Myths & Legends



Inuit: Kalopaling

A tale of a chimera giant, the Kalopaling a fabulous being that lives in the sea. With a body like a human being, he wears clothing made of eider ducks.

A legend that features a giant monster.
— Orly

Kalopaling is a fabulous being that lives in the sea. His body is like that of a human being and he wears clothing made of eider ducks’ skins. Therefore he is sometimes called Mitiling (with eider ducks). As these birds have a black back and a white belly, his gown looked speckled all over. His jacket has an enormous hood, which is an object of fear to the Inuit. If a kayak capsizes and the boatman is drowned Kalopaling puts him into this hood. He cannot speak, but can only cry, “Be, be! Be, be!” His feet are very large and look like inflated sealskin floats.

The Inuit believe that in olden times there were a great number of Kalopalit, but gradually their number diminished and there are now very few left. They may be seen from the land swimming very rapidly under the water and sometimes rising to the surface. While swimming they make a great noise by splashing with arms and legs. In summer they like to bask on rocks and in winter they sometimes sit on the ice near cracks or at the edge of drifting floes. As they pursue the hunters the most daring men try to kill them whenever they can get near them. Cautiously they approach the sleeping Kalopaling, and as soon as they come near enough they throw the walrus harpoon at him. They must shut their eyes immediately until the Kalopaling is dead, else he will capsize the boat and kill the hunters. The flesh of the Kalopaling is said to be poisonous, but good enough for dog’s food.

An old tradition is handed down which refers to a Kalopaling:

An old woman lived with her grandson in a small hut. As they had no kinsmen they were very poor. A few Inuit only took pity on them and brought them seal’s meat and blubber for their lamps. Once upon a time they were very hungry and the boy cried. The grandmother told him to be quiet, but as he did not obey she became angry and called Kalopaling to come and take him away. He entered at once and the woman put the boy into the large hood, in which he disappeared almost immediately.

Later on the Inuit were more successful in sealing and they had an abundance of meat. Then the grandmother was sorry that she had so rashly given the boy to Kalopaling and wished to see him back 621again. She lamented about it to the Inuit, and at length a man and his wife promised to help her.

When the ice had consolidated and deep cracks were formed near the shore by the rise and fall of the tide, the boy used to rise and sit alongside the cracks, playing with a whip of seaweed. Kalopaling, however, was afraid that somebody might carry the boy away and had fastened him to a string of seaweed, which he held in his hands. The Inuit who had seen the boy went toward him, but as soon as he saw them coming he sang, “Two men are coming, one with a double jacket, the other with a foxskin jacket” (Inung maqong tikitong, aipa mirqosailing, aipa kapiteling). Then Kalopaling pulled on the rope and the boy disappeared. He did not want to return to his grandmother, who had abused him.

Some time afterward the Inuit saw him again sitting near a crack. They took the utmost caution that he should not hear them when approaching, tying pieces of deerskin under the soles of their boots. But when they could almost lay hold of the boy he sang, “Two men are coming, one with a double jacket, the other with a foxskin jacket.” Again Kalopaling pulled on the seaweed rope and the boy disappeared.

The man and his wife, however, did not give up trying. They resolved to wait near the crack, and on one occasion when the boy had just come out of the water they jumped forward from a piece of ice behind which they had been hidden and before he could give the alarm they had cut the rope and away they went with him to their huts.

The boy lived with them and became a great hunter.



Source:  C.K.B. [1]

Culture:  Inuit ("Eskimo")

Language Group:  The two main peoples known as "Eskimo" are: (1) the Alaskan Iñupiat peoples, Greenlandic Inuit, and the mass-grouping Inuit peoples of Canada, and (2) the Yupik of eastern Siberia and Alaska. The Yupik comprise speakers of four distinct Yupik languages: one used in the Russian Far East and the others among people of Western Alaska, Southcentral Alaska and along the Gulf of Alaska coast. A third northern group, the Aleut, is closely related to the Eskimo. They share a relatively recent common ancestor, and a language group (Eskimo-Aleut).

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