Myths & Legends



Inuit: Kiviung

A story all too familiar, Kiviung comes to the aid of a victim of bullying through the use of magical powers and himself becomes the focus of an evil witches as he is tossed about by the fates of fortune in his act of revenge of the young victim. A story of consequences, forseen and unforseen.
— Orly

An old woman lived with her grandson in a small hut. As she had no husband and no son to take care of her and the boy, they were very poor, the boy’s clothing being made of skins of birds which they caught in snares. When the boy would come out of the hut and join his playfellows, the men would laugh at him and tear his outer garment. Only one man, whose name was Kiviung, was kind to the young boy; but he could not protect him from the others. Often the lad came to his grandmother crying and weeping, and she always consoled him and each time made him a new garment. She entreated the men to stop teasing the boy and tearing his clothing, but they would not listen to her prayer. At last she got angry and swore she would take revenge upon his abusers, and she could easily do so, as she was a great angakoq.

She commanded her grandson to step into a puddle which was on the floor of the hut, telling him what would happen and how he should behave. As soon as he stood in the water the earth opened and he sank out of sight, but the next moment he rose near the beach as a yearling seal with a beautiful skin and swam about lustily.

The men had barely seen the seal when they took to their kayaks, eager to secure the pretty animal. But the transformed boy quickly swam away, as his grandmother had told him, and the men continued in pursuit. Whenever he rose to breathe he took care to come up behind the kayaks, where the men could not get at him with their harpoons; there, however, he splashed and dabbled in order to attract their attention and lure them on. But before anyone could turn his kayak he had dived again and swam away. The men were so interested in the pursuit that they did not observe that they were being led far from the coast and that the land was now altogether invisible.

Suddenly a gale arose; the sea foamed and roared and the waves destroyed or upset their frail vessels. After all seemed to be drowned the seal was again transformed into the lad, who went home without wetting his feet. There was nobody now to tear his clothing, all his abusers being dead.

Only Kiviung, who was a great angakoq and had never abused the boy, had escaped the wind and waves. Bravely he strove against the wild sea, but the storm did not abate. After he had drifted for many days on the wide sea, a dark mass loomed up through the mist. His hope revived and he worked hard to reach the supposed land. The nearer he came, however, the more agitated did the sea become, and he saw that he had mistaken a wild, black sea, with raging whirlpools, for land. Barely escaping he drifted again for many days, but the storm did not abate and he did not see any land. Again he saw a dark mass looming up through the mist, but he was once more deceived, for it was another whirlpool which made the sea rise in gigantic waves.

At last the storm moderated, the sea subsided, and at a great distance he saw the land. Gradually he came nearer and following the coast he at length spied a stone house in which a light was burning. He landed and entered the house. Nobody was inside but an old woman whose name was Arnaitiang. She received him kindly and at his request pulled off his boots, slippers, and stockings and dried them on the frame hanging over the lamp. Then she went out to light a fire and cook a good meal.

When the stockings were dry, Kiviung tried to take them from the frame in order to put them on, but as soon as he extended his hand to touch them the frame rose out of his reach. Having tried several times in vain, he called Arnaitiang and asked her to give him back the stockings. She answered: “Take them yourself; there they are; there they are” and went out again. The fact is she was a very bad woman and wanted to eat Kiviung.

Then he tried once more to take hold of his stockings, but with no better result. He called again for Arnaitiang and asked her to give him the boots and stockings, whereupon she said: “Sit down where I sat when you entered my house; then you can get them.” After that she left him again. Kiviung tried it once more, but the frame rose as before and he could not reach it.

Now he understood that Arnaitiang meditated mischief; so he summoned his tornaq, a huge white bear, who arose roaring from under the floor of the house. At first Arnaitiang did not hear him, but as Kiviung kept on conjuring the spirit came nearer and nearer to the surface, and when she heard his loud roar she rushed in trembling with fear and gave Kiviung what he had asked for. “Here are your boots,” she cried; “here are your slippers; here are your stockings. I’ll help you put them on.” But Kiviung would not stay any longer with this horrid witch and did not even dare to put on his boots, but took them from Arnaitiang and rushed out of the door. He had barely escaped when it clapped violently together and just caught the tail of his jacket, which was torn off. He hastened to his kayak without once stopping to look behind and paddled away. He had only gone a short distance before Arnaitiang, who had recovered from her fear, came out swinging her glittering woman’s knife and threatening to kill him. He was nearly frightened to death and almost upset his kayak. However, he managed to balance it again and cried in answer, lifting up his spear: “I shall kill you with my spear.” When Arnaitiang heard these words she fell down terror stricken and broke her knife. Kiviung then observed that it was made of a thin slab of fresh water ice.

He traveled on for many days and nights, following the shore. At last he came to a hut, and again a lamp was burning inside. As his clothing was wet and he was hungry, he landed and entered the house. There he found a woman who lived all alone with her daughter. Her son-in-law was a log of driftwood which had four boughs. Every day about the time of low water they carried it to the beach and when the tide came in it swam away. When night came again it returned with eight large seals, two being fastened to every bough. Thus the timber provided its wife, her mother, and Kiviung with an abundance of food. One day, however, after they had launched it as they had always done, it left and never returned.

After a short interval Kiviung married the young widow. Now he went sealing every day himself and was very successful. As he thought of leaving some day, he was anxious to get a good stock of mittens (that his hands might keep dry during the long journey?). Every night after returning from hunting he pretended to have lost his mittens. In reality he had concealed them in the hood of his jacket.

After awhile the old woman became jealous of her daughter, for the new husband of the latter was a splendid hunter and she wished to marry him herself. One day when he was away hunting, she murdered her daughter, and in order to deceive him she removed her daughter’s skin and crept into it, thus changing her shape into that of the young woman. When Kiviung returned, she went to meet him, as it had been her daughter’s custom, and without exciting any suspicion. But when he entered the hut and saw the bones of his wife he at once became aware of the cruel deed and of the deception that had been practiced and fled away.


He traveled on for many days and nights, always following the shore. At last he again came to a hut where a lamp was burning. As his clothing was wet and he was hungry, he landed and went up to the house. Before entering it occurred to him that it would be best to find out first who was inside. He therefore climbed up to the window and looked through the peep hole. On the bed sat an old woman, whose name was Aissivang (spider). When she saw the dark figure before the window she believed it was a cloud passing the sun, and as the light was insufficient to enable her to go on with her work she got angry. With her knife she cut away her eyebrows, ate them, and did not mind the dripping blood, but sewed on. When Kiviung saw this he thought that she must be a very bad woman and turned away.

Still he traveled on days and nights. At last he came to a land which seemed familiar to him and soon he recognized his own country. He was very glad when he saw some boats coming to meet him. They had been on a whaling excursion and were towing a great carcass to the village. In the bow of one of them stood a stout young man who had killed the whale. He was Kiviung’s son, whom he had left a small boy and who was now grown up and had become a great hunter. His wife had taken a new husband, but now she returned to Kiviung.



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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