Eskimo Folk-Tales: Tungujuluk and Saunikoq

You can see some examples of bladder floats in the Arctic Material Culture Collection of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.

Here are Rasmussen's captions for the two images: "(1) Flying race between two wizards, one of whom, unable to keep up, has fallen to earth, and is vainly begging the other to stop. (2) Angiut, a 'helping spirit,' who knows all about everyone.

[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).


Tungujuluk and Saunikoq



TUNGUJULUK and Saunikoq were men from one village. And both were wizards. When they heard a spirit calling, one would change into a bear, and the other into a walrus.

Tungujuluk had a son, but Saunikoq had no children.

As soon as his son was old enough, Tungujuluk taught him to paddle a kayak. At this the other, Saunikoq, grew jealous, and began planning evil.

One morning when he awoke, he went out hunting seal as usual. He had been out some time, when he went up to an island, and called for his bearskin. When it came, he got into it, and moved off towards Tungujuluk's house. He landed a little way off, and then stole up to kill Tungujuluk's son. And when he came near, he saw him playing with the other children. But he did not know that his father had already come home and was sitting busily at work on the kayak he was making for his son. He was just about to go up to them, when the boy went weeping home to his father, and when his father looked round, there was a big bear already close to them. He took a knife and ran towards it and was just about to stab that bear, when it began to laugh. And then suddenly Tungujuluk remembered that his neighbour Saunikoq was able to take the shape of a bear. And he was now so angry that he had nearly stabbed him in spite of all, and it was a hard matter for him to hold back his knife.

But he did not forget that happening. He waited until a long time had passed, and at last, many days later, when he awoke in the morning, he went out in his kayak. On the way he came to an island. And going up on to that island, he called his other shape to him. When it came, he crawled into it, and became a walrus. And when he had thus become a walrus, he went to that place where it was the custom for kayaks to hunt seal. And when he came near, he looked round, and sighted Saunikoq, who lay there waiting for seal.

Now he rose to the surface quite near him, and when Saunikoq saw him, he came over that way. And Saunikoq lifted his harpoon to throw it, and the stroke could not fail. Therefore he made himself small, and crept over to one side of the skin. And when he was struck, he floundered about a little, but not too violently, lest he should break the line. Then he swam away under water with the bladder float, and folded it up under his arm, and took out the air from it, and swam in towards land, and swam and swam until he came to the land near by where his kayak was lying. Then he went to it, and having taken out the point of the harpoon, he went out hunting.

He struck a black seal, and rowed home at once. And when he had come home, he said to his wife: "Make haste and cook the breast piece."

And when that breast piece was cooked, and the other kayaks had come home, he made a meat feast, and Saunikoq, thinking nothing of any matter, came in with the others. When he came in, Tungujuluk made no sign of knowing anything, but went and took out the bladder and line from his kayak. And then all sat down to eat together. And they ate and were satisfied. And then each man began telling of his day's hunting.

At last Saunikoq said: "To-day, when I struck a walrus, I did not think at all that it should cause me to lose my bladder float. Where that came up again is a thing we do not know. That bladder float of mine was lost."

And when Saunikoq had said this, Tungujuluk took that bladder and line and laid them beside the meat dish, and said: "Whose can this bladder be, now, I wonder? Aha, at last I have paid you for the time when you came in the shape of a bear, and mocked us."

And when these words were said, the many who sat there laughed greatly. But Saunikoq got up and went away. And then next morning very early, he set out and rowed northward in his umiak. And since then he has not been seen.

So great a shame did he feel.







(800 words)

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