to the north. And when he had gone a little way to the north, he came to the mouth of a small fjord. He looked round and saw a speckled seal that had come up to breathe. When it went down again, he rowed up on the landward side of it, and fixed the head and line to his harpoon. When it came up again to breathe, he rowed to where it was, and harpooned it, and after this, he at once rowed home with it.

The old man made the skin ready, and hung it up behind the house. But while it was hanging there, there came very often a noise as from the bladder float, and this although there was no one there. This thing the old man did not like at all.

When the winter was coming near, the old man said one day to Qujavarssuk:

"Now that time will soon be here when the whales come in to the coast."

One night Qujavarssuk had gone out of the house, when he heard a sound of deep breathing from the west, and this came nearer. And because this was the first time he had heard so mighty a breathing, he went in and told the matter in a little voice to his wife. And he had hardly told her this, when the old man, whom he had thought asleep, said:

"What is that you are saying?"

"Mighty breathings which I have heard, and did not know them, and they do not move from that side where the sun is." This said Qujavarssuk.

The old one put on his boots, and went out, and came in again, and said:

"It is the breathing of a whale."

In the morning, before it was yet light, there came a sound of running, and then one came and called through the window:

"Qujavarssuk! I was the first who heard the whales breathing."

It was the strong man, who wished to surpass him in this. Qujavarssuk said nothing, as was his custom, but the old man said:

"Qujavarssuk heard that while it was yet night." And they heard him laugh and go away.

The strong man had already got out the umiak [3] into the water to row out to the whale. And then Qujavarssuk came out, and they had already rowed away when Qujavarssuk got his boat into the water. He got it full of water, and drew it up again on to the shore, and turned the stem in towards land and poured the water out, and for the second time he drew it down into the water. And not until now did he begin to look about for rowers. They went out, and when they could see ahead, the strong man of Amerdloq was already far away. Before he had come up to where he was, Qujavarssuk told his rowers to stop and be still. But they wished to go yet farther, believing that the whale would never come up to breathe in that place. Therefore he said to them:

"You shall see it when it comes up."

Hardly had the umiak stopped still, when Qujavarssuk began to tremble all over. When he turned round, there was already a whale quite near, and now his rowers begged him eagerly to steer to where it was. But Qujavarssuk now saw such a beast for the first time in his life. And he said:

"Let us look at it."

And his rowers had to stay still. When the strong man of Amerdloq heard the breathing of the whale, he looked round after it, and there lay the beast like a great rock close beside Qujavarssuk. And he called out to him from the place where he was:

"Harpoon it!"

Qujavarssuk made no answer, but his rowers were now even more eager than before. When the whale had breathed long enough, it went down again. Now his rowers wished very much to go farther out, because it was not likely that it would come up again in that way the next time. But Qujavarssuk would not move at all.

The whale stayed a long time under the water, and when it came up again it was still nearer. Now Qujavarssuk looked at it again for a long time, and now his rowers became very angry with him at last. Not until it seemed that the whale must soon go down again did Qujavarssuk say:

"Now row towards it."

And they rowed towards it, and he harpooned it. And when it now floundered about in pain and went down, he threw out his bladder float, and it was not strange that this went under water at once.

And those farther out called to him now and said:

"When a whale is struck it will always swim out to sea. Row now to the place where it would seem that it must come up."

But Qujavarssuk did not answer, and did not move from the place where he was. Not until they called to him for the third time did he answer:

"The beasts I have struck move always farther in, towards my house."

And now they had just begun laughing at him out there, when they heard a washing of water closer in to shore, and there it lay, quite like a tiny fish, turning about in its death struggle. They rowed up to it at once and made a tow line fast. The strong man rowed up to them, and when he came to where they were, no one of them was eating. Then he said:

"Not one of you eating, and here a newly-killed whale?"

When he said this, Qujavarssuk answered:

"None may eat of it until my mother has first eaten."

But the strong man tried then to take a mouthful, although this had been said. And when he did so, froth came out of his mouth at once. And he spat out that mouthful, because it was destroying his mouth.

And they brought that catch home, and Qujavarssuk's mother ate of it, and then at last all ate of it likewise, and then none had any badness in the mouth from eating of it. But the strong man sat for a long time the only one of them all who did not eat, and that because he must wait till his mouth was well again.

And the strong man of Amerdloq did not catch a whale at all until after Qujavarssuk had caught another one.

For a whole year Qujavarssuk stayed at Amerdloq, and when it was spring, he went back southward to his home. He came to his own land, and there at a later time he died.

And that is all.


There was once a wizard whose name was Kunigseq.

One day, when he was about to call on his helping spirits and make a flight down into the underworld, he gave orders that the floor should be swilled with salt water, to take off the evil smell which might otherwise frighten his helping spirits away.

Then he began to call upon his helping spirits, and without moving his body, began to pass downward through the floor.

And down he went. On his way he came to a reef, which was covered with weed, and therefore so slippery that none could pass that way. And as he could not pass, his helping spirit lay down beside him, and by placing his foot upon the spirit, he was able to pass.

And on he went, and came to a great slope covered with heather. Far down in the underworld, men say, the land is level, and the hills are small; there is sun down there, and the sky is also like that which we see from the earth.

Suddenly he heard one crying: "Here comes Kunigseq."

By the side of a little river he saw some children looking for greyfish.

And before he had reached the houses of men, he met his mother, who had gone out to gather berries. When he came up to her, she tried again and again to kiss him, but his helping spirit thrust her aside.

"He is only here on a visit," said the spirit.

Then she offered him some berries, and these he was about to put in his mouth, when the spirit said:

"If you eat of them, you will never return."

A little after, he caught sight of his dead brother, and then his mother said:

"Why do you wish to return to earth again? Your kin are here. And look down on the sea-shore; see the great stores of dried meat. Many seal are caught here, and it is a good place to be; there is no snow, and a beautiful open sea."

The sea lay smooth, without the slightest wind. Two kayaks were rowing towards land. Now and again they threw their bird darts, and they could be heard to laugh.

"I will come again when I die," said Kunigseq.

Some kayaks lay drying on a little island; they were those of men who had just lost their lives when out in their kayaks.

And it is told that the people of the underworld said to Kunigseq:

"When you return to earth, send us some ice, for we thirst for cold water down here."

After that, Kunigseq went back to earth, but it is said that his son fell sick soon afterwards, and died. And then Kunigseq did not care to live any longer, having seen what it was like in the underworld. So he rowed out in his kayak, and caught a guillemot, and a little after, he caught a raven, and having eaten these one after the other, he died. And then they threw him out into the sea.


There was once an old woman living in a place where others lived. She lived nearest the shore, and when those who lived in houses up above had been out hunting, they gave her both meat and blubber.

And once they were out hunting as usual, and now and again they got a bear, so that they frequently ate bear's meat. And they came home with a whole bear. The old woman received a piece from the ribs as her share, and took it home to her house. After she had come home to her house, the wife of the man who had killed the bear came to the window and said:

"Dear little old woman in there, would you like to have a bear's cub?"

And the old woman went and fetched it, and brought it into her house, shifted her lamp, and placed the cub, because it was frozen, up on to the drying frame to thaw. Suddenly she noticed that it moved a little, and took it down to warm it. Then she roasted some blubber, for she had heard that bears lived on blubber, and in this way she fed it from that time onwards, giving it greaves to eat and melted blubber to drink, and it lay beside her at night.

And after it had begun to lie beside her at night it grew very fast, and she began to talk to it in human speech, and thus it gained the mind of a human being, and when it wished to ask its foster-mother for food, it would sniff.

The old woman now no longer suffered want, and those living near brought her food for the cub. The children came sometimes to play with it, but then the old woman would say:

"Little bear, remember to sheathe your claws when you play with them."

In the morning, the children would come to the window and call in:

"Little bear, come out and play with us, for now we are going to play."

And when they went out to play together, it would break the children's toy harpoons to pieces, but whenever it wanted to give any one of the children a push, it would always sheathe its claws. But at last it grew so strong, that it nearly always made the children cry. And when it had grown so strong the grown-up people began to play with it, and they helped the old woman in this way, in making the bear grow stronger. But after a time not even grown men dared play with it, so great was its strength, and then they said to one another:

"Let us take it with us when we go out hunting. It may help us to find seal."

And so one day in the dawn, they came to the old woman's window and cried:

"Little bear, come and earn a share of our catch; come out hunting with us, bear."

But before the bear went out, it sniffed at the old woman. And then it went out with the men.

On the way, one of the men said:

"Little bear, you must keep down wind, for if you do not so, the game will scent you, and take fright."

One day when they had been out hunting and were returning home, they called in to the old woman:

"It was very nearly killed by the hunters from the northward; we hardly managed to save it alive. Give therefore some mark by which it may be known; a broad collar of plaited sinews about its neck."

And so the old foster-mother made a mark for it to wear; a collar of plaited sinews, as broad as a harpoon line.

And after that it never failed to catch seal, and was stronger even than the strongest of hunters, and never stayed at home even in the worst of all weather. Also it was not bigger than an ordinary bear. All the people in the other villages knew it now, and although they sometimes came near to catching it, they would always let it go as soon as they saw its collar.

But now the people from beyond Angmagssalik heard that there was a bear which could not be caught, and then one of them said:

"If ever I see it, I will kill it."

But the others said:

"You must not do that; the bear's foster-mother could ill manage without its help. If you see it, do not harm it, but leave it alone, as soon as you see its mark."

One day when the bear came home as usual from hunting, the old foster-mother said:

"Whenever you meet with men, treat them as if you were of one kin with them; never seek to harm them unless they first attack."

And it heard the foster-mother's words and did as she had said.

And thus the old foster-mother kept the bear with her. In the summer it went out hunting in the sea, and in winter on the ice, and the other hunters now learned to know its ways, and received shares of its catch.

Once during a storm the bear was away hunting as usual, and did not come home until evening. Then it sniffed at its foster-mother and sprang up on to the bench, where its place was on the southern side. Then the old foster-mother went out of the house, and found outside the body of a dead man, which the bear had hauled home. Then without going in again, the old woman went hurrying to the nearest house, and cried at the window:

"Are you all at home?"


"The little bear has come home with a dead man, one whom I do not know."

When it grew light, they went out and saw that it was the man from the north, and they could see he had been running fast, for he had drawn off his furs, and was in his underbreeches. Afterwards they heard that it was his comrades who had urged the bear to resistance, because he would not leave it alone.

A long time after this had happened, the old foster-mother said to the bear:

"You had better not stay with me here always; you will be killed if you do, and that would be a pity. You had better leave me."

And she wept as she said this. But the bear thrust its muzzle right down to the floor and wept, so greatly did it grieve to go away from her.

After this, the foster-mother went out every morning as soon as dawn appeared, to look at the weather, and if there were but a cloud as big as one's hand in the sky, she said nothing.

But one morning when she went out, there was not even a cloud as big as a hand, and so she came in and said:

"Little bear, now you had better go; you have your own kin far away out there."

But when the bear was ready to set out, the old foster-mother, weeping very much, dipped her hands in oil and smeared them with soot, and stroked the bear's side as it took leave of her, but in such manner that it could not see what she was doing. The bear sniffed at her and went away. But the old foster-mother wept all through that day, and her fellows in the place mourned also for the loss of their bear.

But men say that far to the north, when many bears are abroad, there will sometimes come a bear as big as an iceberg, with a black spot on its side.

Here ends this story.


It is said that the great Imarasugssuaq was wont to eat his wives. He fattened them up, giving them nothing but salmon to eat, and nothing at all to drink. Once when he had just lost his wife in the usual way, he took to wife the sister of many brothers, and her name was Misana. And after having taken her to wife, he began fattening her up as usual.

One day her husband was out in his kayak. And she had grown so fat that she could hardly move, but now she managed with difficulty to tumble down from the bench to the floor, crawled to the entrance, dropped down into the passage way, and began licking the snow which had drifted in. She licked and licked at it, and at last she began to feel herself lighter, and better able to move. And in this way she afterwards went out and licked up snow whenever her husband was out in his kayak, and at last she was once more quite able to move about.

One day when her husband was out in his kayak as usual, she took her breeches and tunic, and stuffed them out until the thing looked like a real human being, and then she said to them:

"When my husband comes and tells you to come out, answer him with these words: I cannot move because I am grown so fat. And when he then comes in and harpoons you, remember then to shriek as if in pain."

And after she had said these words, she began digging a hole at the back of the house, and when it was big enough, she crept in.

"Bring up the birds I have caught!"

But the dummy answered:

"I can no longer move, for I am grown so fat."

Now the dummy was sitting behind the lamp. And the husband coming in, harpooned that dummy wife with his great bird-spear. And the thing shrieked as if with pain and fell down. But when he looked closer, there was no blood to be seen, nothing but some stuffed-out clothes. And where was his wife?

And now he began to search for her, and as soon as he had gone out, she crept forth from her hiding-place, and took to flight. And while she was thus making her escape, her husband came after her, and seeing that he came nearer and nearer, at last she said:

"Now I remember, my amulet is a piece of wood."

And hardly had she said these words, when she was changed into a piece of wood, and her husband could not find her. He looked about as hard as ever he could, but could see nothing beyond a piece of wood anywhere. And he stabbed at that once or twice with his knife, but she felt no more than a little stinging pain. Then he went back home to fetch his axe, and then, as soon as he was out of sight, she changed back into a woman again and fled away to her brothers.

When she came to their house, she hid herself behind the skin hangings, and after she had placed herself there, her husband was heard approaching, weeping because he had lost his wife. He stayed there with them, and in the evening, the brothers began singing songs in mockery of him, and turning towards him also, they said:

"Men say that Imarasugssuaq eats his wives."

"Who has said that?"

"Misana has said that."

"I said it, and I ran away because you tried to kill me," said she from behind the hangings.

And then the many brothers fell upon Imarasugssuaq and held him fast that his wife might kill him; she took her knife, but each time she tried to strike, the knife only grazed his skin, for her fingers lost their power.

And she was still standing there trying in vain to stab him, when they saw that he was already dead.

Here ends this story.


There was once a boy whose name was Qalaganguase; his parents lived at a place where the tides were strong. And one day they ate seaweed, and died of it. Then there was only one sister to look after Qalaganguase, but it was not long before she also died, and then there were only strangers to look after him.

Qalaganguase was without strength, the lower part of his body was dead, and one day when the others had gone out hunting, he was left alone in the house. He was sitting there quite alone, when suddenly he heard a sound. Now he was afraid, and with great pains he managed to drag himself out of the house into the one beside it, and here he found a hiding-place behind the skin hangings. And while he was in hiding there, he heard a noise again, and in walked a ghost.

"Ai! There are people here!"

The ghost went over to the water tub and drank, emptying the dipper twice.

"Thanks for the drink which I thirsty one received," said the ghost. "Thus I was wont to drink when I lived on earth." And then it went out.

Now the boy heard his fellow-villagers coming up and gathering outside the house, and then they began to crawl in through the passage way.

"Qalaganguase is not here," they said, when they came inside.

"Yes, he is," said the boy. "I hid in here because a ghost came in. It drank from the water tub there."

And when they went to look at the water tub, they saw that something had been drinking from it.

Then some time after, it happened again that the people were all out hunting, and Qalaganguase alone in the place. And there he sat in the house all alone, when suddenly the walls and frame of the house began to shake, and next moment a crowd of ghosts came tumbling into the house, one after the other, and the last was one whom he knew, for it was his sister, who had died but a little time before.

And now the ghosts sat about on the floor and began playing; they wrestled, and told stories, and laughed all the time.

At first Qalaganguase was afraid of them, but at last he found it a pleasant thing to make the night pass. And not until the villagers could be heard returning did they hasten away.

"Now mind you do not tell tales," said the ghost, "for if you do as we say, then you will gain strength again, and there will be nothing you cannot do." And one by one they tumbled out of the passage way. Only Qalaganguase's sister could hardly get out, and that was because her brother had been minding her little child, and his touch stayed her. And the hunters were coming back, and quite close, when she slipped out. One could just see the shadow of a pair of feet.

"What was that," said one. "It looked like a pair of feet vanishing away."

"Listen, and I will tell you," said Qalaganguase, who already felt his strength returning. "The house has been full of people, and they made the night pass pleasantly for me, and now, they say, I am to grow strong again."

But hardly had the boy said these words, when the strength slowly began to leave him.

"Qalaganguase is to be challenged to a singing contest," he heard them say, as he lay there. And then they tied the boy to the frame post and let him swing backwards and forwards, as he tried to beat the drum. After that, they all made ready, and set out for their singing contest, and left the lame boy behind in the house all alone. And there he lay all alone, when his mother, who had died long since, came in with his father.

"Why are you here alone?" they asked.

"I am lame," said the boy, "and when the others went off to a singing contest, they left me behind."

"Come away with us," said his father and mother.

"It is better so, perhaps," said the boy.

And so they led him out, and bore him away to the land of ghosts, and so Qalaganguase became a ghost.

And it is said that Qalaganguase became a woman when they changed him to a ghost. But his fellow-villagers never saw him again.


Isigaligarssik was a wifeless man, and he was very strong. One of the other men in his village was a wizard.

Isigaligarssik was taken to live in a house with many brothers, and they were very fond of him.

When the wizard was about to call upon his spirits, it was his custom to call in through the window: "Only the married men may come and hear." And when they who were to hear the spirit calling went out, a little widow and her daughter and Isigaligarssik always stayed behind together in the house. Once, when all had gone out to hear the wizard, as was their custom, these three were thus left alone together. Isigaligarssik sat by the little lamp on the side bench, at work.

Suddenly he heard the widow's daughter saying something in her mother's ear, and then her mother turned towards him and said:

"This little girl would like to have you."

Isigaligarssik would also like to have her, and before the others of the house had come back, they were man and wife. Thus when the others of the house had finished and came back, Isigaligarssik had found a wife, and his house-fellows were very glad of this.

Next day, as soon as it was dark, one called, as was the custom: "Let only those who have wives come and hear." And Isigaligarssik, who had before had no wife, felt now a great desire to go and hear this. But as soon as he had come in, the great wizard said to Isigaligarssik's wife:

"Come here; here."

When she had sat down, he told her to take off her shoes, and then he put them up on the drying frame. Then they made a spirit calling, and when that was ended, the wizard said to Isigaligarssik:

"Go away now; you will never have this dear little wife of yours again."

And then Isigaligarssik had to go home without a wife. And Isigaligarssik had to live without a wife. And every time there was a spirit calling, and he went in, the wizard would say:

"Ho, what are you doing here, you who have no wife?"

But now anger grew up slowly in him at this, and once when he came home, he said:

"That wizard in there has mocked me well, but next time he asks me, I shall know what to answer."

But the others of the village warned him, and said:

"No, no; you must not answer him. For if you answer him, then he will kill you."

But one evening when the bad wizard mocked him as usual Isigaligarssik said:

"Ho, and what of you who took my wife away?"

Now the wizard stood up at once, and when Isigaligarssik bent down towards the entrance to creep out, the wizard took a knife, and stabbed him with a great wound.

Isigaligarssik ran quickly home to his house, and said to his wife's mother:

"Go quickly now and take the dress I wore when I was little. [4] It is in the chest there."

And when she took it out, it was so small that it did not look like a dress at all, but it was very pretty. And he ordered her then to dip it in the water bucket. When it was wet, he was able to put it on, and when the lacing thong at the bottom touched the wound, it was healed.

Now when his house-fellows came out after the spirit-calling they thought to find him lying dead outside the entrance. They followed the blood spoor, and at last he had gone into the house. When they came in, he had not a single wound, and all were very glad for that he was healed again. And now he said:

"To-morrow I will go bow-shooting with him."

Then they slept, and awakened, and Isigaligarssik opened his little chest and searched it, and took out a bow that was so small it could hardly be seen in his hands. He strung that bow, and went out, and said:

"Come out now and see." Then they went out, and he went down to the wizard's house, and called through the window:

"Big man in there; come out now and let us shoot with the bow!" And when he had said this, he went and stood by a little river. When he turned to look round, the wizard was already by the passage of his house, aiming with his bow.

He said: "Come here." And then Isigaligarssik drew up spittle in his mouth and spat straight down beside his feet.

"Come here," he said then, to the great wizard. Then he went over to him, and came nearer and nearer, and stopped just before him. Now the wizard aimed with his bow towards him, and when he did this, the house-fellows cried to Isigaligarssik: "Make yourself small!" And he made himself so small that only his head could be seen moving backwards and forwards. The wizard shot and missed. And a second time he shot and missed.

Then Isigaligarssik stood up, and took the arrow, and broke it across and said:

"Go home; you cannot hit." And then the wizard went off, turning many times to look round. At last, when he bent down to get into his house through the passage way, Isigaligarssik aimed and shot at him. And they heard only the sound of his fall. The arrow was very little, and yet for all that it sent him all doubled up through the entrance, so that he fell down in the passage.

In this way Isigaligarssik won his wife again, and he lived with her afterwards until death.


There was once a wifeless man.

Yes, that is the way a story always begins.

And it was his custom to run down to the girls whenever he saw them out playing. And the young girls always ran away from him into their houses.

And when the time of great hunting set in, and the kayak men lived in plenty, it always happened that he shamefully overslept himself every time he had made up his mind to go out hunting. He did not wake until the sun had gone down, and the hunters began to come in with their catch in tow.

One day when he awoke as usual about sunset, he got into his kayak all the same, and rowed off. Hardly had he passed out of sight of the houses, when he heard a man crying:

"My kayak has upset, help me."

And he rowed over and righted him again, and then he saw that it was one of the Noseless Ones, the people from beneath the earth.

"Now I will give you all my hide thongs with ornaments of walrus tusk," said the man who had upset.

"No," said the wifeless man; "such things I am not fit to receive; the only thing I cannot overcome is my miserable sleepiness."

"First come in with me to land," said the Fire Man. And they went in together.

When they reached the place, the Noseless One said:

"This is the man who saved my life when I was near to death."

"I happened to save you because my course lay athwart your own," said the wifeless man. "It is the first time for many days that I have been out at all in my kayak."

"One beast and one only you may choose when you are on your homeward way. And be careful never to tell what you have seen, or it will go ill with your hunting hereafter."

Those were the Fire Man's words. And then the wifeless man rowed home.

But when the time for his expected return had come, he was nowhere to be seen, and the young girls began to rejoice at the misfortune which must have befallen him. For they could not bear the sight of that man.

But then suddenly he came in sight round the point, and at once all cried:

"Here comes one who looks like the wifeless man."

And then all the young unmarried girls ran into their houses.

"And the wifeless man has made a catch," one cried.

And hardly had the evening begun to fall when the wifeless man went to rest, and hardly had the light appeared when the wifeless man went out hunting, long before his fellows. Hardly had the sun appeared in the sky, when the wifeless man came home with three seals. And his fellow-hunters were then but just preparing to set out.

Thus the days passed for that wifeless man. Early in the morning he would go out, and when the sun had only just begun to climb the sky, he would come home with his catch.

Then the unmarried girls began talking together.

"What has come to our wifeless man," they said, and began to vie with one another in seeking his favour.

"Let me, let me," they cried all together.

And the wifeless man turned towards them, and laughingly chose out the best in the flock.

And now they lived together, the wifeless man and the girl, and every day there was freshly caught seal meat to be cut up. At last she grew weary, and cried:

"Why ever do you catch such a terrible lot?"

"H'm," said he. "The seals come of themselves, and I catch them—that is all."

But she kept on asking him, and so he said at last:

"It was in this way. Once...." But having said thus much, he ceased, and went to rest. But it was long before he could sleep. And the sun was just over the houses of the village before he awoke and set out next day.

That day he caught but one seal.

In the evening, his wife began again asking and asking, and seeing that she would not desist, at last he said:

"It was in this way. Once ... well, I woke up in the evening, and rowed out, and heard a man crying for help, because his kayak had upset. And I rowed up to him and righted him again, and when I looked at him, it was one of the Noseless Ones."

"'It was a good thing you were not idling about by the houses,' said the Noseless One to me.

"'I had but just got into my kayak,'" said I.

And thus he told all that had happened to him that day, and from that time forward he lost his power of hunting, for now his old sleepiness came over him once more, and he lost all.

At last he had not even skins enough to give his wife for her clothes, and so she ran away and left him. He set off in chase, but she escaped through a crevice in the rocks, a narrow place whereby he could just pass.

Now he lay in wait there, and soon he heard a whispering inside:

"You go out to him."

And out crawled a blowfly, and said:

"Take me."

"I will not take you," said the wifeless man, "for you pick your food from the muck-heaps."

The blowfly laughed and crawled back again, and he could hear it say:

"He will not take me, because I pick my food from the muck-heaps."

Then there was more whispering inside.

"Now you go out."

And out came a fly.

"You may have me," it said.

"Thanks," said the wifeless man, "but I do not care for you at all. You lay your eggs about anyhow, and your eyes are quite abominably big."

At this the fly laughed, and went inside with the same message as before.

Again there was a whispering inside.

"Take me," said the cranefly.

"No, your legs are too long," said the wifeless man. And the cranefly went in again, laughing.

Then out came a centipede.

"Take me."

"I will not take you," said the wifeless man, "for you have far too many legs. Your body clings to the ground with all those legs, and your eyes are simply nasty."

And the centipede laughed a cackling laugh and went in again.

They whispered together again in there, and out came a gnat.

"Take me," said the gnat.

"No thanks, you bite," said the wifeless man. And the gnat went in again, laughing.

And then at last his wife bade him come in to her, since he would have none of the others, and at last he just managed to squeeze his body in through the crack, and then he took her to wife again.

"Comb my hair," said the wifeless man, now very happy once more.

And his wife began, and said words above him thus:

"Do not wake until the fulmar begins to cry: sleep until we hear a sound of young birds."

And he fell asleep.

And when at last he awoke, he was all alone. The earth was blue with summer, and the fulmar cried noisily on the bird cliff. And it had been winter when he crawled in through the crack.

When he came down to his kayak, the skin was rotted through with age.

And then I suppose he reached home as usual, and now sits scratching himself at ease.


There was once an Obstinate Man—no one in the world could be as obstinate as he. And no one dared come near him, so obstinate was he, and he would always have his own way in everything.

Once it came about that his wife was in mourning. Her little child had died, and therefore she was obliged to remain idle at home; this is the custom of the ignorant, and this we also had to do when we were as ignorant as they.

And while she sat thus idle and in mourning, her husband, that Obstinate One, came in one day and said:

"You must sew the skin of my kayak."

"You know that I am not permitted to touch any kind of work," said his wife.

"You must sew the skin of my kayak," he said again. "Bring it down to the shore and sew it there."

And so the woman, for all her mourning, was forced to go down to the shore and sew the skin of her husband's kayak. But when she had been sewing a little, suddenly her thread began to make a little sound, and the little sound grew to a muttering, and louder and louder. And at last a monster came up out of the sea; a monster in the shape of a dog, and said:

"Why are you sewing, you who are still in mourning?"

"My husband will not listen to me, for he is so obstinate," she said.

And then the mighty dog sprang ashore and fell upon that husband.

But that Obstinate One was not abashed; as usual, he thought he would get his own way, and his way now was to kill the dog. And they fought together, and the dog was killed.

But now the owner of the dog appeared, and he turned out to be the Moon Man.

And he fell upon that Obstinate One, but the Obstinate One would as usual not give way, but fell upon him in turn. He caught the Moon Man by the throat, and had nearly strangled him. He clenched and clenched, and the Moon Man was nearly strangled to death.

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