Site Map
Inuit Tales
Section › 65   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    


Kalopaling is a strange being who lives in the northern seas. He is shaped like a man except that his feet are very large and look like sealskin muffs. His clothing is made of the skins of eider ducks. And as their bellies are white and their backs are black, his clothes are spotted all over. He cannot speak, but cries all the time, "Be, be! Be, be!"

His jacket has an enormous hood. The Inuits fear it, for if a kayak upsets and the boatman is drowned, Kalopaling grabs him and puts him into the hood.

The Inuit say that in olden times there were a great many of these creatures, and they often sat in a row along the ice floes, like a flock of diver birds. There has become less and less of them, till now there are but a few left.

They often chase the hunters, but when a Kalopaling sits sleeping, a hunter can sneak up to him and throw a walrus harpoon into him.

Once an old woman and her grandson were living by themselves in a small hut. They had no men to hunt for them and were very poor. Once in a while, but not often, some of the other Inuit took pity on them and brought them seal's meat and blubber for their lamp.

One day the boy was so hungry that he cried aloud. His grandmother told him to be quiet, but he cried the harder. She became vexed with him and cried out, "Ho, Kalopaling, come and take this fretful boy away!"

At once the door opened and Kalopaling came hobbling in on his clumsy feet made for swimming and not for walking. The woman put the boy into the Kalopaling's large hood. There he was completely hidden. Then the Kalopaling disap¬peared as quickly as he had come.

By and by the Inuits caught more seals than usual and gave her plenty of meat. Then she was sorry that she had given her grandson away, and was more than ever sorry that it was to Kalopaling she had given him. She thought how much of the time he must have to stay in the water with that strange man-like animal. She wept about it, and begged the other Inuits to help her get him back.

Some of them said they had seen the boy sitting by a crack in the ice, playing with a whip of sea¬weed, but none of them knew how to get him. Finally one of the hunters and his wife said, "We may never succeed, but we will see what we can do."

The water had frozen into thick ice, and the rise and fall of the tide had broken long cracks not far from the shore. Every day the boy used to rise out of the water and sit beside the cracks, playing and watching the fish swim down below. Kalopaling was afraid someone might carry the boy away, so he had fastened him to a string of seaweed, the other end of which he kept in his hand.

The hunter and his wife watched for the boy to come out, and when they saw him they went toward him. But the boy did not want to go back to live with his grandmother, and as they came near he called out:

"Two men are coming; one with a double jacket, the other with a fox-skin jacket."

Then Kalopaling pulled on the string and the boy disappeared into the water.

Some time after this the hunter and his wife saw the boy again. But before they could lay hold of him the lad sang out, "Two men are coming."

And again Kalopaling pulled the string and the boy slipped into the water.

However, the hunter and his wife did not give up trying. They went near the crack and hid behind the big blocks of ice which the tide had piled up. The next time when the boy had just come out they sprang forward and cut the rope before he had time to give the alarm. Then away they went with him to their hut.

As the lad did not wish to return to his grandmother, he stayed with the hunter, and as he grew to be a man he learned all that his new father could teach him, and became the most famous hunter of the tribe.

[A Canadian Inuit tale retold from Bayliss, No. 4.]


The Red Skeleton

In a village on Cape Prince of Wales, very long ago, there was a poor orphan boy who had no one to take his part and who was treated badly by everyone, and he was made to run here and there at the bidding of all the villagers.

One snowy night he was told to go out of the assembly house to see if the weather was getting worse. He had no skin boots, and it was so cold that he did not wish to go, but he was driven out. When he came back he said, "It has stopped snowing but it is as cold as ever."

Just to plague him, the men kept sending him out every little while, until at last he came in saying:

"I saw a ball of fire like the moon coming over the hill to the north."

The men laughed at him and asked, "Why do you tell us a yarn like that? Go out again and see if there is not a whale coming over the hill! You are always seeing things."

He went out, and came in again quickly, saying in agitation, "The red thing has come nearer and is close to this house."

The men laughed, but the boy hid himself. Right after this the men in the assembly house saw a fiery figure dancing on the gut-skin covering over the roof hole, and an instant after a human skeleton came crawling into the room through the passageway, creeping on its knees and elbows.

When the skeleton was in the room it made a motion toward the people which caused them all to fall on their knees and elbows in the same position as itself had. Then, turning about, it crawled out as it had come, followed by the people, for they were forced to go with it by some strange power. Outside, the skeleton crept through the snow toward the edge of the village, followed by all the men, and in a short time every one of them was dead and the skeleton had vanished.

Some of the villagers had been away when the spook came, and when they returned they found dead people lying all about on the cold ground. Entering the assembly house, they found the orphan boy, who told them how the people had been killed.

They followed the tracks of the skeleton through the snow, and were led up the side of the mountain till they came to an old grave. There the tracks ended.

It was the grave of the boy's father.

[An Alaskan Inuit tale from Bayliss No. 27.]

NOTE. Have you ever wondered how skeletons can move at all without sinus strings and muscles and nerves, brains and senses that others need? It boils down to: "Don't believe everything you hear." All in all the scare tale is made to teach people to be considerate to the weak and poor, or . . . To scare for care, is it bad or neutral? One may wonder.


The Origin of the Narwhal

Narwhal. The long spiralled "horn" in front is a long tooth. Average body size (head and body, excepting the tooth) is from ca. 4 to 5.5 metres. It can become up to 50 years.

A long, long time ago a widow lived with her young son and daughter in a small hut. They had a hard time to get enough to eat. But the boy was anxious to do all he could, and while he was still quite small he made a bow and arrows of walrus tusks which he found under the snow. With these weapons he shot birds for their food.

He had no snow goggles and one day when the sun shone bright and he was hunting, he became utterly blind. He had a hard time finding his way back to the hut, and when he got there without any game his mother was so disappointed that instead of pitying him for his blindness she became angry with him.

From that time she ill-treated him, never giving him enough to eat. He was a growing boy and needed a great deal of food. She thought he wanted more than his share, so she gave him less, and would not allow her daughter to give him anything. So the boy lived on, half starving, and was very unhappy.

One day a polar bear came to the hut and thrust his head right through the window. They were all much frightened, and the mother gave the boy his bow and arrows and told him to kill he animal.

"But I cannot see the window and I shall miss the bear. Then it will be furious and will eat us," he said.

"Quick, brother! I will level the bow," said his sister.

So he shot and killed the bear, and the mother and sister went out and skinned it and buried the meat in the snow.

"Don't you dare to tell your brother that he killed the bear," said the mother. "We must make this meat last all winter."

When they went back into the hut she said to her son, "You missed the bear. He ran away as soon as he saw you take your bow and arrow. We have been following him a long way into the woods."

The sister did not dare to tell her brother. She and her mother lived on the meat for a long time while the boy was nearly starving. But sometimes when the mother was away, the girl gave him meat, for she loved her brother dearly and used to weep because she knew he was hungry.

One day a loon flew over the hut, and, seeing the poor blind boy at the door, resolved to restore his eyesight. The bird perched on the roof and kept calling, "Quee moo! Quee moo!" which sounded to the lad like "Come here! Come here!"

He went out and followed the bird to the water. There the loon took the boy on its back and dived with him to the bottom. The loon is a great diver and can stay for a long time under water, but it knew the boy could not. So it came to the surface soon and asked, "Can you see anything?"

"No, I cannot," answered the boy.

They dove again and remained a longer time. Again when they came up the loon asked, "Can you see now?"

"I can see a dim shimmer," replied the boy.

"Take a long, long breath and hold it while we go down," said the loon. "When you can hold it no more, let it come out very gradually. As soon as the bubbles of air begin to rise I will know that you must come to the surface and will bring you."

The third time they remained a long while under water, and when they rose to the surface the boy could see as well as ever. He thanked the loon very heartily, and it said to him:

"Go to your home now; but promise me never again to shoot a bird."

He gladly promised, and then ran away to his hut. There he found the skin of the bear he had shot hanging up to dry. He was so angry that he tore it down and, entering the hut, demanded of his mother, "Where did you get the bearskin that is hanging outside the house?"

His mother perceived that he had recovered his sight and that he suspected the truth about the bear. She was frightened at his anger and sought to pacify him.

"Come here," she said, "and I will give you the best I have. But I have no one to support me and am very poor. Come here and eat this. It is very good."

The boy did not go near. Again he asked, "Where did you get the bearskin that I saw hanging outside the door?"

She was afraid to tell him the truth, so she said, "A boat came here with many men in it and they gave me the skin."

The boy did not believe her story. He was sure that it was the skin of the bear he had shot. But he said nothing more. His mother was anxious to make peace with him, and offered him food and clothing, but he refused to take it.

He went to the other Inuit who lived in the same village and made a spear and a harpoon of the same pattern as they used. Then he watched them throw the harpoons, and in a short time he became an expert hunter and could catch many white whales.

But he could not forget his anger at his mother. He said to his sister, "I will not come home while our mother lives in the house. She abused me while I was blind and helpless, and she mistreated you for pitying me. We will not kill her, but we will get rid of her and then live together. Will you do what I have planned?"

She agreed. Then he went to hunt white whales. As he had no kayak he stood on shore, winding the end of the harpoon string around his body, and taking a firm footing so he could hold the whale until it quieted down and died. Sometimes his sister went along to help him hold the line.

One day his mother went to the beach, and he tied the string around her body and told her to take a firm footing. She was a trifle nervous, for he had never done the thing before, and said, "Harpoon a small dolphin. I may not be able to hold an animal that makes a strong pull."

After a short time a young animal came up to breathe, and she cried, "Kill that one. I can hold it."

"No, it is too small to feed on for a month," he said.

Again a small dolphin came near, and the mother shouted, "Spear that."

But he said, "No, it is still too small."

At last a white whale arose quite near. Then he threw his harpoon. He missed any killing spots. The whale was only wounded, and got away from there at once with the woman tied to the harpoon and dragged into the sea. Whenever she came to the surface to breathe she cried "Louk! Louk!" and gradually was changed into a narwhal.

[A Canadian Inuit tale retold from Bayliss No. 1.]


Book Nook

Inuit tales, To top    Section     Set    Next

Inuit tales. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2015–2018, Tormod Kinnes [Email]