Shards



Myths & Legends


chronicles


Inuit: Makite

The Inuit live throughout most of the Canadian Arctic and subarctic in the territory of Nunavut; “Nunavik” in the northern third of Quebec; “Nunatsiavut” and “NunatuKavut” in Labrador; and in various parts of the Northwest Territories, particularly around the Arctic Ocean. These areas are known in Inuktitut as the “Inuit Nunangat”.

In the United States, the Iñupiat live primarily on the North Slope in Alaska and on Little Diomede Island. The Greenlandic Inuit are descendants of indigenous migrations from Canada.

The story that follows speaks of Makite, fortunate to have married a woman with many brothers but terrible hunter, forced into exile destined to explore the lands to the south, the lands of the dwarfs and the inland folk, is found in Eskimo Folk-Tales Collected by Knud Rasmussen Edited and rendered into English by W. Worster.
— Orly

Makíte

Makíte, men say, took to wife the sister of many brothers, but he himself could never manage to catch a seal when he was out in his kayak. But his wife’s brothers caught seal in great numbers. And so it was that one day he heard his wife say she would leave him, because he never caught anything. And in his grief at hearing this, he said to himself:

“This evening, when they are all asleep, I will go up into the hills and live there all alone.”

When darkness had fallen, he set off up into the hills, but as he went, his wife’s father, who was standing outside, saw him going, and cried in to the others in the house:

“Makíte has gone up into the hills to live there all alone. Go after him.”

The many brothers went out after him, but when they had nearly come up with him, he made his steps longer, and thus got farther and farther away from them, and at last they ceased to pursue him any more.

On his way he came to a house, and this was just as it was beginning to get light. He looked in, and saw that the hangings on the walls were of nothing but reindeer and foxes’ skins. And now he said to himself:

“Hum—I may as well go in.”

But as he went in, the hinge of the door creaked, and then a strange, deep sound was heard inside the house, and it began to shake.

At the same moment, the master of the house came in and said:

“Have you had nothing to eat yet?”

Makíte said: “I will eat nothing until I know what are those things which look like candles, there in front of the window.”

Then the lone-dweller said:

“That is no concern of one who is not himself a lone-dweller. Therefore he cannot tell you.”

But then Makíte said: “If you do not tell me, I will kill you.”

And then at last he told.

“It may be you have seen to-day the great hills away in the blue to the south; if you go up to the top of the nearer hill, you will find nothing there, but he who climbs that one which lies farther away, and reaches the top, he will find such things there. But this cannot be done by one who is not a lone-dweller.”

And not until he had said all this did Makíte eat.

Then they both went to rest. And just as he was near falling asleep, the lone-dweller began to quiver slightly, but he pretended to sleep. And before Makíte could see what he was about, the lone-dweller had strung his bow, and Makíte, therefore, seeing he was preparing to kill him, pretended to wake up, and then the other laid aside his bow so quickly that it seemed as if he had not held anything at all. At last, when it was nearly dawn, the lone-dweller fell asleep, and then Makíte tried very cautiously to get out, but as he was about to pass through the doorway, he again happened to draw the door to after him, and again it creaked as before with a strange sound. When he looked in through the window, the lone-dweller was about to get up.

Now Makíte had laid his great spear a little way above the house, and he ran to the place. When he looked round, he saw that the man from the house was already in chase. Then he came to a big rock, and as there was no help for it, he commenced to run round. When he had run round it for the third time, he grasped his harpoon firmly, and without turning round, thrust it out behind him, and struck something soft. He had struck the other in the side.

Having now killed this one, and as there was no help for it, he wandered on at hazard, and came to a great plain. And in the middle of the plain was something which looked like a house. And he went up to it and found it was the house of a dwarf, and no end of people coming out of it. One went in and another came out, and so they kept on. He tried to get into the passage, but could not even get his foot in.

Then he heard someone inside saying:

“Heave up the passage way a little with your back, and then come in.”

When he came in, it was a big place, and the old creature spoke to him, and said:

“When you go out, look towards the west; the inland-dwellers are coming.”

And when Makíte went out, he looked towards the west, and there he saw a great black thing approaching, and when he then came in again, the old man went to the window and called out:

“Here they are; they are close up now.”

And then the dwarfs went out to fight, and took up their posts on the plain, one party opposite the other, and none said a word.

But suddenly the dog that was with the inland folk gave a great bark, and there came a mighty wave of water, rolling right up to the dwarfs.

But when it had come quite close to them, it suddenly grew quite small. And then the dwarfs’ dog gave a bark. And at the same time the dwarfs’ wave arose, and washed right up over the inland folk, and drowned them, and only few of them escaped alive.

When they came home again, Makíte built himself a house, and from the high hill fetched some of those things which looked like candles, and hung them up in his house. And he lived there in his house until he died.

And here ends this story.

 

FINIS

 

Related Reading

 

Navajo: The Boy who Became a God

Haida: The Devil-Fish's Daughter