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[This very popular tale has been collated from three copies agreeing in all essential particulars.]

A MAN had a wife who begat him no children. The husband, who was envious of all the people who had children, one day told her to make herself trim and nice, and walk on to a certain spot where an old man, who had given up seal-hunting, had his fishing-place. This old man, however, was a great magician. The next day, while he sat fishing in his kayak, a little way off the shore, she appeared on the beach dressed in her best. But as the old man, afraid of her husband, would not approach her, she soon returned. The husband himself now went to the old man, and promised him half of his p. 149 "catch" if he could think of some means whereby to get children. When the wife appeared on the beach the next day, the old man instantly made for the shore, and went up to her. From this day forwards the husband always put by half of the seals he caught for the old man: and when he noticed that his wife was enceinte, he asked the old man to take up his abode in their house; upon which he rejoined, "Thy wife will bear thee a son. To-morrow when thou goest out kayaking thou must row to the birds-cliff and get hold of a bird,1 which he shall use for an amulet." On the following day, when the husband had brought the bird, the old man went on, "Farther, thou must fetch a hollow stone, of a black colour, on which the sun has never shone;" and when he had also brought this, the old man said, "Finally, thou must go to thy grandmother's grave and bring home her collar-bone." When all these things had been gathered, the wife brought forth a son, who was named Kujavarsuk by the old man, and the stone was put close to his feet, but the bird was stuck up above the window. The old man now told the father to provide a kayak for the boy as soon as he should be able to make use of it, and have it ready fitted up with utensils and all other requisites for the hunt. When the boy grew up, the father made the kayak; and even before the skins with which it had been covered had time to dry, it was put in the water, and the boy being placed in it, they shoved it off the beach. The old man told what would happen to him, saying, "The very first time he goes out, one of the 'quiet' seals will rise to the surface, and he shall not return home till he has captured ten of them; and in future he will always get ten seals whenever he goes out kayaking. The old man and the father now followed him closely, but as soon as they left him at a little distance a seal popped its head above the water, and he paddled on and harpooned it, at which p. 150 the old man was quite transported; and from this time the boy began to hunt. When he was grown up he took two wives; and he became of great use to his house-fellows and neighbours. In times of need he was their only provider. One winter the sea was frozen over very early, and ere long there was only one opening in the ice left, right in front of their dwelling-place; out of this he every day got his ten seals. Later on the cleft became so narrow that his kayak touched the edge of the ice with both ends, and at last it altogether closed up. The whole sea was now covered with ice; great perplexity came over the people, and they deliberated whether it would not be necessary to call in an angakok. One person mentioned that in the summer-time he had seen the widow Igdlutsialik's daughter practising the angakok art in a lake. Kujavarsuk at once sent off a messenger to let her know that he would give her a large seal-skin in return if she would make the ice break up. However, she declined to do so. They next tried to get her to return by offering her different things, such as clothes and lamps; but still she refused. Then some one brought her a handful of beads, which happened to take her fancy; and she said to her mother, "Bring my summer dress." When she had put it on, she walked down to the water-side and disappeared among the loose ice-blocks scattered all along the sea-shore. Shortly afterwards the spectators heard a splash, and she was seen no more. She now remained in the depths of the ocean for three days, and at the bottom of the sea she had a struggle with the old woman (viz., the arnarkuagssâĸ of the Eskimo mythology), to make her let loose the animals of the sea, which she purposely detained, and kept swimming about underneath her lamp; and when at length she had managed to conciliate her, she again returned to the earth. On the evening of the third day she reappeared among the ice-blocks on the beach, and let the people know that she wanted every other seal that p. 151 was caught, for herself, of those with the most beautiful skin, as well as of the common fiord seals. As yet, however, the sea was all covered with ice. But on the following morning, at dawn, the ice broke up, and an opening appeared near the houses; and after a while it had become so wide that the men could put down their kayaks. Each of them soon caught two seals, but Kujavarsuk as usual got ten, which made the others very jealous. It now happened one day that his wives had only put by a piece of the back instead of the briskets for his mother's brother, who was expected to come home later in the evening. He was offended at this want of consideration on their part, and resolved to make (by help of sorcery) a tupilak for Kujavarsuk. To this end he gathered bones of all sorts of animals, out of which he fashioned it in such manner that it could take the shape of different animals, of birds as well as of seals; and having stirred them into life, he let it loose, and ordered it to persecute Kujavarsuk. First it dived down into the sea, and again appeared to him in the shape of a seal; but he was then already on his way home, and when it approached him he was in the very act of drawing his kayak on the shore. The same thing happened on the second and the third day. The tupilak now determined to pursue him to his house, and then frighten him to death. It transformed itself into a toogdlik,1 and commenced shrieking outside the house. Kujavarsuk went out; but as he could not be brought to look at it, the charm would not work. It then resolved to go underground, and pop up into the room. However, it succeeded no better this time, but rose at the back of the house; and just as it was about to climb up the roof, it met his own amulet-bird, which at once set about picking and scratching its face. It now, however, turned desperate, and thought, "Why did this miserable fool p. 152 of a man ever make me!" and in the height of its wrath it turned against its maker. Diving down into the water near his fishing-place, it emerged right beneath his kayak, and fairly upsetting it, devoured him on the spot. It now fled far away from the habitations of man, out on the roaring ocean. Kujavarsuk afterwards remained unmolested, and died at a very old age.


[There are other tales of Kujavarsuk among the Greenlanders. The following may be taken as a sample of the whole.]

When Kujavarsuk had grown a man he travelled to a place in the north, where he had had a namesake who died from starvation. The people of those parts followed the pursuit of whale-fishery, and here Kujavarsuk made friends with a youth. Those two were always trying to outdo each other, but Kujavarsuk was more than a match for him. In the beginning of winter they were to try who could detect the first whale. Kujavarsuk had never seen any animal of this kind before. He had by this time taken up his abode with an old man, who said to him, "When a whale is near at hand, it cannot be mistaken; its breathing is at once roaring and hissing." And Kujavarsuk was always on the alert to catch sight of them. One fine morning, when it was quite calm, the old man said, "If the whales are going to be early this year, they'll turn up on a day like this." Kujavarsuk remained out in his kayak all day, listening for the signal, but could not perceive any such sound at all. In the evening he returned after a fair hunt, and tried to go to sleep, but was not able. About midnight he rose, and stepping out he heard a sound of heavy breathing from the sea coming closer to him, and stopping at the mouth of the bay; and on entering he said, "I wonder what sound it was I heard just now." The old man walked out, and returned, saying, p. 153 "Why, that's just the whale blowing; he did not miss his day." Kujavarsuk now went to rest, and slept soundly. But early in the morning his young friend was heard calling without, "Kujavarsuk, the whale is blowing! thou art too late!" But the old man made answer, "Thou art mistaken, he knew it yesterday, and has just gone to sleep." Soon after, the friend said, "Now let us see which of us is the best hand at making bladders for our whale-catching." And next day they went out together to procure seals for this purpose. Close to land Kujavarsuk got two spotted ones, but his friend got none at all. As the weather continued fine, and more whales appeared, the boats were sent out on the watch. At first Kujavarsuk concluded he was not to be of the party because he had no women to row his boat, but on seeing all the hunters set off along with their housemates, women and all, he, too, felt a strong desire to go; and getting hold of some children, he manned his boat with them, and left shore. The other boats, meantime, had stood farther out to sea, and the people shouted to him, "If thou art on the look-out for the whale thou must come out to us; he'll never rise where thou art now." But he did not mind them, and stayed where he was, his mother having said, "I conceived thee on the sea-shore, and for this reason thou shalt watch thy chance near it." In a little while a whale appeared close by; he at once pursued and harpooned it, and the beast could not even draw his bladder under the water. Again the others cried, "If thou wilt not lose it thou must pursue it more seawards." But he only replied, "All the animals of the sea that I am going to pursue will seek towards shore, close to my dwelling-place." And thus he was left alone to kill it all by himself. Whether he got any more than this one is not known; but perhaps he even got his ten of them. When spring came on he returned to his former p. 154 home, where he still found the old fisherman alive, and to him he presented all the whalebone; the longest and best splits having been all reserved for him.



p. 149

1 An "okaitsok"—Phalacrocorax Carbo.

p. 151

1 The largest sea-fowl in Greenland, Colymbus glacialis, or Great Northern Diver.