Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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IN days of yore there was an old man who lived down south with his only son, a very dexterous and able sportsman, in the country near Agdluitsok (South Greenland). When this son was able to supply their wants, the father left everything to his care, and for his part lived only to eat and sleep. One day the son did not return as usual in the evening. It was the season for the large hooded seals (bladder-nose Cystophora cristata), and the father thought he was lost. In sight of his abode was a plain with many tents, the inhabitants of which consisted partly of a number of brothers, among whom there was one of great fame. There also was a cousin of the old man living there; and whilst the latter was bewailing and mourning the loss of his son, this cousin came to see him, and informed him that his son had been put to death, and that the middlemost among the brothers was the transgressor. The old man was greatly enraged at this intelligence. That same spring he secured a large piece of driftwood, which he cut up and wrought out of it various heavy tools, such as a harpoon and a lance. He also provided himself with a new bladder. From that time he resumed all his former p. 352 habits—going out kayaking, always hoping to find an opportunity to avenge his son. One morning early, he went off to one of the hunting-grounds farthest out at sea. After a while he came back inside the reefs, and on approaching the shore encountered a kayaker towing a seal and making for the land. This was the murderer of his son. Keeping right in the sunlight, he looked carefully about to see if they were alone; and having first made sure of his man, who did not detect him, being blinded by the sun, he suddenly rushed in upon him, and, lifting his weapon, gave him the death-stroke. He towed him towards land; but on seeing an iceberg driven up on the rocks by the tide, he made him fast to this; and leaving him there, pursued his way landwards to let his brothers know what had happened. They were all at home, and his cousin was among them. They were sitting in the open air outside their tents, when they suddenly beheld him paddling in with unwonted speed. He stopped short, and called aloud to those on shore, "Since your brother wanted to get rid of his life, I have done away with it." He then turned quickly away, and made for his own abode. They all stood gazing wonderingly at him while he was making such way through the rushing waters, all foaming about him. Then the brothers began to cry, and prepared to fetch home their dead. They found him awfully massacred. But the old man again ceased kayaking and hunting from the time he had killed the murderer. Whilst he still had his tent pitched alongside of his winter-house, his cousin one day came to tell him that the brothers had been calling several relatives together with a view to attacking him in company. When he heard this, he employed himself in making a great supply of arrows, but otherwise remained quietly at his place, not leaving home at all. One day he espied the long-expected kayakers crossing the bay to attack him in his loneliness. He went to fetch his p. 353 bow; and, dividing his arrows into three portions, he brought each portion down to a different little point on the beach. Having thus prepared for them, he stood awaiting his enemies with no other arms than his bow. One of the men was just making ready to jump ashore when the old man, perceiving it in time, came running on to the nearest point, and pulling out one of his arrows, aimed at him, whereat the other retreated. Another now tried to land on the second cape, but the old man as quickly reached it, and had his bow ready bent for him. At the third point they fared no better; and becoming awed by his great expertness, they soon retreated. Subsequently he was again informed of an intended attack, and that they were coming in still greater number; but he said, "They may come whenever they please; this time I am not even going to use any weapons; I only intend to show my face." His tent, they say, lay just above the water-mark. The tide happened to be full; and there he sat within singing a magic song to have his face enlarged; and as he sang, it grew in size, but he went on until it fairly resembled the full moon. He then went out into the front part of the tent, hiding himself among the skin-curtains. At this time one of the men had just got out of his kayak, and prepared to enter; but turning round, he started at seeing the terrible face which the old man poked out towards him through the entrance. "A face! a face!" was all he could utter in his terror; and almost capsizing his kayak, he put about, and quickly rowed away. Another was now ready to enter, but met the same face; and merely by showing his face, he succeeded in keeping them all off, and was attacked no more. When they were all gone, he sang a counteracting lay to get his face to its proper shape again. Next spring, he heard that his enemies, in company with some others, were chasing spotted seals. He now made himself a couple of very large bladder-arrows; p. 354 and one fine day kayaked away to have a look at them. Before long he heard them shouting; and catching sight of them, he rowed right in amidst them. The foremost of them had just flung his arrow at a seal, but on thus suddenly beholding the old man with his tremendous arrow, both he and his companions were startled; and whilst they all sat staring at him, the wounded seal dived up in front of the old man's kayak. He darted on to pierce it with his two big arrows; and tearing out the first one, he threw it contemptuously to the owner. With one hand he lifted the seal upon the kayak behind him, and left his enemies in utter amazement. They never afterwards ventured to attack one who, notwithstanding his great age, had such strength and vigour left. The old man at length died in peace without being killed or even wounded.