Eskimo Folk-Tales | Annotated Tale

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ASALÔQ, men say, had a foster-brother. Once when he had come home after having been out in his kayak, his foster-brother had disappeared. He sought for him everywhere, but being unable to find him, he built a big umiak, and when it was built, he covered it with three layers of skins.

                Then he rowed off southwards with his wife. And while they were rowing, they saw a black ripple on the sea ahead. When they came to the place, they saw that it was the sea-lice. And the outermost layer of skins on the boat was eaten away before they got through them.

                Now they rowed onwards again, and saw once more a black ripple ahead. When they came to the place, they saw that it was the sea-serpents. And once again they slipped through with the loss of one layer of skins.

                Having now but one layer of skins left, they went in great fear of what they might chance to meet next. But without seeing anything strange, they rounded a point, and came in sight of a place with many houses. Hardly had they come into land when the strangers caught hold of their boat, and hauled it up, so that Asalôq had no need to help.

                And now it was learned that these were folk who had a strong man in their midst. Asalôq had been but a short time in one of the houses, when they heard the sound of one coming from outside and in through the passage way; it was the strong man's talebearer boy, and to make matters worse, a boy with a squint.

                And now the people of the house said:

                "Now that wretched boy will most certainly tell him you are here." And indeed, the boy was just about to run out again, when they caught hold of him and set him up behind the lamp. But hardly had they turned their backs on him for a moment, when he slipped out before any could move, and they heard the sound of his running footsteps in the snow without. And after a while, the window grew red with a constant filling of faces looking in to say:

                "We are sent to bid the stranger come."

                And since there was no help for it, Asalôq went up there with them. When he came into the house, it was full of people, and he looked round and saw the strong man far in on the big bench. And at the moment Asalôq caught sight of him, the strong man said in a deep voice:

                "Let us have a wrestling match."

                And as he spoke, the others drew out a skin from under the bench, and spread it on the floor. And after the skin had been spread out, food was brought in. And Asalôq ate till there was no more left. But as he rose, all that he had eaten fell out of his stomach. And then they began pulling arms.

                And now Asalôq began mightily pulling the arms of all the men there, until the skin was worn from his arm, leaving the flesh almost bare.

                And when he had straightened out all their arms, he went out of that house the strongest of all, and went out to his umiak and rowed away southwards with his wife. And when they had rowed a little way, they came to a little island, and pitched their tent on the sunny side. And when Asalôq then went up on the hillside to look out, he saw many umiaks coming from the northward, and they camped on the shady side. Then he heard them say:

                "Now search carefully about." And others said:

                "He can hardly be on such a little island."

                And now Asalôq sang magic songs over them from the top of the hill, and at last he heard them say:

                "We may as well go home again."

                Now Asalôq stood and watched them row away, and not until they were out of sight did he set off again to the southward. At last they reached Aluk, and there their bones still rest.

                Here ends this story.


The particular source of this tale is West Greenland.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Asalôq
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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