Eskimo Folk-Tales | Annotated Tale

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Atdlarneq, the Great Glutton

THIS is told of Atdlarneq: that he was a strong man, and if he rowed but a little way out in his kayak, he caught a seal. On no day did he fail to make a catch, and he was never content with only one.

                But one day when he should have been out hunting seal, he only paddled along close to the shore, making towards the south. On the way he sighted a cape, and made towards it; and when he could see the sunny side, he spied a little house, quite near.

                He thought:

                "I must wait until some one comes out."

                And while he lay there, with his paddle touching the shore, a woman came out; she had a yellow band round her hair, and yellow seams to all her clothes.

                Now he would have gone on shore, but he thought:

                "I had better wait until another one comes out." And as he thought this, there came another woman out of the house. And like the first, she also had a yellow hair band, and yellow seams to all her clothes.

                And he did not go on shore, but thought again:

                "I can wait for just one more."

                And truly enough, there came yet another one, quite like the others. And like them also, she bore a dish in her hand. And now at last he went on shore and hauled up his kayak.

                He went into the house, and they all received him very kindly. And they brought great quantities of food and set before him.

                At last the evening came.

                And now those three women began to go outside again and again. And at last Atdlarneq asked:

                "Why do you keep going out like that?"

                When he asked them this, all answered at once:

                "It is because we now expect our dear master home."

                When he heard this, he was afraid, and hid himself behind the skin hangings. And he had hardly crawled in there when that master came home; Atdlarneq looked through a little hole, and saw him.

                And his cheeks were made of copper. [1]

                He had but just sat down, when he began to sniff, and said:

                "Hum! There is a smell of people here."

                And now Atdlarneq crawled out, seeing that the other had already smelt him. He had hardly shown himself, when the other asked very eagerly:

                "Has he had nothing to eat yet?"

                "No, he has not yet eaten."

                "Then bring food at once."

                And then they brought in a sack full of fish, and a big piece of blubber from the half of a black seal. And then the man said violently:

                "You are to eat this all up, and if you do not eat it all up, I will thrash you with my copper cheeks!"

                And now Atdlarneq began eagerly chewing blubber with his fish; he chewed and chewed, and at last he had eaten it all up. Then he went to the water bucket, and lifted it to his mouth and drank, and drank it all to the last drop.

                Hardly had he done this when the man said:

                "And now the frozen meat."

                And they brought in the half of a black seal. And Atdlarneq ate and ate until there was no more left, save a very little piece.

                When the man saw there was some not eaten, he cried out violently again:

                "Give him some more to eat."

                And when Atdlarneq had eaten again for a while, he did not wish to eat more. But then they brought in a whole black seal. And the man set that also before him, and cried:

                "Eat that up too."

                And so Atdlarneq was forced to stuff himself mightily once more. He ate and ate, and at last he had eaten it all up. And again he emptied the water bucket.

                After all that he felt very well indeed, and seemed hardly to have eaten until now. But that was because he had swallowed a little stalk of grass before he began.

                So Atdlarneq slept, and next morning he went back home again. But after having thus nearly gorged himself to death, he never went southward again.


The particular source of this tale is West Greenland.


[1] There is a fabulous being in Eskimo folklore supposed to have cheeks of copper, with which he can deliver terrible blows by a side movement of the head. Naughty children are frequently threatened with "Copper-cheeks" as a kind of bogey.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Atdlarneq, the Great Glutton
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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