Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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p. 236


[This tale, one of the few already mentioned by other authors on Greenland, has been translated from one of the oldest manuscripts.]

AN old married couple remained at home while their children travelled about all the summer. One day the wife was left alone as usual while the husband was out kayaking. On hearing something moving about close by, she hastened to hide beneath her coverlet, and after a little while, when she ventured to peep above it, she saw a little snow-bunting (Plectrophanes nivalis) hopping about on the floor and chirping, "Another one will soon enter, who is going to tell thee something." In a little while she was alarmed by a still greater noise; and looking up again, she beheld a kusagtak (another little bird—the wheat-ear—Saxicola œnanthe), likewise hopping on the floor and singing, "Somebody shall soon enter and tell thee something." It left the room, and was soon followed by a raven; but soon after it had gone she heard a sound like the steps of people, and this time she saw a very beautiful woman, who entered. On asking whence she came, the stranger told, "In bygone days we often used to assemble in my home to divert ourselves at different plays and games, and in the evening, when it was all ended, the young girls generally remained out, and the young men used to pursue and court us; but we could never manage to recognise them in the dark. One night I was curious to know the one who had chosen me, and so I went and daubed my hands with soot before I joined the others. When our play had come to an end, I drew my hands along his back, and left him, and was the first who entered the house. The young people came in, one after p. 237 another undressed, but for some time I observed no marks. Last of all my brother entered, and I saw at once that the back of his white jacket was all besmeared with soot. I took a knife, and sharpened it, and proceeded to cut off my two breasts, and gave him them, saying, 'Since my body seems to please thee, pray take these and eat them.' He now began to speak indecently to me, and courted me more than ever, and while we raced about the room he caught hold of some bad moss and lit it, but I took some that was good, and also lit mine. He ran out, and I ran after him; but suddenly I felt that we were lifted up, and soared high up in the air. When we got more aloft my brother's light was extinguished, but mine remained burning, and I had become a sun. Now I am on my way higher up the skies, that I may give warmth to the orphans (viz., going to make summer)." Finally she said, "Now close thy eyes." The woman turned her eyes downwards; but perceiving that she was about to leave the house, she gave her one look, and observed that at her back she was a mere skeleton. Soon after she had left the house the old husband returned.

NOTE.—Among the rare cases which we have of any Eskimo tradition from the west about Behring Straits, the above legend is reported as known at Point Barrow, and was communicated to John Simpson, surgeon on board the Plover. In this the sister says to the brother, "Ta-man’g-ma mam-mang-mang-an’g-ma nigh’-e-ro," which corresponds to the Greenlandish tamarma mamarmat âma neriuk, "My whole person being delicious, eat this also"—almost the same words as in one of the copies from Greenland.