Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
Index Previous Next

31. THE DOG.

[This tale is taken from a single manuscript.]

AN old married couple had two sons and a little daughter. The sons were renowned for strength, and for being able hunters. They used to return with their seals towing in a long line behind them. But one day they did not return. While the parents were still expecting them, a man brought the sad news that he had seen them both hanging on an inaccessible rock. They were hung up by the feet, head downwards, and nobody could get at them to save them. This deed had been done by the inlanders. While the old parents were in deep affliction for their loss, they heard that some of their neighbours had a dog with a great many whelps. The mother sent the daughter away to fetch one, which she adopted, and had it always on the ledge beside her, nursing it with her own milk. In the winter, she noticed that the dog (being endowed with magic power) sometimes went on scratching his face, and at the same time always commencing to speak, and asking, "What do I look like now?" Towards the end of the winter they were in great want, having lost their protectors. The dog then said he was going for a walk into the country. One night be roused his foster-mother, p. 228 and having given himself a scratching, inquired, "Am I still good-looking? I shall be off to-morrow." The reason for thus scratching itself was to frighten people to death (viz., by charm). He came upon the inlanders while they were busy conjuring spirits. The angakok soon foretold his coming, and cried, "Fire! fire!" but the dog scratched his face, and rushed into the passage, hiding itself there. When the people came out, bringing lights with them, the dog frightened them to death on the spot. Next he set off in search of their storehouse, and carried some victuals back to his foster-parents, and showed them the place where they could find the rest. But from that time upwards the woman began to fear him; and in the spring, when the boat was loaded and ready for starting, she asked the dog to go back to the house and bring her something she had forgotten. As soon as it had disappeared to obey her orders, they pushed off from land, and set out on their journey. But the dog went on following along the shore until they gained the last point, from which it could follow them no longer. There it remained whining and howling. It is supposed that this is the origin of the present custom with the dogs to follow the departing boat along the coast, and go on howling at them from the last point of land.