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p. v


THE author of this work has partly resided, partly been travelling about, on the shores of Davis Strait, from the southernmost point of Greenland up to 73° north latitude, for sixteen winters and twenty-two summers; first as a scientific explorer, afterwards as Royal Inspector or Governor of the Southern Danish establishments in Greenland. The first series of tales was published by him in 1866; but as this field of ethnological investigation was at that time almost uncultivated, much new material came to hand after that publication, and, moreover, the author had then only acquired such a degree of familiarity with the language, as made it possible for him to understand his native informants sufficiently well to write down their verbal communications. In 1871 he determined to publish a new series of tales as a supplement to the former, in which he has also described the general habits, religion, and other peculiarities of the Eskimo, having by that time been enabled to give a more comprehensive account of these subjects, and to make some farther improvements on the first publication.

Besides the translation into English, a twofold object has been aimed at in this edition: first, that of incorporating the two parts into one; and second, of partly abbreviating their contents. The principal aim of this p. vi abridgment has been to make these accounts more available to readers engaged in archæological studies, or investigations of the earliest history of mankind by comparison of the traditional tales, languages, and religious opinions of the more primitive nations, in which respect the Eskimo, and specially the Greenlanders, have been studied more minutely, perhaps, than any other similar people. Keeping this object in view, some of the tales, as well as a certain part of the original work, seemed to be of special interest only to the Danish colonies, and have therefore been wholly omitted, or only given in an abridged form, in the present publication.

The wholly modern study of "prehistoric man," which in our time is making such progress, has hitherto almost exclusively been founded upon the study of the ornaments, weapons, and other remains of primitive peoples, which for this purpose have become greatly valued, and are searched for in the bowels of the earth, and drawn forth to light in nearly every part of the globe. But the time will certainly come when any relics of spiritual life brought down to us from prehistoric mankind, which may still be found in the folk-lore of the more isolated and primitive nations, will be valued as highly as those material remains. In this respect the Eskimo may be considered among the most interesting, both as having been almost entirely cut off from other nations and very little influenced by foreign intercourse, and also as representing a kind of link between the aboriginals of the New and the Old World.

Some illustrations, designed as well as drawn and engraved on wood by natives of Greenland, are given, the author having supplied the original blocks to be used in this edition for this purpose.

p. vii

As to the spelling of Greenland words and names, we have to draw a distinction between those which are more properly used as representing the foreign expressions themselves, and those which have been wholly embodied in the Danish or English language of the text, and thereby subject to the orthography of these languages. In the first instance, the words distinguished by a different type, are spelt in exact accordance with the orthography now adopted in the native schools of Greenland. In the preliminary sketch, where this orthography is explained, it will be seen that all the sounds may be expressed by our usual Latin characters, with the exception only of a deep guttural k, for which the character ĸ has been formed; the other more peculiar sounds having been substituted by double consonants or expressed by accents. The other letters are pronounced almost identically with those of the German and Scandinavian languages. In the second instance we have, as far as possible, accommodated the mode of spelling to the English pronunciation of the letters, in some instances using y for j, gh for g, k, or in some more peculiar cases, k’ for ĸ, &c.; as, for instance, anghiak (ângiaĸ), kayak (ĸajaĸ), k’ivigtok (ĸivigtoĸ).

The personal and geographical names are given with fewer alterations of the kind mentioned, and nearly agree with the Danish orthography.

To prevent, as far as possible, misunderstanding and farther corruption of the original Greenland words, we have added, wherever it appeared necessary, in parentheses, how the word is most nearly to be pronounced (pron. . . .), in other instances how it is to be correctly spelt in Greenlandish (cor. sp. . . .); as, for instance Kulange (pron. Koolanghee), angakok (cor. sp. angákoĸ). p. viii The following general rules may be laid down: The letter e at the end or a word is never mute, but always to be pronounced; ai is pronounced like y in by; i, like i in it; g, like g in good; u, like oo.

In some instances we have used the Greenland plural, formed by substituting a t at the end or the word, such as angakut instead of angakoks.

As to uncommon words or expressions in general, those peculiar to Eskimo life will be round explained in the preliminary sketch. But in order to make the stories more readable, as well as better understood, we have, without paying particular attention to this, inserted the most necessary explanations in parentheses or in notes, in different places or the text itself, where it appeared most useful; especially in the earlier pages, where the expressions are first met with.

Dr Robert Brown, who at the author's request has been good enough to revise the manuscript and make such corrections or emendations in the style and construction or the collection as in his judgment were advisable, has had in his travels in the northern regions of America, as well as in Greenland and on the western shores of Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, an opportunity of visiting the aborigines or these countries in their own homes; and these advantages, coupled with his long personal acquaintance with the author, and his experience as a writer on Ethnology, have rendered him peculiarly fitted for this friendly editorial task.

H. R. 

 COPENHAGEN, Sept. 1875.