Itajung was vexed because a young woman would not marry him, so he left home and travelled far away into the land of the birds. He came to a small lake where many geese were swimming. On the shore he saw a great many boots. He cautiously crept near and stole a pair and hid them.
Soon the birds came out of the water. When they noticed a pair of boots were missing they were alarmed and quickly formed into two long lines with their leader at the point where the lines met, and then they flew away crying, "Honk! Honk! Honk!"
One of the flock remained behind crying, "I want my boots! I want my boots!"
Itajung came forth from his hiding-place and said, "I will return your boots to you if you will be my wife."
"Thanks, but I would rather not," she replied.
"Very well," he said, and turned around to go away.
"I don't want to, but if you will bring back my boots I will be your wife anyway," she called.
He came back and gave her the boots, and when she put them on she was changed into a woman. They walked away together, and wandered down to the seaside, since she liked to live near the water. They settled in a large village by the sea. Here they lived for several years and had a son. Itajung became a highly respected man, for he was by far the best whaler in all the Inuit tribe.
One day they killed a whale and were busy cutting it up and carrying the meat and blubber to their homes. Many of the women were helping, but though Itajung was working very hard, his wife stood looking on only, without taking part in the work.
"Come and help us," he called to her.
"My food is not like that," she replied. "I will not eat whale meat or help you make food from it."
"You must eat it; it will fill your stomach," he said.
She began to cry, "I will not eat it, and I will not soil my nice white clothing."
Then she went to the beach and searched for feathers. When she found some, she put them between her fingers and the fingers of her child. They were both turned into geese and flew away. When the Inuit saw this they cried, "Itajung, your wife is flying away."
Itajung became very sad. He no longer cared for the meat and blubber or for the whales spouting near the shore. He followed in the direction his wife had taken, and went a long way over land in search of her.
After travelling for many weary months, he came to a river where a man with a large axe was chopping chips from a piece of wood. He chopped so fast that they were turned into salmon and slipped out of the man's hands into the river and swam down to a large lake nearby. The name of the man was Small Salmon.
As Itajung looked at the man he was frightened, for the back of the man was entirely hollow, and Itajung could see right through him and out at the other side. He was so scared that he kept very still and crept back and away out around him. He wanted to ask if the man had seen his wife; that was what he asked everyone he came to. So he went around and came from the opposite direction, facing the man.
When Small Salmon saw him approaching, he stopped chopping and asked, "Which way did you approach me?"
"In the end I came from that direction," said Itajung, pointing in the way he had last approached.
"That is lucky for you. Otherwise I should have killed you with my hatchet for seeing a side to me I do not like others to know about."
"I am relieved you did not use your hatchet on me," said Itajung, "But have you seen my wife? She left me and came this way."
"Yes, I saw her. Do you see that little island in the large lake? That is where she lives now and she has taken another husband."
"Oh, I can never reach her," said Itajung in despair. "I have no boat and do not know how to reach the island."
"I will help you," said Small Salmon kindly. "Come down to the beach with me. Here is the backbone of a salmon. Now shut your eyes. The backbone will turn into a kayak and carry you safely to the island. But mind you keep your eyes shut. If you open them the kayak will soon overturn."
"I will mind what you say as well as I can," said Itajung.
He closed his eyes, the backbone became a kayak, and away he sped over the water. He heard no splashing and was anxious to know if he really was moving, so he peeped open his eyes a trifle. At once the boat began to swing violently, but he quickly shut his eyes again, and then the kayak went on steadily again and he soon landed on the island.
There he saw a hut and his son playing on the beach near it. On looking up the boy recognized him and ran to his mother, crying:
"Mother, Father is here and is coming to our hut."
"Go back to your play," she said. "Your father is far away and cannot find us."
The lad went back, but again he ran in, saying: "Mother, Father is here and is coming to our hut."
Again she sent him away; but he soon returned, saying: "Father is right here."
He had scarcely said it when Itajung opened the door. When the new husband saw him he said to his wife, "Open that box in the corner of the hut."
She did so, and a great quantity of feathers flew out and stuck fast to them. The hut disappeared. The woman, her new husband, and the child were transformed into geese and flew away, leaving Itajung standing alone.
She had made up her mind.
[A Canadian Inuit tale retold from Bayliss No. 6.]