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Story No. 1163


Book Name:

Eskimo Folk-Tales

Tradition: Eskimo, Greenland, Inuit

Ukaleq, men say, was a strong man. Whenever he heard news of game, even if it were a great bear, he had only to go out after it, and he never failed to kill it.

Once the winter came, and the ice grew firm, and then men began to go out hunting bears on the ice. One day there was a big bear. Ukaleq set off in chase, but he soon found that it was not to be easily brought down.

The bear sighted Ukaleq, and turned to pursue him. Ukaleq fled, but grew tired at length. Now and again he managed to wound the beast, but was killed himself at last, and at the same time the bear fell down dead.

Now when his comrades came to look at the bear, its teeth began to whisper, and then they knew that Ukaleq had been killed by a Magic Bear.[1] And as there was no help for it, they took the dead man home with them. And then his mother said:

"Lay him in the middle of the floor with a skin beneath him." She had kept the dress he had worn as a little child, and now that he was dead, she put it in her carrying bag, and went out with it to the cooking place in the passage. And when she got there, she said:

"For five days I will neither eat nor drink." 

Then she began hushing the dress in the bag as if it were a child, and kept on hushing it until at last it began to move in the bag, and just as it had commenced to move, there came some out from the house and said:

"Ukaleq is beginning to quiver." 

But she kept on hushing and hushing, and at last that which she had in the bag began trying to crawl out. But then there came one from the house and said:

"Ukaleq has begun to breathe; he is sitting up." 

Hardly was this said when that which was in the bag sprang out, making the whole house shake. Then they made up a bed for Ukaleq on the side bench, and placed skins under him and made him sit up. And after five days had passed, and that without eating or drinking, he came to himself again, and commenced to go out hunting once more.

Then the winter came, and the winter was there, and the ice was over the sea, and when the ice had formed, they began to make spirit callings. The villages were close together, and all went visiting in other villages.

And at last Ukaleq set out with his family to a village near by, where there was to be a big spirit calling. The house where it was to be held was so big that there were three windows in it, and yet it was crowded with folk.

In the middle of the spirit calling, there was an old woman who was sitting cross-legged up on the bench, and she turned round towards the others and said:

"We heard last autumn that Ukaleq had been killed by a Magic Bear." Hardly had she said those words when an old wifeless man turned towards her and said:

"Was it by any chance your Magic Bear that killed him?" 

Then the old woman turned towards the others and said: 

"Mine? Now where could I have kept such a thing?" 

But after saying that she did not move. She even forgot to breathe, for shame at having been discovered by the wifeless man, and so she died on the spot.

After that Ukaleq went home, and never went out hunting bears again. 

Here ends this story.


West Greenland

[1] I.e. a creature fashioned by an enemy, after the same manner as a Tupilak.


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