Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
Index Previous Next
[Of this story there is only one manuscript, written down in North Greenland before 1828.]
THE parents of Namak were both killed by their house-fellows; and while he was as yet but a weak and helpless child, a man happened to take pity on him and adopted him for his son. But this same foster-father p. 203 was fond of worrying the boy, and inventing stories to frighten and excite him. Sometimes, when the child was asleep, he would cry out, "Namak, thy enemies have come to kill thee, too." At first he was much alarmed, but by degrees he got used to it. But sometimes his foster-father would say, "Ah, how forgetful that Namak is! Here are his parents newly murdered, and he forgetting all about it." At this, Namak would get into a great rage. When he was still a child, his father one day made him a present of a sling, saying, "I don't mean to give thee a kayak, because I believe that thy enemies will kill thee for all that; but take this sling and practise with it." Namak instantly began to do so, and soon got very clever in using it. In the spring he would betake himself to solitary places, practising his sling, always pondering over the things his foster-father had said to stir up vengeance within him. At home he spoke little, but inwardly rejoiced at his growing strength. Sometimes he brought in hares, and sometimes ptarmigan; he got them entirely by means of his sling. In the summer he never slept at night, but always in the day-time. Sometimes, when he had gone to sleep, his father would bring home a seal, and he was then awakened to assist in carrying it up to the house; but he would then hide his strength, and make-believe it was very hard work for him. One day, however, he said that his sling was too weak, and his father went to cut him a stronger one out of a very thick piece of seal-skin; and after that time he left off gibing the boy, because he began to fear him. During the winter it was reported that the enemies of Namak intended to remove farther to the north in spring. He got quite enraged at the thought that they would be going away before he could be revenged; and from that day his manner changed altogether. When spring came round, and they left their winter-house for the tents, he one day said, "I wish I could get myself a new sling." On p. 204 hearing this the father went out in his kayak, and had the good-luck to catch a thong-seal.1 This he brought in while Namak was still asleep. When the women were busy flensing it, and preparing the skin for boat-covers, the husband said, "It just occurs to me that Namak is wanting a sling." He then roused him, saying, "Namak, thy enemies are making ready to depart." He awoke and ran out, and stood staring at the neighbours. On his way down to the beach, his foster-father said to him, "Just cut out a line for thy sling, wherever thou choosest." Keeping an eye upon his neighbours, he took the knife from his father, lifted up the seal by one of the forepaws with only one hand, and turning it over without any difficulty, cut himself a sling to his liking, all in one piece. On seeing this his foster-father got quite frightened. Some time after this, their neighbours were really going to depart. Namak slept, and his father roused him with these words, "Namak, this time thou mayst believe me; thy enemies are in the very act of departing:" but Namak did not think fit to stir; he had been cheated too often. The father again cried to him, "Now they are taking their tents away,"—and as he himself could hear the clattering of the bars and poles, he rose and put on jacket and boots, but without getting into the sleeves of his jacket, and catching hold of his sling from under the ledge, he hid it inside. Further down on the beach were some large stone-heaps; there he lay in ambush. Now that he had determined to revenge himself, he no more concealed his strength. While some were yet bringing down their luggage, the first boat put out, rowing briskly, and when right athwart of him, Namak put a big stone in his sling, and threw it into the boat, where it made a large hole, so that it instantly began to sink. " Alas! alas!" they cried. The other boat hurried on to rescue them, but underwent the same fate. The third one tried to save p. 205 itself by turning in time, but at that instant he flung the stone at it, hitting the prow and cleaving right through; and thus he destroyed three boats, crews and all, and his mind now got rest. One boat was saved from destruction, as it had gone out to sea at once, instead of keeping along the shore. His enemies increased in number after they had established themselves somewhere
in the north; and seeing that they had reason to fear him, they trained themselves to be as vigorous as he. Namak married, and though he had never had a kayak himself, he taught his son to practise kayak-paddling. He grew up and came to be an excellent kayaker; and subsequently owned a boat as well as a tent. Now and then reports reached them from their enemies that they were numerous, and also strong. At last he persuaded his son to go and look them up; and in spring they went away northward in their boat, asking the people p. 206 they met with, "Where are Namak's enemies?" "Farther north" was the constant answer. At last they learned that their station was close at hand; and from that time they did not as usual land in the evening to take rest, but rowed on incessantly. On their arrival they asked the people who came down to the beach to meet them, " Where are Namak's enemies?" To this, however, they made no reply, but entered their houses, and the travellers had to make their way on shore by themselves; neither were they afterwards invited to visit them. However, they took up their winter-quarters at that very place, and settled down for the time. In the beginning of their stay, Namak advised his son to watch them closely, but afterwards they got less suspicious. That same winter, one morning, it blew a gale from the south-west, and the kayakers remained at home, and on that day it was announced, "They all want to see Namak." He was ready in a moment; the son likewise went: and thus they were going to visit their enemies for the first time. There was only set forth meat for two. The son did not taste much of it, but the father continued eating till the dish was nearly emptied. The visitors did not speak; but at length one of the other party proposed different sports, saying, "Ye ought to try strength at the pulling-thong first;" and then he took out the string fitted with walrus-teeth from beneath the ledge, and threw it upon the skin which was spread on the floor for the champions. But Namak said, "This is but child's-play for people who really want to try a match;" and so saying, he took hold of and tore the thong asunder with one hand, and then flung them down on the floor. Another offered to try strength with him, by hooking their arms together, and trying to pull each other over. Namak did not hesitate, but at once sat down on the skin. They now tried one after another, but nobody was able to move his arm in the least. Seeing that they were not able to match him, p. 207 they all departed. The son went home, but Namak never stirred, but stayed on. At last, however, he prepared to put on his outer coat, and did it very slowly and deliberately, always expecting an attack. They were never invited afterwards. In spring they again wanted to go to the south, and at parting he let his
house-fellows first go into the boat, while he kept back, still expecting an attack from his enemies; but seeing that they did not come, he finally left the place.
NOTE.—The native writer has added the following very characteristic remark: "It is generally supposed that if his foster-father had not continually excited him, he would scarcely have grown to be so immensely strong. People say that among our ancestors, before they became Christians, there was no lack of strong men, because their bad consciences induced them to cultivate their strength. Nowadays, since people have turned Christians, and have no bad consciences, there are no strong men among them."
1 Phoca barbata.