Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
Index Previous Next

p. 217


[The details of this legend are somewhat defective, owing to the imperfect state of the manuscripts from which it was compiled. The tradition itself is widely spread over Greenland, but does not appear to be known any more perfectly by the relators themselves, and is perhaps gradually passing into oblivion. It is probably one of the oldest, and certainly one of the most remarkable, as pointing out the relations between the Eskimo and the Indians, and gives us several hints with regard to the customs of the latter, such as their dancing and their modes of disguising themselves.]

THERE was once a young maiden who happened to break her elder sister's needle, which was made of reindeer-horn and was very precious. The sister got dreadfully angry with her, although she lived in great prosperity, being well married. So angry was she, that she told her sister she might as well take herself off, and henceforth keep away from the coast-people. The girl at once obeyed, and wandered about the country for many a day. One night when she was sitting down on a stone crying, she heard a voice beside her saying, "Why dost thou cry thus?" and turning round, she saw a very tall man, whom she recognised to be an inlander (viz., fabulous people), standing beside her. Again he repeated, "For what art thou crying?" "Because I broke my sister's needle, and she sent me away." "And I was sent away in the same manner because I spoiled my brother's precious snare." Then he asked her to follow him, and they went away together to his house, where he made her a present of deer-skins, some for outer garments and some for inner clothes, and he took her for his wife. This inlander used to go and catch eider-ducks in a certain lake, by wading out in p. 218 the water and taking the birds by stealth. One day he proposed that she should accompany him on a visit to his relatives, and told her that when they came in sight of the house he would call out, "Kung, kung-kuyo! and they will know me at once," he said. They went; and as soon as from one of the hill-tops they could make out the house of his relatives in the valley, he made the sign, and they heard the children of the place calling out, "Somebody is saying, 'Kung, kung;'" and they saw his mother appearing in the doorway repeating the same words. They now descended, and entered the house. He had a sister who was an idiot (considered as a clairvoyant), and very talkative. He told her not to mention that a coast-woman had come among them, and he went to hide his wife in some remote corner of the broad ledge; but when his brothers came in they at once remarked, "There is a smell of coast-people about the place!" and when the fool went outside, she could not forbear saying to his neighbours, "Ye haven't got a sister-in-law like mine, with beads and necklace—a real nice one—one of the coast-women!" After this the inquisitive people thronged about the window to get a peep at the stranger. Some crept up on the roof and made themselves a peep-hole there, and in no time the house was quite full. Subsequently there was some talk of a boat that was shortly expected, and one morning it was announced to be coming. She knew them to be inuarutligaks.1 On coming up from the beach, they stopped outside the house and commenced singing to one another, and then brought forth gifts of skins, and stayed with them a whole month, enjoying each other's company very much, feasting a great deal, and singing songs continually. At one of their banquets an inlander stood forth, and, by way of entertaining the assembly, he sang and danced. During the dance he transformed himself into a reindeer; but at this trick the children of the inuarutligaks p. 219 got dreadfully frightened, so that he again quickly changed himself into a man. Another, in his turn to divert the company, took upon himself the shape of a hare; but the inlanders' children cried out aloud, and he hastened to re-change himself as fast as possible. One inlander, when he danced, pulled the skin from off his whole body till it only adhered to a small portion between his eyes; but when the urchins cried, he soon put it all right again. At last one of the inuarutligaks came forth to dance, and he danced in such a way that the whole house soon leaned over, and all the inmates rolled down to one side with such force that one woman and a child were crushed to death. The entertainment now ended, and the next day the inuarutligaks departed, after having first invited their late hosts to visit them. In a month's time they made preparations to start, and they had a boat made of stone for the purpose. They agreed that the coast-woman might as well be of the party, but told her not to open her eyes during the voyage, saying that the boat would not move on if she did so. She complied; but as soon as the crew could make out the sound of children's voices, they permitted her to open them again, and she perceived a very little house, and wondered how they should all get room in it. While, however, she was looking at it, it seemed to grow bigger—the inuarutligaks knew how to enlarge their houses by means of rubbing them. They now went inside, bringing their bundles of skin, one for each person, with them, and then commenced their feasting and merry-making. One of the inuarutligaks stepped forward, and after having performed a dance, flung himself down on the ground transformed into an orsughiak-stone (viz., a sort of white, glistering felspar). The inlanders tried to lift it, but being quite unable, he soon rose up in his proper shape. One of the inlanders now advanced, fell to the ground, and was transformed into a common stone; but the inuarutligaks managed to lift p. 220 it, and flung it against the door, where it flew to pieces. In this manner the inlanders lost one of their people, and they left on the following day. In the summer-time preparations were made for reindeer-hunting, and the coast-woman was to accompany them. She had two girls for her enemies because she married so early, and they were always molesting her, and trying to make her ridiculous. They said that she was not so smart and lightfooted on the march as the inlanders; and one of them added, "To-day I even pursued and overtook a young deer!" On hearing this, the old woman of the house produced a pair of boots, which she filled with all kinds of vermin, and ordering her to put them on, she tightened them round her legs, the husband encouraging her, saying, "She must needs bear it in order to get agile and smart." But presently she fell into a swoon, and the skin dropped off her feet and legs. When she was restored to her senses, she perceived new flesh and new skin to be growing on them, and she had now become swift and nimble as the inlanders themselves. On their return from the reindeer-hunt she said she longed for her relatives, and was desirous to go and see them; and the next summer her husband accompanied her thither. Approaching the coast-side, they saw a kayaker, whom they hailed, and asked to bring a boat to take them the remainder of the way. On getting into it the inlander was dreadfully afraid, and fell down flat on his face at the bottom of the boat, where he remained till he landed close to their home. They stayed that winter at her parents, and once her father said, "I wish I could have got another son-in-law instead of this one—one who knew how to trap eider-ducks." The inlander had a habit of stopping in the house all day, but at these words he only asked a trap of him; and one day he returned all covered with ducks. The other men of the place in the winter-time often used to ridicule him, and always wanted to persuade him to accompany p. 221 them out on the ice for the mowpok-hunt (cor. sp. maupoĸ, seal-hunt, by watching the breathing-holes). In the summer he resolved to visit his countrymen, and on parting said to his wife, "If I find our son in health, I will return with more companions." He now set off, and did not return till next spring, and then reported that their son had died. He told his wife that it was now his intention to return to his own people; and when he left they never saw any more of him.



p. 218

1 Fabulous dwarf inlanders or mountain-elves.