Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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p. 106


[This somewhat trifling but still curious story is well known to every child in Greenland; and one tale has also been got from Labrador, and is undoubtedly another reading of the same original, though much abridged and altered.]

IT was said of Igimarasugsuk that he always lost his wives in a very short time, and always as quickly married again; but nobody knew that he always killed and ate his wives, as well as his little children. At last he married a girl who had a younger brother, and many relatives besides. Entering the house on his return from a reindeer-hunt, he one day said to his brother-in-law: "Pray go and fetch me my axe—thou wilt find it lying underneath the boat-pillars" (viz., pillars upon which the boat is laid during the winter); and at the same time Igimarasugsuk got up and followed him. On hearing the shrieks of her brother, the wife of Igimarasugsuk peeped out, and beheld him pursuing the former, and shortly after striking him on the head, so that he fell down dead on the spot. After this he ordered his wife to dress and boil some parts of the body of her brother. Igimarasugsuk now commenced eating, and offered a piece of an arm to his wife, insisting upon her eating with him; but she only feigned to do so, and concealed her portion under the ashes of the fire. Then the husband exclaimed, "I actually think thou art crying!" "No," she said; "I am only a little shy." After having devoured his brother-in-law, the husband now began to fatten his wife; and to this end ordered her to eat nothing but reindeer-tallow, and only drink as much as a small shell would hold. At last she grew so fat that she was not able to move about at all. One day he went away, after having securely shut the entrance to the summer-tent, p. 107 fastening it with strong cords. When he had been gone a considerable time she took her knife, let herself fall down from the bench, and rolled herself as far as to the entry. By great efforts she crossed the threshold, and was now in the fore-room, where she cut the strings fastening the outer curtain. She then rolled herself down to a muddy pool and drank a great deal of water; after which she felt less heavy, and was able to get up and walk back. She re-entered the tent, stuffed out her jacket, put it on the bench with its back turned outward; and fastening the entrance well, she went away. But being convinced that her husband would shortly pursue her, she took her way down to a very large piece of drift-wood that had been hauled ashore, and she then worked a spell upon it, singing thus: "ĸissugssuaĸ pingerssuaĸ, ia-ha-ha, arape, ĸupe, sipe, sipe sisaria." And forthwith the timber opened midways, and she entered it, again singing, "ĸissugssuak . . . . . . arape, mame, mamesisaria." Then it closed around her, leaving her in darkness. In the meantime she heard her husband coming on towards the spot. He had entered the tent, and seeing the stuffed jacket, he thrust his lance into it; but on discovering what it really was, he ran out, and following the footprints of his wife all the way to the timber, he stopped there, and she plainly heard him say: "Oh what a pity I waited so long in killing her! oh poor miserable me!" Then she heard him turn away and return several times; but every trace ending at the large timber, he at last went away, and she again sang ĸissugssuaĸ, &c. &c., and instantly the drift-wood opening, she crept out and ran farther on. But lest he should overtake and discover her, she hid herself in a fox-hole. Every trace again ending here, she heard him digging the very earth with his hands; but he soon grew tired, and went away, returning and again going away as before, bemoaning himself in the same manner: "Oh what a pity, poor miserable man that I am!" &c. &c. p. 108 Perceiving him to be gone, she again set off on her journey. Still, however, fearing him, she next took refuge behind some bushes. Again she heard him come and repeat his old lament: "What a pity I put off eating her so long!" and again going away, he immediately returned, saying, "Here every trace of her ends." Proceeding on her way, she now had a faint hope of reaching some inhabited place ere he could get up with her again. At length she caught sight of some people gathering berries in the country; but on perceiving her they were on the point of taking fright, when she cried out, "I am the wife of Igimarasugsuk." They now approached her, and taking hold of her hands, brought her to their home. Having arrived there she said: "Igimarasugsuk, who has the habit of eating his wives, has also eaten his brother-in-law; and if he really wants to get hold of me too, he will be sure to come and fetch me; and as he is very fond of entertainment, ye had better treat him civilly and politely." Soon after, he arrived; but she hid herself behind a skin curtain. The rest rose up and went out to welcome him, saying: "We trust thy people at home are quite well." "Yes, they are very well indeed," he answered. When he had entered they served a meal before him, and afterwards offered him a drum, saying, "Now let us have a little of thy performance." He took hold of the drum, but soon returned it to one of the others, saying, "Ye ought rather to entertain me;" and the other man, seizing the drum, began to sing: "Igimarasugsuk—the cruel man—who ate his wives." . . . At these words Igimarasugsuk blushed all over his face and down his throat; but when the singer continued, "and she was forced to eat of her own brother's arm," the wife came forward, saying, "No, indeed, I did not; I concealed my share beneath the ashes." They now caught hold of him, and the wife killed him with a lance, saying, "Dost thou remember thrusting thy lance into my stuffed jacket?"