Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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ARNARSARSUAK was a pretty girl, much courted by the best seal-hunters of the neighbourhood. Her brothers being unwilling to let her get married, she at length took up with a fellow and lived with him as his concubine. Before long she was with child, but notwithstanding, her brothers still continued loving her dearly. One day she had been out to fetch water, and at the very moment she was about to enter she chanced to hear her sisters-in-law within talking about her, saying to each other, "I wonder who ever will care to be troubled with the charge of that wretch Arnarsarsuak is going to give birth to." On hearing these words, she at once put down her pails in the passage, and ran off far to the inland, away from humankind. During her flight she perceived that the time had come when she should be delivered; she fell into a deep swoon, and on recovering found she had given birth to a kingulerak.1 Formerly, in the days of her prosperity, she had been kind and charitable to two orphan children, a boy and a girl, who lived among them. Many years after, when Arnarsarsuak's brothers were all dead, the two orphans took p. 411 up their abode at a solitary place out on some far away islands. When the brother was following his trade in his kayak the sister felt miserably lonely; to make up for which, however, when he again returned she felt as if the house were full of visitors. One evening when they were sitting chatting together, the brother suddenly said, "I think I shall try to recall the song that Arnarsarsuak used to sing." But the sister advised him rather to desist, saying, "Remember that Arnarsarsuak now belongs to those of uncommon kind, having fled from mankind during her pregnancy. I have heard that such people have the gift of hearing their own songs a long way off." However, the brother would not give up his intention; but no sooner had he commenced singing than a voice was heard outside, "On hearing my song I could not resist coming, and here I am." The brother and sister looked at each other in great alarm, knowing that their house was far away from any one. However, they soon recognised the voice to be Arnarsarsuak's, on which the sister resumed, "Did not I tell thee she would be sure to hear thee singing? now go and answer, thou being the best talker of us." The brother, however, did not stir; and the voice was again heard, "Ye need not be afraid of me; I only want to get inside." Seeing her brother could find no words, the sister said, "Well, come in;" and presently a sound was heard of something creeping along the passage, while the two shrank back on the ledge in silence, with a sure foreboding that the next moment they would be frightened to death. The sound rapidly approached; they only ventured a timid glance towards the entrance, and immediately after Arnarsarsuak entered, prettier than ever, and said, "I was lately far from this place, in the interior, whence I was suddenly lured by some voice calling me hither." The sister now took courage to say, "It was only for a pastime he tried to sing thy lay." Arnarsarsuak continued, "Ye know why I fled; it was because p. 412 I heard my sisters-in-law observing that no one would be found willing to provide for my poor offspring. On that day I ran far off into the interior, when I was soon to give birth to a kingulerak, which ever since adhered to my body till a few days ago. In my present state ye have nothing to fear from me, and I would be very glad to come and stay with you." Seeing that they had no choice, and could not get rid of her, they allowed her room on the farthest end of the ledge, and themselves lay down, leaving a wide space between them; still they were quite unable to fall asleep. The following day the brother wanted to go out hunting; his sister, however, persuaded him to stay at home on account of her new housemate, whom they still considered rather a doubtful personage. On the ensuing day he went out kayaking, but kept so near to the house as not to lose sight of them for any length of time. In the evening, however, he returned, bringing with him two seals, and the sister at once ran down as usual to flense and cut up the animals, but Arnarsarsuak would not allow it, taking all the work on herself; and having quickly flensed both seals, she made up a fire, and while she did the cooking she sewed at the same time. As time went by, and their fears subsided, the brother resolved to marry her; but when she came to be pregnant the sister began to fear she would bear no human offspring, and in that case she said, "Whither am I to flee? seeing we live on an island, I can only rush down to the sea." When her time had come, the brother as well as the sister determined to run away from the house; but when the brother turned back to have a last look through the window, his wife turned towards him, saying, "It is all over, and the birth has taken place. Do not fear, but come in to me." On hearing this he hastened to bring his sister back. When they returned, Arnarsarsuak sat smiling kinclly on them, and said, p. 413 "Behold the object of your fears, my two babes." She then showed them a little bear cub and a real child. Both were nursed together, and when the bear had begun to go about by himself she again bore a child and another little bear.

In due time the father gave his boys kayaks, and the bears of their own account went out for provender; and at length the father could afford to take things easy, and rest from work. Subsequently he proposed that they should all set out together in search of other people, thinking that the children ought not to live always at such a desolate place. Accordingly they started northwards, the sons following in their kayaks, while the bears kept swimming alongside the boat. Travelling on thus, they at length came in sight of a well-peopled place; on this the bears stuck closer to the boat, and out of bashfulness only papped their muzzles above water. The father remarked, "Don't be ashamed; remember ye also are of human extraction." However, on landing a little south of the settlement they were received by a number of people, who on seeing two large bears ran off for their weapons. But on the father calling to them, "What are you thinking of? they also are my children," they desisted. The new-comers took up their winter quarters at this place, where the sons both got married, and all lived happy tagether. When the weather was too bad for the men to go out hunting, the bears went off in their stead. After wintering there they again broke up for their old home, and were joined by several people of the place, who accompanied them thither, where their bones now rest.



p. 410

1 An anghiak who remained attached to the mother on account of her being kivigtok, until she had revenged herself.