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[This story is compiled from two copies, one of which had been noted down in North Greenland before 1828.]

MERKISALIK had only one son to assist him in providing for his family. In the summer-time they always used to hunt along the shores of the same fiord without any other company. Growing old and infirm, Merkisalik at length had to give up hunting and leave the providing to his son. Once when they had again taken up their abode at the fiord, and the son, as was his wont, had gone out hunting, the old people were left by themselves, expecting no visitors. Taking a turn p. 198 outside the tent, they suddenly observed a boat sailing up the inlet right before the wind, accompanied by several kayakers. Merkisalik was much pleased at this sight, and ordered his wife to put out some dry meat, to let them have a bite on landing. He rejoiced to think that his son should henceforth have companions on his hunting excursions. There were a great number of men among the visitors, some of whom were old and rather talkative and entertaining. When the son returned from the mountains, he was likewise very glad of the company they had got. He treated them with the utmost hospitality, and invited them to partake of the meal as soon as it was boiled and ready. Meanwhile they all conversed very politely, and soon agreed in going out together the next day. They did so, and before long came in sight of a number of animals feeding on the grass down in the valleys. When the drivers were all sent out, the hunters proceeded to make walls of earth, furnished with loopholes. The visitors now proposed that Merkisalik's son should be the last to shoot, and he agreed; but when the drivers had surrounded the animals, and began to drive them on towards the loopholed walls, the thought struck him, "What if they are too greedy to leave me any chance at all?" Meanwhile the others took aim, and shot all that were to be got. He afterwards assisted them in stripping off the skins; but on their descending the hills towards the tents, he remained a little behind. When the strangers returned they at once set their women to cook and prepare a meal, to which Merkisalik and his people were invited. During supper one of the men remarked, "There must be any amount of animals in this place, since even Merkisalik's son is capable of getting at them." The Merkisaliks heard this slight in silence; but afterwards, when they got into their own tent and sat down together, the father said, "It can't be otherwise; we must just let them have their way, seeing that they are p. 199 so many." The following day was spent in the same manner; they treated Merkisalik's son as they had done the day before, only allowing him to take up his position as far away as possible from the drivers: but on their way home he again kept back a little. Before long, however, he rejoined them, and on their return home the Merkisaliks were again invited to eat of the day's hunt. The man who the day before had scorned Merkisalik's son, now spoke to him in a similar fashion, at which he got into a great passion. However, they set out together the next day, and got to the entrance of a great valley, which appeared to be almost overcrowded with reindeer. As before, they ordered him to choose his hiding-place, and make his loophole behind them all, at which he murmured to himself, "If this is to go on, I shall never be able to get anything. I think I will give the beasts the alarm, that they may all run away." When the flock approached, driven by the drivers, he feigned to be busy about something or other. At last he was warned to be quiet, that the animals might not see him; but he only stopped a moment, and then began to move about again. In the mean time the flock was close by, when, all of a sudden, the leader stopped short, turned round, and bounded off as fast as possible. On perceiving this, the others began to follow him, but dropped short one after another, so that at the other end of the valley but one of them had kept up with him, and this one soon tired out; and when he was about to mount the slope he was left quite alone. Merkisalik's son shortly disappeared on the other side of the hills, pursuing the fast-running animals. Slowly the men followed in his traces: but when they got to the top of the hill, they beheld numbers of deer with white bellies ready killed in the valley on the other side; and on a stone close by, the huntsman was seated, already quite cool and refreshed. The others now arrived, their faces all red with heat and wrath, and nobody spoke. They at p. 200 once set to work, stripping the deer; but while the others finished one, he stripped and cut up two, and packing his bundle, he said, "Ye may all of you take as much as ye like." The man who had formerly ridiculed and mocked him did not altogether like this speech, but became quite mute, and would not join the rest. On the way home they separated. Merkisalik's son had now got into his old ways, and was in front of the rest. Carrying his burden on his back, and now and then resting himself a little, he got home first of all. When the others came without anything, the Merkisaliks had already all their pots and pans on the fire, and, after their wont, invited the foreigners to join them. During the meal the host tried to begin a conversation, but without success; they all remained mute, and even their old father kept silent. Having done eating, they retired, excepting the father, who now began to be a little talkative, and, as if by chance, remarked, "We want something that would do for a gimlet; would ye mind letting me have that knuckle?" Merkisalik gave it to him willingly, saying, "We have got lots of them." On the following morning the Merkisaliks were aroused by a clattering noise, as of poles, and peeping out, they saw the visitors pulling down their tent and preparing to depart. Thus they were once more alone; and their son again went out hunting all by himself. One day, when he was still busy bringing down the deer he had stalked to their station, he told them that he had got a swelling at his knee. It grew in size, and was getting worse and worse. The parents were much distressed, and at length he died, but not till he had made known to them that his disease was solely caused by the father of their former visitors, who, in order to hurt him, had bewitched the knee-joint he had asked of them, which had worked back upon him and killed him. The poor old people were inconsolable. It was now autumn; the little lakes began to be covered with ice, and it was time to leave p. 201 the inland country for the sea-coast: so one fine morning they made preparations to go. They first wept at the tomb of their son, and, still wailing and complaining, they went down the firth with a light easterly breeze. Having arrived at their winter-quarters, Merkisalik's mind was filled with hatred, and he was always contemplating revenge. In order to carry it out, he resolved to make a tupilak to destroy his enemies. To this end he every day collected bones of all sorts of animals, and put them into the brook close by to whiten, and then mixed them up with hairs taken from boat-skins; and when he had got as many as he required, he made them alive, and put them into the brook which flowed on to the sea. While he was watching the tupilak, he saw it was taking the shape of an agpaliarsuk,1 that dived down and turned round to its owner; but he said, "Thou art not the thing I want thee to be yet." Instantly it dived down and reappeared in the shape of a dovekie.2 Again he said, "That won't do neither." It underwent many changes and took the shape of all sorts of birds; but he rejected them all. Then it was transformed into all manner of seals and dolphins; but they did not suit him either. At last, after another dive beneath the surface of the water, its breath was heard like a mighty roar, and he beheld a small whale, and then he said, "This will do; thou shalt avenge us." The animal now seemed to inquire, "Where am I to go?" and he replied, "To the hunting place of the many brothers." At these words it took one long breath, then dived down into the sea; and the man returned home and bided his time, waiting to hear how the family would fare who lived a little to the north of them. One evening a kayaker appeared rounding the northern point, and in him he soon recognised a poor relative and very old man, who for some time had had his quarters at the p. 202 same place as their former visitors. On their way from the beach up to the house, he related what follows: "Some days ago an accident occurred up at our place; one of the many brothers has not returned home. The day before his departure he told us that he had harpooned a little whale, adding that he would now go out in search of it; but he has never yet returned." The maker of the tupilak feigned compassion, saying, "He must, of course, have managed awkwardly somehow;" but inwardly he rejoiced at this intelligence. When the visitor departed, he asked him soon to return, but he did not do so for a good long while. When at length he did come, he again reported: "Yesterday the same accident happened to another of the brothers." When the visitor was about to depart, Merkisalik encouraged him soon to return, saying, "We are always glad to see thee; now come back as soon as thou canst." After another long interval he once came back, and told them that the last of the brothers had now disappeared, adding that the poor parents were very much grieved because of their bereavement. On hearing this, Merkisalik's wrath was somewhat appeased.



p. 201

1 The smallest auk, Mergulus alle.

2 Another common sea-fowl, Uria grylle.