Eskimo Folk-Tales | Annotated Tale

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ÍKARDLÍTUARSSUK, men say, had a little brother; they lived at a place where there were many other houses. One autumn the sea was frozen right out from the coast, without a speck of open water for a long way out. After this, there was great dearth and famine; at last their fellow-villagers began to offer a new kayak paddle as a reward for the one who should magic it away, but there was no wizard among the people of that village.

                Then it came about that Íkardlítuarssuk's little brother began to speak to him thus:

                "Íkardlítuarssuk, how very nice it would be to win that new paddle!"

                And then it was revealed that Íkardlítuarssuk had formerly sat on the knee of one of those present when the wizards called up their helping spirits.

                Then it came about that Íkardlítuarssuk one evening began to call upon his helping spirits. He called them up, and having called them up, went out, and having gone out, went down to the water's edge, crept in through a crack between the land and the ice, and started off, walking along the bottom of the sea.

                He walked along, and when he came to seaweed, it seemed as if there lay dogs in among the weed. But these were sharks. Then on his way he saw a little house, and went towards it. When he came up to the entrance, it was narrow as the edge of a woman's knife. But he got in all the same, following that way which was narrow as the edge of a woman's knife. And when he came in, there sat the mother of Tôrnârssuk, the spirit who lived down there; she was sitting by her lamp and weeping. And picking behind her ears, she threw down many strange things. Inside her lamp were many birds that dived down, and inside the house were many seals that bobbed up.

                And now he began tickling the weeping woman as hard as he could, to encourage her; and at last she was encouraged, and after this, she freed a number of the birds, and then made a sign to many of the seals to swim out of the house. And when they swam out, there was one of the fjord seals which she liked so much that she plucked a few of the hairs from its back, that she might have it to make breeches of when it was caught.

                And when all this had been done, she went home, and went to rest without saying a word.

                When they awoke next morning, the sea was quite dark ahead, and all the ice had gone. But when the villagers came out, she said to them:

                "Do not kill more than one; if any of you should kill two, he will never kill again."

                And furthermore she said:

                "If any of you should catch a young fjord seal with a bare patch on its back, you must give it to me to make breeches."

                When they came back, each of the hunters had made a catch; only one of them had caught two. And the man who had caught two seals that day never after caught any seal at all when he rowed out, but all the others always made a catch when they rowed out, and some of them even caught several at a time.

                Thus it came about that Íkardlítuarssuk with the little brother won the new paddle as a reward.


The particular source of this tale is South Greenland.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Íkardlítuarssuk
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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