Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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AN old bachelor used to amuse himself by playing with skulls of seals, and feigning them to be his children. When he went out kayaking he put them down on the beach, and having placed himself in his kayak, he would say to them, "Now mind ye be good children, and go straight up to the house!" and on still finding them in the same place on his return, he would cry out, "Ye seem to be all deaf and dumb; did not I p. 146 tell ye to keep off from the water before I set off?" Then taking hold of one of the heads, he threw it into the sea, "Look, there's your little brother fallen into the water!" Another time, feeling himself very sad and lonely, he went running far away into the country, and happened to fall in with a great many women bathing in a lake. At this sight an idea seized him, and noiselessly he stole away to the place where they had put their clothes, securing those belonging to the one he thought the prettiest, and then stepped boldly forward. When the women saw him they hastened back to their clothes, and having put them on, they immediately changed into birds and flew away. Only she who had been robbed of her clothes remained behind; and the bachelor went straight up to her, asking her, "Would she like to be his wife?" and in return she said, "Yes, thou mayst take me if thou likest, only give me my clothes." She then got them, but he kept hold of her, lest she, too, should fly. When she had dressed herself he took her home and married her. The next morning he did not venture to go out in his kayak, for fear she might take flight; and thus it happened that he gave up kayaking altogether, until one day she declared, "Now thou mayst leave me without fear, for I do really love thee, and thou mayst depend upon me;" and then he again began to go out seal-hunting. At length she begat a son, and when he grew up, another son was born; but afterwards they got no more children. When the children grew on, the mother sometimes took them out walking; and on the way she would admonish them to gather bird wings and feathers, saying, "Children, ye are akin to birds." On a certain day she fastened a pair of these wings upon one of the boys, who was at once changed into a sea-fowl, and flew away. She did the same thing to his brother; and last of all she herself put on wings and followed them in the shape of a sea-fowl. When the old husband came home he found neither p. 147 wife nor children, at which he grew very sad. However, he did not cease to go out in his kayak, although he no more chased seals. One day he put in close to a sand-hill, and leaving his kayak on the beach, he crossed the hill, and went a good way into the country. Looking round, he saw a man with his back turned towards him, working away at a piece of timber with his axe. On approaching him, he observed that the lower parts of his body visibly trembled. The man now asked him, "From what side art thou drawing nigh?" and the old man answered, "I am coming against thee;" to which the other remarked, "If thou hadst come from behind, I should have killed thee on the spot." The old man now addressed him, saying, "Thou shalt have my new kayak if thou wilt inform me whether thou hast seen three persons?" but the other one answered, "I don't care for thy new kayak, and I have not seen the three persons thou speakest of." The old man again said to him, "I see thou art working in wood, and I will give thee my new axe; only let me know whether thou hast not seen three persons?" "Well, my axe is rather worn. Go and sit down on the tail of a salmon in yonder river; but when thou hearest the voices of children, mind thou don't open thine eyes!" The old man obeyed, and sat down on the tail of a salmon, shutting his eyes the while. On hearing a rushing sound he opened his eyes a little, and noticing that he was carried along by a rapid current, he shut them again, and all was silent. He again heard the noise of children crying, "Alas, our father is nigh!" and the mother answering them, "Lo, we left your father without any means of conveying him hither." The children, however, repeated, "Our father is coming." The father now got on shore, and went to a house with fine windows to it; he observed that the inmates were all women. Close to the back wall his wife was sitting, and opposite her a man with a pug-nose, constantly repeating, "Wilt thou not marry me?" But p. 148 the woman answered; "No, I have already got another husband." All the rest now left the house, and only those two remained. At last, when the fellow with the pug-nose had left also, the old man made an attempt to take his wife back; but she quickly followed the other out, and while he pursued her she was transformed into a gull, as were also the rest of the women. The pug-nosed man was changed into a wild-duck; and when the discarded husband turned round, he saw that the house had been transformed into a gulls-hill.1



p. 148

1 Or birds-mound—viz., a heap of turf and moss accumulated on the top of small islands which have been long the resting-place of sea-fowls, and especially gulls, whose ordure has accumulated to a great extent in such localities.