Myths & Legends



Inuit: The Bear Story

The bear story is a legend that shows that bonding between humans and bears is possible. The Central Eskimo are Inuit living in and around Frobisher Bay, Canada.
— Orly

Many moons ago, a woman obtained a polar bear cub but two or three days old. Having long desired just such a pet, she gave it her closest attention, as though it were a son, nursing it, making for it a soft warm bed alongside her own, and talking to it as a mother does to her child. She had no living relative, and she and the bear occupied the house alone. Kunikdjuaq, as he grew up, proved that the woman had not taught him in vain, for he early began to hunt seals and salmon, bringing them to his mother before eating any himself, and receiving his share from her hands. She always watched from the hilltop for his return, and if she saw that he had been unsuccessful, she begged from her neighbors blubber for his food. She learned how this was from her lookout, for if successful, he came back in the tracks made on going out, but if unsuccessful always by a different route. Learning to excel the Inuit in hunting, he excited their envy, and, after long years of faithful service, his death was resolved upon. On hearing this, the old woman, overwhelmed with grief, offered to give up her own life if they would but spare him who had so long supported her. Her offer was sternly refused. Upon this, when all his enemies 639had retired to their houses, the woman had a long talk with her son—now well grown in years—telling him that wicked men were about to kill him, and that the only way to save his life and hers was for him to go off and not return. At the same time she begged him not to go so far that she could not wander off and meet him, and get from him a seal or something else which she might need. The bear, after listening to what she said with tears streaming down her furrowed cheeks, gently placed one huge paw on her head, and then throwing both around her neck, said, “Good mother, Kunikdjuaq will always be on the lookout for you and serve you as best he can.” Saying this, he took her advice and departed, almost as much to the grief of the children of the village as to the mother.

Not long after this, being in need of food, she walked out on the sea ice to see if she could not meet her son, and soon recognized him as one of two bears who were lying down together. He ran to her, and she patted him on the head in her old familiar way, told him her wants, and begged him to hurry away and get something for her. Away ran the bear, and in a few moments the woman looked upon a terrible fight going on between him and his late companion, which, however, to her great relief, was soon ended by her son’s dragging a lifeless body to her feet. With her knife she quickly skinned the dead bear, giving her son large slices of the blubber, and telling him that she would soon return for the meat, which she could not at first carry to her house, and when her supply should again fail she would comeback for his help. This she continued to do for “a long, long time,” the faithful bear always serving her and receiving the same unbroken love of his youth.




Source:  JB [1]

Culture:  Inuit

Language Group:  Eskimo–Aleut


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