Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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LITTLE Ernersiak lived with an aged stepmother at a place where a number of men, who were all brothers, housed together, and at that same place there was also an immensely strong man. In the autumn the youngest brother fell sick, and getting worse and worse at length died. They all agreed in suspecting Ernersiak's mother of having caused his death, and they only waited a time when they should find her alone in the house to p. 347 charge her with the deed. One morning Ernersiak furnished himself with some strings, and went away to set up fox-traps, and the brothers, profiting by his absence, entered and struck the old woman dead. But the strong man took pity on Ernersiak; and when he saw him returning he went out to meet him, and said, "Don't thou go into the tent; thou won't see her any more; the brothers killed her this morning as soon as thou wert gone;" and the strong man adopted him, and, for want of a better, gave him a bit of his dear mother's backbone for an amulet. The strong man brought him up, and trained him according to the rules of strength: early in the morning he lifted him off his couch by the hairs only, and the boy did not awake till he was put down on his feet. His new parents gave him a suit of clothes, but these did not last long, because he had always to exercise himself throwing and carrying stones. One evening, when they were late up, his new father took a skin, and spreading it on the floor he began to teach him how to draw hook and crook. But he admonished him not to join the other children at ball-playing, and for this reason Ernersiak was always seen standing with one arm out of his sleeve (a token of modesty), and regarding them from a safe distance. One day, however, while he was thus looking on, he got a severe stroke on the top of his head, at which he fell to the ground in a swoon; when he came to himself, nobody was near. Another time he was again struck down in the same manner, but on rising he plainly saw some one sneaking away. Hurrying after him, he found him hiding behind a rock; and making right up to him, he took hold of him by the collar of his jacket, and, hurling him several times round in the air, flung him to the ground with such force that the blood gushed out of his mouth and nose. "Ernersiak has been up to mischief," was now all the cry; and a large skin was produced to carry the wounded boy away upon, while p. 348 Ernersiak seated himself on a little mound in front of the house. Soon after the kayakers were seen to return, and they were welcomed with the same cry—"Ernersiak has been up to mischief." When his foster-father heard this, he speedily loosened his towing-line, and running up to Ernersiak said that they intended to kill him. The brothers by this time had also got on shore, and hearing what had happened, one among them ran to fetch his spear, the others all following him. The father of the wounded boy flung his lance with all his strength at Ernersiak, who remained sitting, his back turned towards them; and though Ernersiak remained unhurt, the lance was broken in pieces. The others now tried their lances, but with no better luck. In this manner, we are told, his foster-mother's amulet wrought its first wonder. They now gathered round him and caught hold of him; but though they were so many that he could hardly be seen in the crowd, they were not able to throw him over. All of a sudden, he turned round upon them, seized them one by one by their fur collars, and hurled them all bleeding to the ground. His foster-father now advised him to stop, lest he should get too many enemies, upon which he followed him into the house, where he seated himself, but could not be made to eat or speak. In the evening his foster-father fetched him some liver, hoping he would relish that, and on entering with it, remarked, "The very last boat is now leaving us, and we shall have no neighbours henceforth." On hearing this, he leaned forward and chuckled grimly, well knowing that he had been the cause of their hasty departure; he enjoyed the idea vastly, and from that moment he began to find his appetite. His father, who now deemed it only fair that he should have his own kayak, set to building him one, and subsequently began to teach him how to manage it, and before long the pupil proved himself very apt at paddling as well as hunting in kayak. p. 349 When his father awoke in the morning, his son had already fetched his kayak-jacket, and when the father went away for his own jacket, the son was already seated in his kayak, waiting for his father, and invariably returned home with some capture. One day he had been waiting in his kayak for his father to come down and start with him; but thinking him too long about it he paddled away alone, following the coast southwards, and there, behind a cape, he suddenly fell in with another kayaker. This man, however, did not recognise Ernersiak, because he left him before he had got his kayak. He asked him to go with him and visit his people; and presently they came upon a place covered with tents, in front of which a number of people were engaged in building boats, kayaks, &c. On catching sight of Ernersiak and his companion, they shouted, "Look there! Ernersiak has turned a kayaker." At this moment Ernersiak's companion paddled on in advance of him, intending to make the shore before him; but Ernersiak followed him close, and almost before "He is going to kill thee" had escaped the bystanders, Ernersiak lifted his harpoon and killed him from behind, then paddling up to him, drew it out and turned his back upon them. Having passed the cape he put ashore and climbed the top, there to await his pursuers; but when night set in, and no one had as yet appeared, he again set off for home. On reaching it he sulked, and would not eat. His father guessed he had been guilty of some murder, and then went on warning him against making too many enemies for himself. After this he was again persuaded to take some food. The following day the father kayaked the same way past the cape, and came in sight of the tents, with the people at work outside them. He paddled quite close to the beach and cried out, "If ye remain in this neighbourhood I and my son Ernersiak won't fail to despatch the whole of you; but I have heard of plenty good hunting away to the north, and I will encourage p. 350 him to go thither." After this speech he returned, and did not fail to tell his son the exciting report, and found him very anxious to try that place. In the spring they left their old quarters, and travelled northwards the whole summer-time. Just as the frost was beginning to harden the earth a little, they got to a place with many tents, and being hailed from land to put in there, they went ashore accordingly. They were very civilly received, and were not allowed to trouble themselves about their luggage; the inhabitants of the place unloaded and carried it all up for them. It happened that Ernersiak being somewhat fatigued with kayaking, had seated himself in the boat for a rest; and on finding his tools and weapons so heavy that they had to carry them on their shoulders, the people remarked, that he was not likely ever to have more use for them. The foster-father overhearing their talk, in the evening repeated it to Ernersiak, who, tickled at the idea, burst out laughing. This was his first mirth since the murder. In this place they passed the winter. One morning, on coming outside, Ernersiak was astonished not to see any one about the houses as usual; but on glancing round he observed them standing on a hilltop looking out upon the sea. When he had joined them, they enlightened him as to the reason, saying, "We are watching the red walrus." Ernersiak, on seeing the ocean all a foam, hastened down to his kayak, and set off towards them. He soon detected a large walrus, comparatively quiet. When he came close to it, the animal lifted its head above the surface, and holding back its breath quietly regarded him; but when it had come quite close, it tossed back its head, blew a great puff of air at him, and rushed towards him, while he kept steadily moving in upon it. About the distance of an arrow-shot, he aimed his weapon at it, and when the animal bent down and curved its back, he lanced and thrust, instantly despatching it. Having towed it ashore, he went back p. 351 to catch one more before he landed for good himself. Towards spring they again prepared to go south, but their hosts invited them to come back and pass the winter with them. They thanked them very kindly, but being once more in the south, they stopped, and never afterwards visited the north.