Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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p. 169


[This story has been collated from two separate copies, one of which was written down from the verbal narration of an East Greenlander. Akilinek signifies a fabulous country beyond the seas.]

WE are told that Malaise (pron. Malysee) was a jolly, fearless fellow, who lived in prosperity with his two sisters, both younger than himself, and that he had his winter-quarters at the mouth of a fiord. When he went out kayaking, his sisters followed him on foot, going along the beach; and returning as soon as they saw him put back, they reached home at the same time. One day when the sea was all covered with ice the sisters went away to the outermost islets, to gather some roots. Suddenly an eastern gale overtook them; the ice broke up, and they were taken far out to sea in very bad weather. After a while the sky became clear, and they came in sight of some high land. They drifted on towards it and landed safely, but almost starving with hunger. On looking round they saw that the ice-floe on which they had floated had turned into foam. Each of them had part of a gull for an amulet. They now wandered across the country, and arrived at a little bay into which a river emptied itself, and the eldest said, "There will be salmon yonder, I warrant, or there would not be so many gulls about. Let us go and have a look at the place." Coming down to the riverside they found it abounding in salmon; and having instantly caught one, they made a fire by rubbing pieces of wood together, and put the fish on a slab to fry it: but though they only ate half of the tail-piece, both were quite satisfied. It was now getting low tide, and p. 170 they saw the beach turning quite dry, and all along the coast there were numbers of spotted seals (Phoca vitulina), and various other kinds besides, of which they killed as many as they required with big stones. Having taken up their abode in this place, they one day observed two kayakers, who were out hunting for spotted seals. On seeing the girls they were heard to exclaim, "Well, he who gets ashore first shall marry the prettiest of the two;" upon which they both took to their paddles, and he who first reached the shore touched the elder sister, the other one taking the younger; and quite forgetting their hunt, they hastened home to fetch a boat. Before long they returned with a good crew, got the girls into the boat, and brought them to their house, where they lived as happy as could be for some time. After a while each of them had a daughter; but subsequently the eldest one noticed that her sister had quite lost her spirits. One day, when the two happened to be all by themselves, she asked her why she was always sobbing and crying; and the sister answered that her husband had told her that he would kill her if she next time bore him a daughter. The eldest sister advised her to feign that she was quite content, and went on saying, "We'll pack up our clothes, and as soon as the ice forms, we'll return to our old home; but don't let them suspect anything." They now made themselves new clothes, and put them by in their bags, which had been concealed beneath the boat outside about the same time that the ice covered the sea. The seal-hunting ceased; and the men having nothing else to do, went out visiting at a large house close by, where they amused themselves with dancing. The elder sister now proposed that they should try to make their escape at a time when the men had gone away to their dancing; and they only waited a convenient opportunity. One night when there was to be a dance, and all the other women had gone to look on, so that nobody was to be seen p. 171 outside, the sisters first walked up and down outside the house, lulling their children to sleep. That they might not be suspected, they had only put on their short breeches. The little girls who used to nurse the children came running out after them, so that they could not get off immediately; but soon afterwards they heard singing within the house, and as it seemed to be a funny song, the girls went in to listen. Upon this the sisters hastened away to the boat, and having got on their breeches and put the babies into their amowts,1 they started. At first they kept on shore, but subsequently went out on the ice, and there they wandered all the night long. At daybreak they went to hide behind some blocks of ice, and before long they heard the sound of sledges, and perceived that their traces had been followed. Where their footprints were lost, they heard their pursuers halt and call out to them, "Your poor little children are crying for you;" but they did not leave their place of retreat until evening. They then set forth and continued their journey; but on the way they suffered their babies to freeze to death, and having put them down on the snow, left them there. Some time afterwards they reached land and recognised the place where they had formerly had their winter-station. They proceeded a little further, and behold! there was their own little house, just as they had left it. Malaise was very much astonished to see his sisters entering, and immediately questioned them about Akilinek and the hunting in those parts, but he could not make them tell anything. After the return of his sisters, Malaise displayed great energy in fishing and hunting. When the days were beginning to lengthen, he one morning came back to the house, having put on his kayak-jacket, and stepping inside he said, "This is a fine day to go out kayaking;" upon which the sisters p. 172 turned to him, saying, "Though almost nothing is to be got in this poor country, it cannot be denied that Malaise strives hard enough to provide for us; but, to be sure, in Akilinek there is something for a hunter." Hearing this, he put his jacket aside and said, "Well, then, let me hear something about it;" and from that day they began telling him all he wished; and even in fine weather Malaise did not stir out. Once when they had been telling him of the many seals they had found on the dry beach, he could not forbear saying, "I really must try Akilinek—in spring when the saddleback-seals1 appear. I will give my women's boat a threefold covering. Then his wife began crying, being of a very timid disposition; but Malaise only laughed at her. As soon as the seals appeared, he caught as many of them as they wanted for his purpose. The boat got three coverings; and he only waited a favourable opportunity for starting. One day he rose very early, went outside, and ascended a hill to ascertain the state of the weather. On finding that not a breath of wind was stirring, he returned, and on entering the house, observed, "The day is fine and it is quite calm now; let us be off for Akilinek." His wife again cried; but Malaise laughed down her fears, and made preparations for their departure. When the boat was ready, his wife, still sobbing and crying, was put into it; then they pushed off from shore, and heading westward, at once put out to sea. The sisters had to row all by themselves, and their sister-in-law continued crying in the bottom of the boat. When at last she left off a little, Malaise, further to tease her, rose from his place, and looking aft, observed, "I think we are going to have a gale, it is getting quite black out there!" after which she again commenced crying in good earnest, to his very great diversion. At last they entirely lost sight of their own country; but p. 173 Malaise thought they were very slow in getting on, and he cut the outer covering away because it had grown too wet. Before they had sighted any land, he likewise cut off the second cover, and then they again went on a good while; but all on a sudden Malaise sprang to his feet, saying, "I see the loom of the land yonder!" On hearing this his wife also got up and stuck to the oars bravely. They soon came close to this land, and the sisters recognised the bay in which they had first landed, and at the same time observed their former husbands, who were now coming on to attack them. Before their departure, however, Malaise had been out to the grave of some relative in search of a pair of reindeer-skin stockings, which he had brought away with him. He now took a drinking-vessel, which he filled with water, and having poured some dust mingled with the hairs of the stockings into it, he put the tub down on an adjacent rock, where their adversaries were obliged to pass by. When the eldest came up to it, he took a drink of water, but was at once transformed into a reindeer, which was shot by Malaise, and rolled into the sea. The other one had no better luck; and in this manner Malaise killed all their companions excepting one, to whom he said, "I will spare thee that thou mayst live on, a miserable specimen of thy countrymen." Some time afterwards he again gave his boat three separate coverings, filled it with narwhal-horns, matak (the edible hide of the whale), salmon, and many other valuables, and reached his former home, where he stayed content until his death.



p. 171

1 Cor. sp. amaut, hood on the back of a woman's jacket to carry the child in.

p. 172

1 Phoca Greenlandica, the âtâĸ of the Greenlanders, the most common of the large seals. The skin is used for boat-covers.