Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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AT a well-peopled settlement there lived an old couple, with an only son and a younger daughter; but the parents died before they were grown up. They, however, soon got foster-parents, but these did not love them—they were always scolded, and left to seek their food on the beach at low-water. One spring, when the people were going to start on their summer travels, they put the children into an empty house, with a small portion of food, closed the entrance with large stones, and then left them. When the poor orphans were wellnigh starving, they rummaged about the empty room to find something to allay their hunger, and fell to eating all the old leavings they could get hold of. When these were finished, the sister found an instrument for boring. As they could not reach the ceiling, they heaped up stones to stand upon, and in this way managed to make a hole in the roof to creep through. The brother first helped his sister to escape, and then got out himself. Outside they could see tents standing in rows on the islets, they being themselves on the main land; by p. 222 the smoke they observed, they knew them to be cooking all the day, and they could see the kayakers pursuing the seals. Being hungry, they went to the place where the seals used to be stripped and cut up in the winter, hoping to find some old bits to eat, and they were fortunate enough to find the head of a small thong-seal. When they had eaten a part of it, the sister stripped off the skin, prepared it, and said to the brother, "I am going to make a disguise for thee; dost not thou remember the magic song our mother taught us?" "Indeed I do; and I even remember one for raising a storm. Make haste and get ready the skin." She rubbed it hard, at the same time singing over it, and all the while it grew larger and larger. He tried it on, but found that it only touched his knees. She rubbed still more, and at last he could wrap himself quite up in it. The sister fastened it on him, saying, "There, thou lookest just like a young thong-seal; now try the water,"—and he went to the beach. He leapt down, while she remained singing the magic lay, and saying, "Now dive down!" When he reappeared on the surface she said, "Thou art looking like a little dovekie (see p. 201); I will sing again:" and when he again appeared, she said, "Well, now, thou art quite like a thong-seal; come!" When he rose the next morning and came outside, it was fine weather and quite calm; and seeing that no kayaker from the islets had left land, he took a fancy to play the seal. He put on his disguise and leapt into the sea. No sooner was he observed from the tents than they called out, "There is a young seal; let us be off and chase it!" There was plenty of joking, and a great bustle, and the men got their kayaks down into the sea in a great hurry. In the meantime he dived, but as he could not keep his breath all the time, he rose to the surface behind one of the kayakers, and took breath without being observed. In the hurry of the moment, some of the men had forgotten to put on their kayak-jackets, p. 223 though they were rather far out at sea. These the disguised boy had picked out to wreak his vengeance on. He sang the lay for raising the wind, and all of a sudden a gale began to blow. The hunters hastened to put back and reach home; but those who were not in proper trim had their kayaks filled with water, and perished. When the brother came on shore, he said to his sister, "I believe we may safely venture to let them see we are still alive. Now they have lost some of their people, we may probably be of some use to them, and may be they will fetch us off;" and they proceeded to make signs to attract attention. As soon as they were observed by the people on the opposite islands, these said to one another, "Let us get them over; we are in want of people." A boat was soon despatched; and after a while the orphans recovered. Later on in the summer they were taken into a boat's crew as rowers, and went up a firth for a deer-hunting station; but their master was not kind to them, and when he had got his first buck, he gave the boy the knee-pan, and said, "Until thou hast swallowed that, thou shalt have nothing else to eat." He was almost choked with it, but at last managed to make it go down, and then had his meal; but he never forgot the knee-pan. When the deer-hunting was at an end in the autumn, some people were leaving for the north, and the orphans were among their party, and thus left their former masters. They were not yet quite grown up; but they went on practising all manner of hard exercise, in order to increase their strength. In this they both succeeded; and the brother turned out to be an excellent seal-hunter besides. Some years afterwards, they travelled back to the south, and again came across the man who had made him swallow the knee-pan, but he had now grown quite old. Game was scarce in the middle of winter, but the young man still went out and tried his luck. One day he brought home a large thong-seal, and ordered the sister p. 224 to boil down the blubber into train-oil. This done, he invited all their neighbours; and when the meal was served up, he addressed the old man, saying, "I would like to know whether it be easier to swallow a knee-pan or to drink boiling-hot oil? Just thou try, or otherwise thou wilt have no supper." The old man hesitated, but drank it off at last; but his throat got scalded, and he died in the act of drinking. The young man was thus appeased, and left the place on the first thaw.

NOTE.—There is a story of some other orphans, that they were left helpless and destitute at the winter-quarters when all the rest of the people went deer-hunting; but when they were at the point of starving, they heard a noise on the roof of the doorway, and on looking out to see what it was, they found a ptarmigan. The next day came a small seal, and when that was finished, a large saddleback seal. Of other orphans it is told that the eldest, a boy, died of starvation; but that the girl, left alone, one day happened to see some kayakers hallo-hunting (viz., by driving the seals). When they had finished, one of them brought her a little seal; and when they again put out to sea, she observed them all turning into gulls and flying away. When she had returned, and lay all alone in the house, a queer little woman brought her a fire that could never be extinguished. Of another orphan the legend is, that he taught himself to walk on the surface of the ocean.