Sunday, March 2, 2014

Eskimo Folk-Tales: Qalagánguasê, Who Passed to the Land of Ghosts

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).



Qalagánguasê, Who Passed to the Land of Ghosts

THERE was once a boy whose name was Qalagánguasê; his parents lived at a place where the tides were strong. And one day they ate seaweed, and died of it. Then there was only one sister to look after Qalagánguasê, but it was not long before she also died, and then there were only strangers to look after him.

Qalagánguasê was without strength; the lower part of his body was dead, and one day when the others had gone out hunting, he was left alone in the house. He was sitting there quite alone, when suddenly he heard a sound. Now he was afraid, and with great pains he managed to drag himself out of the house into the one beside it, and here he found a hiding-place behind the skin hangings. And while he was in hiding there, he heard a noise again, and in walked a ghost.

"Ai! There are people here!" The ghost went over to the water tub and drank, emptying the dipper twice.

"Thanks for the drink which I thirsty one received," said the ghost. "Thus I was wont to drink when I lived on earth." And then it went out.

Now the boy heard his fellow-villagers coming up and gathering outside the house, and then they began to crawl in through the passage way.

"Qalagánguasê is not here," they said, when they came inside.

"Yes, he is," said the boy. "I hid in here because a ghost came in. It drank from the water tub there." And when they went to look at the water tub, they saw that something had been drinking from it.

Then some time after, it happened again that the people were all out hunting, and Qalagánguasê alone in the place. And there he sat in the house all alone, when suddenly the walls and frame of the house began to shake, and next moment a crowd of ghosts came tumbling into the house, one after the other, and the last was one whom he knew, for it was his sister, who had died but a little time before.

And now the ghosts sat about on the floor and began playing; they wrestled, and told stories, and laughed all the time.

At first Qalagánguasê was afraid of them, but at last he found it a pleasant thing to make the night pass. And not until the villagers could be heard returning did they hasten away.

"Now mind you do not tell tales," said the ghost, "for if you do as we say, then you will gain strength again, and there will be nothing you cannot do." And one by one they tumbled out of the passage way. Only Qalagánguasê's sister could hardly get out, and that was because her brother had been minding her little child, and his touch stayed her. And the hunters were coming back, and quite close, when she slipped out. One could just see the shadow of a pair of feet.

"What was that?" said one. "It looked like a pair of feet vanishing away."

"Listen, and I will tell you," said Qalagánguasê, who already felt his strength returning. "The house has been full of people, and they made the night pass pleasantly for me, and now, they say, I am to grow strong again."

But hardly had the boy said these words, when the strength slowly began to leave him.

"Qalagánguasê is to be challenged to a singing contest," he heard them say, as he lay there. And then they tied the boy to the frame post and let him swing backwards and forwards, as he tried to beat the drum. After that, they all made ready, and set out for their singing contest, and left the lame boy behind in the house all alone. And there he lay all alone, when his mother, who had died long since, came in with his father.

"Why are you here alone?" they asked.

"I am lame," said the boy, and when the others went off to a singing contest, they left me behind."

"Come away with us," said his father and mother.

"It is better so, perhaps," said the boy.

And so they led him out, and bore him away to the land of ghosts, and so Qalagánguasê became a ghost.

And it is said that Qalagánguasê became a woman when they changed him to a ghost. But his fellow-villagers never saw him again.



(700 words)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for Google accounts; you can also contact me at laura-gibbs@ou.edu.