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The Guillemot That Could Talk

A man from the south heard one day of a guillemot* that could talk. It was said that this bird was to be found somewhere in the north, and therefore he set off to the northward and toiled along, north and north, in a skin boat.

He came to a village and said to the people there: "I am looking for a guillemot that can talk."

"Three days' journey away you will find one."

Then he stayed there only that night and went on again next morning. When he came to another village and asked the way, one of the men there said: "I know the way. Tomorrow I will go with you and guide you."

Next morning when they woke up, the two men set off together. They rowed and rowed and came in sight of a bird cliff. They came to the foot of the cliff. When they stood at the foot of it and looked up, it was a large cliff indeed.

"Now where is that guillemot, I wonder?" said the man from the south. He had hardly spoken when the man who was his guide said: "Here, here is the nest of that guillemot bird."

The man from the south was prepared to be very careful when the bird came out of its nest. At last the bird came out and went to the side of the cliff and stared down at the kayaks, stretching its body to make it very long. And sitting up there, it said quite clearly: "I think this must be that southern man who has come far from a place in the south to hear a guillemot."

The bird had hardly spoken when the guide saw that the man from the south had fallen forward on his face. The guide lifted up the man, but he was dead. He had died of fright at hearing the bird speak.

[Godthaab, West Greenland. Source: Rasmussen]

Guillemot
Guillemot.

View aGuillemot cliff.

* Guillemots are diving seabirds with red legs and feet. Two species have white patches on their wings, and the third has white "spectacles" in their face. In the breeding season their feathers are black, and in the winter much paler. At that time they are mottled above and white below.

They usually lay their eggs on rocky shores and islands on the coasts of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They eat fish and crustaceans among other things.

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