Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
Index Previous Next


SEVERAL brothers had an only sister, whom they loved dearly and were very loath to part with. To the north of them was another hamlet, where lived Akutak and Inuinak. One day when out kayaking, Akutak said, "Let us go and give the brothers yonder a call." Inuinak surmised they would only get a cold reception. However, they started, but not a man did they find at home; and the women of the place could not give them any welcome, their husbands having strictly ordered them not to receive any unmarried man whatever during p. 405 their absence. The strangers nevertheless entered the house, where they found the lonely sister occupying a seat on the southern side of the ledge, where her bedding also could be seen most handsomely piled up. Though seats were offered to them at the northern end, they preferred a settle facing the unmarried sister. They now proceeded to relieve themselves of their jackets, Akutak displaying a skin as fair and soft as that of a white whale, while Inuinak on stripping himself came out as black as a raven. Thus they remained a short time; but before food had been offered to them, the men of the place were hailed returning with their prey. The women ran down to assist them in bringing up their seals; but no sooner had they re-entered the house than a voice was heard in the passage, and a man entered, and in a grumbling voice broke out, "Well, to be sure, we are having visitors." This was the middle brother: and he was soon followed by the rest of them. Akutak answered, "There thou art right; however, we were not very anxious to come at all." The middle brother then ordered some meat to be served up to them; and, after a plenteous feast, there was a good deal of talking; but the whole of the evening the visitors kept their seats, never turning their looks off the maiden sister. At length the brothers, longing for rest, lay down to sleep, reclining in their different places. Only the middlemost of them determined to keep watch; and, having pulled off his boots, leaned back, keeping an eye on the strangers all the while. Presently he heard Inuinak call out in a loud voice, "Young girl, make up a bed for me!" The sister at once complied, and he lay down beside her. The brothers first thought of interfering, but soon gave up the idea, and took no further notice of them. Akutak being now left by himself, was beginning to feel rather lonely; and, not addressing any one in particular, simply cried out, "Make up a bed for me, too!" The brothers only glanced at p. 406 him, saying, "Why, thou art raving; just lie down by thyself." Somewhat abashed, he went off to sleep; but in the morning, when the others awoke, they found he was gone. In his anger he had bewitched the sister, in order to set her against her new husband.

Early in the morning, the brothers all left in their kayaks, but the brother-in-law remained in bed till after sunrise, when he likewise started, having first put on his kayak-jacket. Ere long it was announced that he was putting back, and had some spoil in tow. He had already captured two seals; and his young wife was soon on the alert for flensing and cutting them up. This done, she fell upon her husband's neck, caressing him incessantly, and would not leave him alone a single moment. When night set in, and the brothers had all returned, he actually began to be afraid of her, and removed to another corner of the room, where he seated himself behind a lamp, always keeping her off. But still she would not leave him at peace; and catching hold of him with one hand, she at last took up a piece of a grindstone with the other, eating away at it as if it had been a morsel of ice. At sight of this, the brothers exclaimed, "Our sister has gone raving mad; let us be off from here;" and away they fled, having first cut asunder all the lashings of their boat; and at their departure, one of them said to their brother-in-law, "If people are like this one, nothing is to be done; and thou hadst better come with us." But the other rejoined, "I will take my chance, and stay, if it be only for this one night." The others all started off, while he remained with his wife; but she went on pursuing him all the night, and he kept running away from her, scarcely able to escape her clutch. At dawn of day, however, he succeeded in making a bold leap from the floor right down the house passage, and rushing along to seize his kayak, he quickly got into it. But at the very moment he was ready to push off, she again p. 407 reached him, and made an attempt to catch hold of the kayak-point, in which, however, she did not succeed. At first she seemed determined to follow him on the water, but all of a sudden she turned back; and having looked after her a little while, the poor husband hastened away to a small island off the coast, where he knew the brothers had established themselves. The middlemost came out, inquiring how she was; and being informed how she was, he remarked as before, "If people are like her, there is nothing to be done but keep away from them." When ten days had elapsed, one morning the husband said, "I must go and look after her; she may possibly be starving for want of food." The others tried to dissuade him, but he insisted on going. Having reached the place, he only pulled his kayak half-way out of the water, and then proceeded to the house. For fear of his wife, he did not venture to enter at once, but only peeped in at the window, and there he perceived her lying on the ledge, her hair all loose and dishevelled. When he addressed her, she answered him back in the blandest manner, saying, "I am quite well; come inside." He went in at her bidding; but no sooner had he entered the room than she jumped up, and made a furious rush at him, upon which he again started back, and narrowly escaped through the doorway. She quickly followed him, and after vainly attempting to catch the prow of his kayak, he suddenly observed her walking on the water as if it had been solid ice. Hearing her voice, he turned round, and seeing her close by he cried, "Why did I go and see this wicked thing? Probably she is going to eat me up." As the only way to keep her off, he began swinging to and fro in his kayak. Presently her voice grew weak, and on turning round, he saw her nearly falling; but always giving her time to get up, he at last brought her towards the brothers. On seeing her approach, they cried, "Why didst thou bring her over? She will kill us all." While they were p. 408 thus exclaiming, and the husband could not persuade himself to leave her altogether, she saw before her a streak of little ripples on the water; and when she came to them, she suddenly turned, and went back wailing and lamenting. The husband now left off visiting her for a long time; but at last one day he said, "I must go and see her once more; she is probably dead." On arriving at the place, he found the house empty, and at last discovered her sitting in a cave all shrunk together, and stone-dead. Having buried her remains, and covered the grave well with stones, he returned.

They now resolved upon giving up the house for good, and settled down for the coming winter on the outermost of the islets, soon after which the sea was frozen over. About this time a poor orphan boy, living in the house of Akutak, said to his house-fellows, "I am in great want of boots, and intend to go to the brothers and offer them my little dog in exchange for a pair of old boots." Accordingly he betook himself to their old place. On arriving there in the morning, he wondered at seeing the house without windows. However, he went up to it, and found it still well provisioned; but he could neither see a boat nor any person about the place. On entering, he found all the skin-hangings of the walls torn down and spread on the floor. But knowing no other inhabited house in the neighbourhood, he soon made up his mind to stay the night over, and at dark went to fetch some blubber, trimmed a lamp, and lighted it. He then pulled off his ragged boots, and having put them up above the lamp to dry, seated himself at the south end of the ledge. At first his little dog had followed him into the house, and rolled itself up at his feet on the floor. But while his boots were drying, the dog began to sniff and yell; and running outside, its barking gradually became more distant. Some time after, it again returned, and lying down before its master, looked at him very sharply, and then rushed out howling as p. 409 before, this time re-entering immediately. The orphan thought, "Dogs are not unconscions of anything." He then put on his boots and rushed out, soon followed by the dog. Before they had made their way through the house passage, on looking out he caught sight of the ghost making towards him through the entrance, dragging its shroud behind it. The boy being in the middle part of the passage, pressed himself close up to the wall, and the dog also. At the very moment he expected to be discovered by the ghost, it passed by, on which the dog instantly jumped noiselessly out, followed by his poor master. Both now hastened down to the ice; but before they had got far, the spectre was seen emerging from the house in full pursuit of them. It did not, however, get hold of them; for at a little distance the fugitive had to pass by a large iceberg; and seeing a cave on one side of it, he stepped quickly in, and there awaited the coming day.

At dawn he issued forth again, but did not know which way to wend his steps. His first plan was to go back to his own home, when he suddenly espied a number of people on one of the outer islets. He at once turned towards them. They apparently got much excited at seeing him, thinking it might be the mad woman. Not till he was quite close did they recognise the poor orphan boy, when they all asked whether he had not slept in the haunted house, and whether he had seen anything amiss there. He answered, "No; I observed nothing particular;" and in so saying he told a lie, as he had barely escaped being devoured by the ghost. When they asked him why he had gone there at all, he made answer, "Because I wanted to barter away my little dog for a pair of boots." The middle brother now said, "Well, thou art a hearty little fellow for thy age,"—and with these words he gave him two pairs of boots without taking his dog; and when the boy was about to leave, he asked a gift of a knife with p. 410 a pretty handle. All the other brothers likewise loaded him with little presents of various kinds. On reaching home, however, he exchanged all these things for a kayak of his own.