Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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[This tale is chiefly taken from a single manuscript, but nevertheless it is well known all over Greenland. Some slight traces will be found in it of the Indian Hiawatha tale.]
GIVIOK (pron. Ghiviok),1 it is told, lost his wife, and was about to leave his child and the place where she was buried, in despair. He only waited till the boy had gone to sleep, and then he let himself down from the ledge to the floor; but when the child began crying, he again lay down beside him. Once he was all ready, stooping down to get out of the entrance, but went back unable to leave his son. One day the little boy passionately entered the room, saying, "My mother is walking outside with a stranger." Giviok answered, p. 158 "Thy mother is not here; she is lying under the big stones yonder."1 But the little boy persisted, saying, "Look for thyself, then;" and when Giviok did look out of the window, he actually saw his wife in the arms of another man. At this he got into a great rage, went out, killed them, and put them on top of each other into the stone grave. Father and son now went to rest: but when the boy slept the father carried out his intention of taking flight; and passing through the doorway, this time resisted the cries of the boy, got into his kayak, and hastened away. He paddled on and on across the wild sea; he came to the whirlpool, and was nearly drawn into it. Somehow, however, he escaped. Then he got among the villainous sea-lice. First he tried to keep them back by striking at them with his kayak-stick; but that was soon devoured. Then he threw out his sealskin gloves; and seeing that they lasted a little longer, he bethought himself of covering his paddle-blades with a pair of old gloves, lest the beasts should attack his paddle before he could slip away from them; and then he managed to get past them. Continuing his voyage, he saw a long black line, and on approaching it he noticed it to be sea-weed, which he found to be so compact that he got out; and lying down to rest, he went to sleep on it. When he awoke, he pushed himself and his kayak on with his hands, and in this manner got across the sea-weed. He continued paddling until he came in sight of two icebergs, with a narrow passage between them; and he observed that the passage alternately opened and closed again. He tried to pass the icebergs by paddling round outside them, but they always kept ahead of him; and at length he ventured to go right between them. With great speed and alacrity he pushed on, and had just passed when the bergs closed together, and the stern-point of his kayak got p. 159 bruised between them. At last he caught a glimpse of something dark, and soon after he reached a great stretch of land looming ahead of him. Giviok now thought, "If this country be inhabited, I will be sure to find a bare rock;"1 and such a one he soon found. He shortly afterwards detected a house by the smoking chimney, and he soon concluded that they were busy cooking inside. He went straight on towards it, upset the funnel, and hid himself close by. Instantly a female came rushing out, saying, "I wonder if any one upset it?" upon which she again put it to rights; and meantime, perceiving Giviok, quickly re-entered the house, but as quickly returned, saying to him, "Thou art invited to step inside." On entering, he saw a hideous old hag lying beneath a coverlet, who ordered her daughter to go and fetch some berries; and, running out, she soon returned with a great quantity of them, profusely mixed up with fat. Giviok, while he was eating them, remarked, "They are really delicious;" and Usorsak (this was the name of the old hag) rejoined, "No wonder; the fat is of quite a young fellow;" but Giviok answered, "Fie! anything of that kind I cannot eat;" and stooping down, he noticed a lot of human heads all in a row beneath the ledge; and when the hag uncovered herself a little, and turned her back towards him, he saw something glittering close behind her. When they were all ready to go to rest, Giviok said, "I shall just go outside for an instant." Accordingly he went, and soon found a flat stone to cover his breast with; and re-entering, he lay down on the ledge beneath the window. No sooner did he seem to be sleeping, than he heard the daughter saying, "Now he is sound asleep;" and instantly the old hag came jumping down from her place on the main ledge; but on his feigning not to be quite asleep, she cautiously returned. When he again had become quiet, and lying on his back p. 160 was exposing his breast, the daughter again said, "He surely sleeps now;" and again the mother let herself down, even quicker than the first time, and jumping up where he was lying, she sat down with all her weight upon his chest, crying out, "Oh dear!" but instantly tumbled down. "What a pity!" cried the daughter; "Usorsak has broken her tail; she provided so nicely for all of us" (viz., killing men by help of her tail). Giviok now got up from his couch, let fall the stone, and escaped through the door, the daughter shouting after him, "Thou rascal! wouldn't I like to have had a taste of thy fine cheeks!" but he was already in his kayak, where he was nearly upset. Rising again, he broke out, "Shouldn't I like to harpoon her!" and so saying, he killed her on the spot. He now continued his journey; and after a while again reached a bare rock. At a little distance from it he landed; and, as before, went up to a house where he likewise upset the chimney-funnel, and afterwards hid himself. A woman again emerged from the doorway; and when she re-entered, he heard them wondering at the chimney having been upset, as there had not been any wind. When she again made her appearance, Giviok came forth, and was asked to come inside. Crossing the threshold, he observed that the walls were covered all over with hunting-bladders. Here, also, the inmates consisted of a mother and a daughter. The mother now spoke—"It will soon be low-water; it is a bad job for us that we have no one to haul in our draught when we have harpooned and fixed the bladders to the fishes." Giviok answered—"I have my kayak close by, and have just come from the bad women yonder, both of whom I have killed." "Then thanks to thee!" they exclaimed. "We, too, have had men in our house, but these monsters put all of them to death; but now thou hadst better stay here with us." Giviok at once consenting, they went on saying, "To-morrow we shall have low-water, and p. 161 when thou hearest a roaring noise, thou must hasten back; then the high tide sets in, and thou must be back on shore." They then went to sleep. Giviok was sound asleep when he was awakened by the roaring waters, and saw the daughter glide through the house-passage. He hastened down to the shore; but when he arrived, the women had already caught a number of halibut, which were lying high and dry on the beach. He was only in time to finish off a few when the sound of the rising waters was again heard, and the great waves came rolling over him, so that he had a narrow escape to the coast. The harpooned fish, on account of the bladders, kept floating on the surface, but drove across to the opposite shore. Giviok, however, fetched them back in his kayak, for which the women were very thankful to him; and he remained with them for some time. After a while, the memory of his son haunted him, and he said to himself, "My poor little son! what a pitiful thing it was to hear him cry when I went away! Some day I must go and see him." So he left the place, and travelled on and on, encountering all the dangers he had met with on his departure from home, but once more happily getting past them. At last he reached the opposite country, and he heard people singing. He followed the song, and fell in with a great many boats tugging a whale along, on which stood a vigorous man. He did not recognise him; but this was his son, and he had been catching the whale. The father left him a weeping child, and now beheld him a great hunter, standing on a whale's back.
1 The letter G, used, as in this instance, to begin a word, is in the Greenlandish language abnormal. It has been adopted from the original manuscripts, but the name ought perhaps to have been called Kiviok.
1 The Eskimo in Greenland and the greater part of their territories have always been buried under heaps of stones.
1 A place used for drying provisions, and therefore without moss.