Sunday, March 2, 2014

Eskimo Folk-Tales: Isigâligârssik

As Rasmussen explains in his note to this story: "The first dress worn by a child is supposed to act as a charm against wounds if the former wearer can put it on when a grown man."

For the image he notes: "Wizard preparing for a 'spirit flight.' He is bound head to knees and hands behind; the magic drum resting on his foot is beating itself. Bird's wings are fastened to his back."

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Eskimo Folk Tales unit. Story source: Eskimo Folk-Tales by Knud Rasmussen with illustrations by native Eskimo artists (1921).


Isigâligârssik



ISIGÂLIGÂRSSIK was a wifeless man, and he was very strong. One of the other men in his village was a wizard.

Isigâligârssik was taken to live in a house with many brothers, and they were very fond of him.

When the wizard was about to call upon his spirits, it was his custom to call in through the window: "Only the married men may come and hear." And when they who were to hear the spirit calling went out, a little widow and her daughter and Isigâligârssik always stayed behind together in the house. Once, when all had gone out to hear the wizard, as was their custom, these three were thus left alone together. Isigâligârssik sat by the little lamp on the side bench, at work.

Suddenly he heard the widow's daughter saying something in her mother's ear, and then her mother turned towards him and said: "This little girl would like to have you."

Isigâligârssik would also like to have her, and before the others of the house had come back, they were man and wife. Thus when the others of the house had finished and came back, Isigâligârssik had found a wife, and his house-fellows were very glad of this.

Next day, as soon as it was dark, one called, as was the custom: "Let only those who have wives come and hear." And Isigâligârssik, who had hefore had no wife, felt now a great desire to go and hear this. But as soon as he had come in, the great wizard said to Isigâligârssik's wife: "Come here; here."

When she had sat down, he told her to take off her shoes, and then he put them up on the drying frame. Then they made a spirit calling, and when that was ended, the wizard said to Isigâligârssik: "Go away now; you will never have this dear little wife of yours again."

And then Isigâligârssik had to go home without a wife. And Isigâligârssik had to live without a wife. And every time there was a spirit calling, and he went in, the wizard would say: "Ho, what are you doing here, you who have no wife?"

But now anger grew up slowly in him at this, and once when he came home, he said: "That wizard in there has mocked me well, but next time he asks me, I shall know what to answer."

But the others of the village warned him, and said: "No, no; you must not answer him. For if you answer him, then he will kill you."

But one evening when the bad wizard mocked him as usual, Isigâligârssik said: "Ho, and what of you who took my wife away?"

Now the wizard stood up at once, and when Isigâligârssik bent down towards the entrance to creep out, the wizard took a knife, and stabbed him with a great wound.

Isigâligârssik ran quickly home to his house, and said to his wife's mother: "Go quickIy now and take the dress I wore when I was little. It is in the chest there."

And when she took it out, it was so small that it did not look like a dress at all, but it was very pretty. And he ordered her then to dip it in the water bucket. When it was wet, he was able to put it on, and when the lacing thong at the bottom touched the wound, it was healed.

Now when his house-fellows came out after the spirit-calling they thought to find him lying dead outside the entrance. They followed the blood spoor, and at last he had gone into the house. When they came in, he had not a single wound, and all were very glad for that he was healed again.

And now he said: "To-morrow I will go bow-shooting with him."

Then they slept, and awakened, and Isigâligârssik opened his little chest and searched it, and took out a bow that was so small it could hardly be seen in his hands. He strung that bow, and went out, and said: "Come out now and see."

Then they went out, and he went down to the wizard's house, and called through the window: "Big man in there, come out now and let us shoot with the bow!" And when he had said this, he went and stood by a little river. When he turned to look round, the wizard was already by the passage of his house, aiming with his bow.

He said: "Come here." And then Isigâligârssik drew up spittle in his mouth and spat straight down beside his feet. "Come here," he said then to the great wizard.

Then he went over to him, and came nearer and nearer, and stopped just before him. Now the wizard aimed with his bow towards him, and when he did this, the house-fellows cried to Isigâligârssik: "Make yourself small!"

And he made himself so small that only his head could be seen moving backwards and forwards. The wizard shot and missed. And a second time he shot and missed.

Then Isigâligârssik stood up, and took the arrow, and broke it across and said: "Go home; you cannot hit." And then the wizard went off turning many times to look round.

At last, when he bent down to get into his house through the passage way, Isigâligârssik aimed and shot at him. And they heard only the sound of his fall. The arrow was very little, and yet for all that it sent him all doubled up through the entrance, so that he fell down in the passage.

In this way Isigâligârssik won his wife again, and he lived with her afterwards until death.



(1000 words)

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