Eskimo Folk-Tales | Annotated Tale

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Very Obstinate Man, The

THERE was once an Obstinate Man--no one in the world could be as obstinate as he.  And no one dared come near him, so obstinate was he, and he would always have his own way in everything.

                Once it came about that his wife was in mourning. Her little child had died, and therefore she was obliged to remain idle at home; this is the custom of the ignorant, and this we also had to do when we were as ignorant as they.

                And while she sat thus idle and in mourning, her husband, that Obstinate One, came in one day and said:

                "You must sew the skin of my kayak."

                "You know that I am not permitted to touch any kind of work," said his wife.

                "You must sew the skin of my kayak," he said again. "Bring it down to the shore and sew it there."

                And so the woman, for all her mourning, was forced to go down to the shore and sew the skin of her husband's kayak. But when she had been sewing a little, suddenly her thread began to make a little sound, and the little sound grew to a muttering, and louder and louder. And at last a monster came up out of the sea; a monster in the shape of a dog, and said:

                "Why are you sewing, you who are still in mourning?"

                "My husband will not listen to me, for he is so obstinate," she said.

                And then the mighty dog sprang ashore and fell upon that husband.

                But that Obstinate One was not abashed; as usual, he thought he would get his own way, and his way now was to kill the dog. And they fought together, and the dog was killed.

                But now the owner of the dog appeared, and he turned out to be the Moon Man.

                And he fell upon that Obstinate One, but the Obstinate One would as usual not give way, but fell upon him in turn. He caught the Moon Man by the throat, and had nearly strangled him. He clenched and clenched, and the Moon Man was nearly strangled to death.

                "There will be no more ebb-tide or flood if you strangle me," said the Moon Man.

                But the Obstinate One cared little for that; he only clutched the tighter.

                "The seal will never breed again if you strangle me," cried the Moon Man.

                But the Obstinate One did not care at all, though the Moon Man threatened more and more.

                "There will never be dawn or daylight again if you kill me," said the Moon Man at last.

                And at this the Obstinate One began to hesitate; he did not like the thought of living in the dark for ever. And he let the Moon Man go.

                Then the Moon Man called his dog to life again, and made ready to leave that place. And he took his team and cast the dogs up into the air one by one, and they never came down again, and at last there was the whole team of sledge dogs hovering in the air.

                "May I come and visit you in the Moon?" asked the Obstinate One. For he suddenly felt a great desire to do so.

                "Yes, come if you please," said the Moon Man. "But when you see a great rock in your way, take great care to drive round behind it. Do not pass it on the sunny side, for if you do, your heart will be torn out of you."

                And then the Moon Man cracked his whip, and drove off through the naked air.

                Now the Obstinate One began making ready for his journey to the moon. It had been his custom to keep his dogs inside the house, and therefore they had a thick layer of ingrown dirt in their coats. Now he took them and cast them out into the sea, that they might become clean again. The dogs, little used to going out at all, were nearly frozen to death by that cold water; they ran about, shivering with the cold.

                Then the Obstinate One took a dog, and cast it up in the air, but it fell down heavily to earth again. He took another and did so, and then a third, but they all fell down again. They were still too dirty.

                But the Obstinate One would not give in, and now he cast them out into the sea once more.

                And when he then a second time tried casting them up in the air, they stayed there. And now he made himself a sledge, threw his team up in the air, and drove off.

                But when he came to the rock he was to drive round, this Obstinate One said to himself:

                "Why should I drive round a rock at all? I will go by the sunny side."

                When he came up alongside, he heard a woman singing drum songs, and whetting her knife; she kept on singing, and he could hear how the steel hummed as she worked.

                Now he tried to overpower that old woman, but lost his senses. And when he came to himself, his heart was gone.

                "I had better go round after all," he thought to himself. And he went round by the shady side.

                Thus he came up to the moon, and told there how he had lost his heart merely for trying to drive round a rock by the sunny side.

                Then the Moon Man bade him lie down at full length on his back, with a black sealskin under, which he spread on the floor. This the Obstinate One did, and then the Moon Man fetched his heart from the woman and stuffed it in again.

                And while he was there, the Moon Man took up one of the stones from the floor, and let him look down on to the earth. And there he saw his wife sitting on the bench, plaiting sinews for thread, and this although she was in mourning. A thick smoke rose from her body; the smoke of her evil thoughts. And her thoughts were evil because she was working before her mourning time was passed.

                And her husband grew angry at this, forgetting that he had himself but newly bidden her work despite her mourning.

                And after he had been there some time, the Moon Man opened a stone in the entrance to the passage way, and let him look down. The place was full of walrus, there were so many that they had to lie one on top of another.

                "It is a joy to catch such beasts," said the Moon Man, and the Obstinate One felt a great desire to harpoon one of them.

                "But you must not, you cannot," said the Moon Man, and promised him a share of the catch he had just made himself. But the Obstinate One would not be content with this; he took harpoons from the Moon Man's store, and harpooned a walrus. Then he held it on the line--he was a man of very great strength, that Obstinate One--and managed to kill it. And in the same way he also dealt with another.

                After his return from the Moon Man's place, he left off being obstinate, and never again forced his wife to work while she was in mourning.


The particular source of this tale is South-East Greenland.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Very Obstinate Man, The
Tale Author/Editor: Rasmussen, Knud
Book Title: Eskimo Folk-Tales
Book Author/Editor: Rasmussen, Knud
Publisher: Gyldendal
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1921
Country of Origin: Greenland
Classification: unclassified

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