Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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A GREAT many brothers were living in a house together, with but one female; that one being their old mother. Beside the house they occupied was another inhabited by an old couple, whose children consisted of girls only; and they never left their parents. When the brothers removed to the other side of the fiord in search of provender the old people followed them, and took up their abode a little further down the coast. Here the mother of the many men died, and being bereft of their housewife, the youngest brother had to do the general work. On alternate days the elder ones went out kayaking, and repaired to their mother's grave to mourn her death. At last they moved back to their usual winter station, and the old people likewise resorted to their hut. From this place also the brothers continued alternately to go out hunting one day, and visit their mother's grave the next, whereas the youngest always stopped at home to flense the seals and attend to the other house-work. One day, on reaching the grave, they noticed that the top-stones p. 342 had been disturbed, and were out of their proper place; the day after they again went to the tomb, and, after hiding their kayaks, concealed themselves behind some heaps of great rocks. When dawn had changed into broad daylight they saw a kayaker putting off from their own shore, and when he came nearer, they recognised him as their own old neighbour. They first supposed him to be going to a small uninhabited house down on the coast; but this he passed by, and went right up to the grave, where he at once began to rummage about. The brothers now said, "There is plain proof; he is the criminal; let us kill him to-morrow." They soon saw the old man descending to his kayak, and pulling back across the fiord to his own home, and followed him. The next morning they sought him in his tent: he had not yet arisen. The eldest brother went first, and after him followed the others. The leader now accosted the old man, saying, "It is not without reason we have thus come to thee, but because the tomb of our mother has recently been disturbed." "But who could possibly have done it?" the old man exclaimed; "I am but a poor decayed fellow, and am hardly able to get up to the little house on the shore." The eldest brother answered him: "Notwithstanding, I know thou art the trespasser, inasmuch as we all saw thee pilfering about the grave yesterday;" and so saying, he rushed upon him, and hauling him outside the tent killed him on the spot. This done he returned to the hut, and going right up to the eldest girl, said to her, "Thy father shall recompense me through his daughter;" upon which he brought her home and took her for his wife. The next day the younger brothers were to watch her during the absence of the elder ones, lest she should make her escape. She remained there for a long while, but continued to be very obstinate, and could not be made to lie down on the ledge, but remained sitting up till dawn of day. At last she determined to kill her husband. p. 343 He always used to put his knife in front of the lamp on coming in for the night. One evening when all were fast asleep, and her husband lay beside her, she took hold of the knife, having first tied on her boots well. The thought struck her, however, "If the others awake at his cry, they will no doubt turn upon me at once; but let them take my life too, as they have already taken that of my poor father." Putting aside her fears, she stabbed him in the bosom, and in a moment he silently expired. Without drawing the knife back, she hurried away to her mother's house, saying, "Pack up thy things speedily and let us be off; I have killed the eldest brother." That same night the boat was loaded, and they started. She who had slain her husband questioned the man at the steer-oar, "What way are we going?" He answered, "I shall follow the coast up north." But she thought that the pursuers would most probably likewise take that direction; when he turned to the south, she feared that they would do the same, when they had sought them in vain to the north; and she advised him to steer right to sea. No sooner had they turned their prow off the land than the foremost of the women-rowers broke her oar. She asked for that of her neighbour, but broke that too; and thus went on to break them all, one after another, and at last wanted the steersman to give up his too. He then asked her, "What wouldst thou have me steer with?" She said, "With thy kayak-paddle, of course." They now rowed on with the only oar left, he steering with his paddle. The mother, who had her place in the bottom of the boat, said to her son, the steersman, that they would soon be in sight of land ahead of them, and told him to steer straight towards the sun, and follow the coast southwards. As she had said, a great looming land soon broke upon their sight; and observing a house on the shore, they landed there. It so happened that only one man was standing outside; with this exception all p. 344 there happened to be women. They were invited to come in, and they accordingly entered.

In the meantime the brothers of the murdered man, who were left behind in their former place, awoke and found him stabbed, and steeped in blood beside them. They hastened along to the house of their neighbours, and finding it empty, at once made ready to pursue them. First they scanned the coast to the north, and asked intelligence of everybody they met with; but not gaining the information they sought, they put about; and having again passed by their own place, they now rowed south. There they had no better luck; and having roamed about for a long time, they only returned home in time to get settled for the winter. Next summer they also put out to sea, intending to cross the sea for Akilinek, but having reached the land on the other side, they made to the north instead of to the south; and having put many inquiries to different people they happened to meet with on the coast, they gave up the chase, and settled down there.

Meantime the second of the sisters that had escaped had got married to the only man of their place; and their brother, on his side, had chosen a wife among the sisters of his brother-in-law. On getting a son, he called his name after that of his poor deceased father. The grandmother ordered them, "Bring me my bag!" and having got it she produced the whetstone of the inuarutligaks (mountain-elves) from the bottom of it; and rubbing the new-born baby with it, she went on repeating: "Child! be as hard as this stone" (viz., invulnerable, by charm); and each time the child got a new suit of clothes she would give him a rub with the stone, repeating the words, "Be hard," &c. In course of time, when the son had got more children, he one day chanced to ask whether there were no more people in that country. One of the women answered him, "Ah, yes, to the north of us are plenty of people, but having never been p. 345 I there we don't know them." After this he tried to persuade his brother-in-law to follow him thither. At first, however, he would not consent to go to these strange people; but when the other went on entreating, he at last agreed, and they started with only one boat. After a rather long journey, they at last passed by a foreland, under shelter of which they saw a great many tents pitched round a little bay. The fugitive, next morning, ascended a hill; but seeing a kayaker shove off from land he hastened down, and likewise got into his kayak in order to make his acquaintance. On getting up with him, he thought he knew his features, thinking them to be those of the next younger brother he had been living with in his former home. On their way to the hunting-place, he went on to question him thus: "Art thou a native of this country?" "Yes, I was born here." "Art thou also grown up here?" "No, I am neither born nor grown up here, but in the country opposite. When our eldest brother was killed by his wife we left our land in search of her, hoping to find her out, and finally landed here." The fugitive said, "Art thou married?" "Yes, I am." "Are all thy brothers married?" "Yes, excepting the youngest." "Hast thou got any children?" "Yes, two—both boys." "Have thy brothers got children?" "Yes, and all of them boys." On his return from the hunt, after having been seated a little while in the tent, the inmates heard a noise of many people outside, and presently all those brothers came rushing in. He who was now the eldest sat down opposite to his former sister-in-law, and at once exclaimed, "These people are easily recognised." To this the fugitive answered, "Maybe we are easily recognised, but so ye are too, although ye pretend to be foreigners." The eldest brother said, "Can we possibly let them remain alive, now that we have at length fallen in with them?" Their old adversary, the woman who had committed the murder, was busy making sewing-thread. p. 346 Her brother said, "They say that womankind are not fit to revenge themselves on men;" and taking up a large knife, he gave it to the other, saying, "Look here; that poor boy is named after my father, whom ye killed, appease your thirst of vengeance by killing him first." The bad man at once thrust his knife at the boy, who was standing erect in the centre of the tent; but the knife glided off him, and a sound was heard as if it had struck against something hard. On finding that they were not able to pierce him through, he examined the knife and found it broken; on which he returned it to the owner, and they all left the tent. Shortly after, the former fugitive went outside and saw to his amazement the people preparing to leave the place. He then determined to do the same; and both parties started at the same time. The brothers crossed the sea to go to their own country; but the fugitives remained for good at their new place of abode, where they lived, they and their successors, and where their bones are laid to rest.