Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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p. 124


[This is also very commonly known all over Greenland, and the subjoined version is constructed from five manuscripts.]

KATERPARSUK was a poor orphan boy. When he grew up he was anxious to get on in the world, because nobody wanted to take care of him and help him along. At length he resolved, by his own efforts, to try to make himself a kayak; but, nobody being willing to lend him a knife, he first tried to work with stone tools, and later on with shells. In the same place there happened to live a wicked man, who, instead of pitying the poor boy, took delight in annoying and terrifying him. For this purpose he disguised himself in a bearskin, and stole up behind Katerparsuk, growling like a bear. On turning round and perceiving him, Katerparsuk flung down his work and tools in consternation, and ran away. When the other house-fellows came to the spot and saw his implements of shells and stones, they were quite moved at the sight. Meanwhile the wicked man came forward and said to Katerparsuk, "Instead of pitying thee I scorned thee; because thou, silly boy, couldst ever think of making a kayak all by thyself: and that was why I frightened thee in a bear-skin." On hearing this his housemates broke out into a fit of laughter at the poor boy's embarrassment; but he grew mortally vexed, and only thought of revenge and resentment. Subsequently he betook himself to solitary places, and studied angakok science. After a long time he finished his kayak, and exercised himself in rowing and hunting, and shortly afterwards he was even able to hunt seals. Having once, from the top of a hill, seen a walrus dive, he thought, "Oh that I could make him p. 125 throw off his skin!" He began to sing a magic lay, but without any result. Very much dissatisfied, he went home, but did not rest till he had got up an incantation that would suit his purpose. He tried the effect of it on a hare, and as it proved successful, he more than ever contemplated revenge. One day, when all the hunters were away in their kayaks, he likewise betook himself to his oar, and rowed out to a remote place. There he landed, and having ascended a very high hill, whence he had a view of the sea, he detected a great many walrus diving up and down. He began to sing his magic lay to one of them, which soon approached the beach right below him; he continued singing louder and louder until the animal at last threw off his skin. Katerparsuk at once crept into it, and began to try swimming and diving, and when the kayakers approached, he knew how to harden his skin so that the harpoon could not pierce it. Meanwhile the wicked man had grown old and decrepit, and had given up seal-hunting; he now only went out fishing. Once Katerparsuk put on his walrus-skin and emerged from the water close to the place where the old man was fishing. He then heard him exclaim, "Oh that I were young again, what a catch I might have had!" Meantime he returned home, collected all his hunting implements, which he had not been using for a long time, and took them out with him to his fishing-place the next day. "Oh, look! there he is again!" the old man exclaimed, upon which he paddled towards him: but Katerparsuk hardened his skin, and made it tough; and seizing the point of the harpoon, pulled it down into the water along with the hunting-bladder, from which he took away the stopper, so that the air escaped, and then he hurried home in his kayak. But the old man was vexed that he had lost his bladder-float; and at home he said, boasting, "I have again commenced to go out hunting; to-day I pursued a large walrus, but he escaped me, and took my bladder-float p. 126 along with him." Katerparsuk let him chat on, but in the evening he invited all the men to come and have a feast with him, and the old man was of the party. After the meal he once more began to talk of his chase and of the loss he had sustained. Before their arrival, Katerparsuk had hung up the bladder-float along with the harpoon-line on a peg in the wall; and while the old man was prating, he pointed to them, saying, "Look, there are all thy hunting tools, and thou canst take them away with thee when thou goest home." And the old man looked quite abashed, and left the party in a somewhat confused state. It is said that the resentment of Katerparsuk was somewhat appeased by the fun he had had in playing walrus to the man who had been playing bear to him.