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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 1196


The Guillemot that could talk

Book Name:

Eskimo Folk-Tales

Tradition: Eskimo, Greenland, Inuit

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 an umiak.

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 it." 

Then he stayed there only that night, and went on again next morning. And when he came to a village, he had just asked his way, when one of the men there said:

"To-morrow I will go with you, and I will be a guide for you, because I know the way."

Next morning when they awoke, those two men set off together. They rowed and rowed and came in sight of a bird cliff. They came to the foot of that bird cliff, and when they stood at the foot and looked up, it was a mightily big bird cliff.

"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." 

And the man was prepared to be very careful when the bird came out of its nest. And it came out, that bird, 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:

"This, I think, must be that southern man, who has come far from a place in the south to hear a guillemot."

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

Then seeing there was no other thing to be done, he covered up the body at the foot of the cliff below the guillemot's nest, and went home. And told the others of his place that he had covered him there below the guillemot's nest because he was dead. And the umiak and its crew of women stayed there, and wintered in that place.

Next summer, when they were making ready to go southward again, they had no man to go with them. But on the way that wifeless man procured food for them by catching fish, and when he had caught enough to fill a pot, he rowed in with his catch.

And in this way he led them southward. When they came to their own country, they had grown so fond of him that they would not let him go northward again. And so that wifeless man took a wife from among those women, because they would not let him go away to the north.

It is said that the skeleton of that wifeless man lies there in the south to this day.

Comments:

Godthaab, West Greenland

Abstract:

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