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Myths and Legends


Takanaaluk Arnaaluk, The Mother of All Sea Animals

There once was a girl who was waiting for the perfect husband. Her father eventually lost patience with her and told her she should marry his dog. As the family was going to sleep one night, a strange young man arrived and asked for shelter. During the night, he took the girl as his wife and she became pregnant by him. When the father found out that the girl was pregnant, he took her to a small island where he left her with his dog. From time to time, the dog would swim to the father's house and return with a package of food on his back which the girl's father had prepared. When her time came, the girl gave birth to several children, most of whom were of the dog form and some of whom were of the human form. Her father understood now that the strange man had been his own dog. He regretted the curse he had put on his daughter and resolved to get rid of the dog. The next time the dog came for provisions, he placed stones and sand in the package. When the dog tried to swim back to his family, he sank to the bottom of the sea. From then on, the father brought food to his daughter regularly.

When the girl learned what her father had done, she became very angry because the dog had been good to her. She ordered her dog children to tear up her father's kayak. The old man noticed what they were doing and managed to escape but he did not come back with food and soon the girl and her children had nothing to eat. The girl decided to send her children away. She laid the dog children in the sole of her boot and sent them out in the direction of the sea. It is said that the white people are descendants of these dog children. Then, she put her human children in her slipper and sent them drifting towards the land. It is said that the Indians are descendants of these human children.

The girl then returned to live with her father. One day, when her father was away hunting, a kayak approached and a good looking man with glasses invited her to come into his kayak. The girl decided to accept. After a while, the young man stepped out onto an ice floe and removed his glasses. The girl was surprised to see that the man's eyes were red and that he was very short. Only then did she realize that this man was a storm petrel in human form. It was too late and she had to resign herself to her fate. She lived with the bird-man in his little tent and had a child by him.

Meanwhile, the father had decided to look for his daughter once more. He finally found her and as the husband was out hunting, he promptly took her away. When the storm petrel noticed their boat from the sky, he flapped his wings so furiously that high waves threatened to upset the boat. The father pushed his daughter overboard so that the storm petrel couldn’t take her back. The girl clung to the boat and the father cut off the top joints of her fingers. As these fell into the sea, whales appeared. Still the girl hung on. The father cut off the next finger joints which turned into seals. Finally, the father cut off his daughter's hands which became walruses. The girl then slipped to the bottom of the sea where she became Takanaaluk Arnaaluk, the mother of all sea animals.

The father returned home but he felt such remorse that he wrapped himself in a skin and lay on the beach at low tide. When high tide came, it carried him out to sea. So it was that the father, the daughter and the dog were reunited at the bottom of the sea. The dog lies at the entrance of the house. The father lies on a bench wrapped in a skin and he is always in a bad mood. The daughter is the mother of all sea animals and she expects hunters to show great respect for the food they get from sea animals which were created out of her own hands.

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There once was a family made up of a woman, her young son and her daughter. Because the boy was a very skilled hunter, they were never short of food. But the mother came to resent her son as she grew tired of skinning so many animals and cutting up so much meat. How could she stop him from hunting, she wondered? One day while he slept, she rubbed blubber in his eyes, and from then on he could no longer see.

Now the mother and her daughter had to provide for the family, trapping foxes and hunting ptarmigan and other small game. The mother resented her son even more than before, and kept only the least appetizing morsels for him.

One winter day, a polar bear tried to break into the igloo through the thin ice-window. Quickly, the woman handed her boy his bow and arrow. Guided by his mother, he aimed at the bear. There was a loud thud as the arrow pierced the bear's flesh. The boy was sure he had killed it but his mother insisted that he hit the dog instead. A short distance from the igloo, the bear fell.

The woman cut up the meat and hid it for herself and her daughter. All she gave the boy was old fox meat. His sister felt sorry for him, so once in a while she hid some bear meat under her parka to give him. She did not say that it was bear meat, but the boy knew from the taste of the good meat that his mother had lied.

Spring came, the roof of the igloo melted, then it collapsed. The blind boy inside the igloo heard a loon flying overhead and called for help. The loon responded, and explained that the reason for his blindness was that dirt had been rubbed into his eyes. To see again, he would have to wash his eyes in a lake. The loon offered to lead him to this lake. The boy doubted that such a small bird could be of much help, but he followed it anyhow.

At the lake, the loon indicated that they were going to dive under the water. "Do not stir until you feel you are choking and dying" it said. The boy went down until he felt he was suffocating, then he moved and the loon brought him to the surface. "Can you see?" the loon asked. "I can see light" answered the boy. "Then you must go back down again" said the loon. When he felt that he was about to suffocate, he moved and the loon brought him back to the surface. This time the boy could see land, but not too clearly. Again the loon and the boy went down. Finally, when they resurfaced, the boy could see a lemming going into its hole on the side of a far away hill. At the same time, he was surprised to see that the loon was as big as a kayak. "What can I do in return for your help?" he asked. The loon replied that there were no fish in the lake and asked him to put some in so that it would have food.

The boy returned home to the igloo where his mother lay fast asleep and pretended he was still blind. He noticed the filthy skins he had been sleeping on when he was blind. When his mother woke up, he asked for some water and she gave him water which was dirty and crawling with water lice. The boy pushed the cup away in disgust. Realizing that her son could see, she quickly brought him fresh water.

After this the boy began to provide for the family once again, and soon there was an abundance of food as in the past. Then one day, seeing whales close to the shore, the boy asked his mother for help. "Stand behind me and tie the harpoon line around your waist so that we can pull the whale together when I harpoon it", said the boy. "Aim for the smallest one" she said. But he waited for the largest whale and harpooned it. Then, instead of pulling on the line with his mother, he let it go and the large whale dragged her into the sea. As she was going under, the woman cried "Lumaa, lumaa, lumaa".

Thus ends the story of the woman who was cruel to her son. It is said that long afterwards, hunters could sometimes hear the mother's cries of anguish as she was pulled across the sea.

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The Man and the Giant

A man went fishing one day. He tried to catch fish for a long time because he was very hungry. While he was fishing he kept searching the horizon in case other game came by. At some time he saw a figure that was approaching. Looking at it he realized it was a very big man, a giant. He knew he was in danger and that the giant might kill him. Being unable to escape, he decided to play dead by lying on the ground, stiffening his body and holding his breath.

When the giant arrived, he bent over the man so see if he was breathing. He prodded him and decided the man was dead. He then tied up the terrified man and hoisted him onto his back. The man playing dead remained stiff and tried not to breathe when he was on the giant's back. The giant got up and walked off with the man across land where bushes were growing. The man then got an idea. "If I grab onto the branches, the giant will tire!" He then grabbed the branches whenever the giant would pass them. Often, he would suddenly let go of the branches causing the giant to lurch and almost fall. Soon the giant stopped to rest and he examined the man again to see if he was dead. The man held his breath and did not move and the giant concluded he was dead. The giant got up and began to walk once more.

When the giant arrived home, he set the man on the ground in the house near the door. The giant was tired and lay down to sleep while his wife examined his catch. She then went off to prepare things for a meal. The man understood that it was him they intended to eat and desperately tried to find a way to escape. He slowly opened his eyes to peek around at the room but the giants children saw him and cried "He is moving his eyes, he is moving his eyes!" The giant said "That man is very dead" and angrily told his children to let him sleep.

When his eyes were open the man had seen an axe lying near the giant. The giant fell back to sleep despite noise from his children and the man saw his chance. He lunged for the axe and swung it at the giant, killing him. He then ran through the partially opened door towards freedom, rushing by the giant's wife who was outside. She took after him and, being much taller than the man, was quickly gaining on him. Still holding the axe, the man struck the ground with it and the ground opened up. Water gushed into the void and a river appeared. The giant's wife arrived at the river's edge and called out to the man "How did you get across!" "By drinking the water!" he replied. She then began to drink from the river and drank until she thought she could not take another drop. The man urged her on and she drank more water. Suddenly she burst and the air was filled with a thick fog. When the fog dissipated the man found his way home. That is how fog was created and why it is everywhere.

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