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Qasiagssaq The Great Liar






Source: Eskimo Folktales

Qasiagssaq, men say, was a great liar. His wife was called
Qigdlugsuk. He could never sleep well at night, and being sleepless,
he always woke his fellow-villagers when they were to go out hunting
in the morning. But he never brought home anything himself.

One day when he had been out as usual in his kayak, without even
sight of a seal, he said:

"It is no use my trying to be a hunter, for I never catch anything. I
may as well make up some lie or other."

And at the same moment he noticed that one of his fellow-villagers
was towing a big black seal over to an island, to land it there before
going out for more. When that seal had been brought to land, Qasiagssaq
rowed round behind the man, and stole it, and towed it back home.

His wife was looking out for him, going outside every now and then to
look if he were in sight. And thus it was that coming out, she caught
sight of a kayak coming in with something in tow. She shaded her eyes
with both hands, one above the other, and looked through between them,
gazing eagerly to try if she could make out who it was. The kayak
with its seal in tow came rowing in, and she kept going out to look,
and at last, when she came out as usual, she could see that it was
really and truly Qasiagssaq, coming home with his catch in tow.

"Here is Qasiagssaq has made a catch," cried his fellow-villagers. And
when he came in, they saw that he had a great black seal in tow,
with deep black markings all over the body. And the tow-line was
thick with trappings of the finest narwhal tusk.

"Where did you get that tow-line?" they asked.

"I have had it a long time," he answered, "but have never used it
before to-day."

After they had hauled the seal to land, his wife cut out the belly
part, and when that was done, she shared out so much blubber and meat
to the others that there was hardly anything left for themselves. And
then she set about cooking a meal, with a shoulder-blade for a lamp,
and another for a pot. And every time a kayak came in, they told the
newcomer that Qasiagssaq had got a big black seal.

At last there was but one kayak still out, and when that one came in,
they told him the same thing: "Qasiagssaq has actually got a big seal."

But this last man said when they told him:

"I got a big black seal to-day, and hauled it up on an island. But
when I went back to fetch it, it was gone."

The others said again:

"The tow-line which Qasiagssaq was using to-day was furnished with
toggles of pure narwhal tusk."

Later in the evening, Qasiagssaq heard a voice calling in at the
window:

"You, Qasiagssaq, I have come to ask if you will give back that
tow-line."

Qasiagssaq sprang up and said:

"Here it is; you may take it back now."

But his wife, who was beside him, said:

"When Qasiagssaq does such things, one cannot but feel shame for him."

"Hrrrr!" said Qasiagssaq to his wife, as if to frighten her. And
after that he went about as if nothing had happened.

One day when he was out in his kayak as usual, he said:

"What is the use of my being out here, I who never catch anything?"

And he rowed in towards land. When he reached the shore, he took off
his breeches, and sat down on the ground, laying one knee across a
stone. Then he took another stone to serve as a hammer, and with that
he hammered both his knee-caps until they were altogether smashed.

And there he lay. He lay there for a long time, but at last he got up
and went down to his kayak, and now he could only walk with little
and painful steps. And when he came down to his kayak, he hammered
and battered at that, until all the woodwork was broken to pieces.
And then, getting into it, he piled up a lot of fragments of iceberg
upon it, and even placed some inside his clothes, which were of ravens'
skin. And so he rowed home.

But all this while two women had been standing watching him.

His wife was looking out for him as usual, shading her eyes with her
hands, and when at last she caught sight of his kayak, and it came
nearer, she could see that it was Qasiagssaq, rowing very slowly.
And when then he reached the land, she said:

"What has happened to you now?"

"An iceberg calved."

And seeing her husband come home in such a case, his wife said to
the others:

"An iceberg has calved right on top of Qasiagssaq, so that he barely
escaped alive."

But when the women who had watched him came home, they said:

"We saw him to-day; he rowed in to land, and took off his breeches
and hammered at his knee-caps with a stone; then he went down to his
kayak and battered it to bits, and when that was done, he filled his
kayak with ice, and even put ice inside his clothing."

But when his wife heard this, she said to him:

"When Qasiagssaq does such things, one cannot but feel shame for him."

"Hrrrr!" said Qasiagssaq, as if to frighten her.

After that he lay still for a long while, waiting for his knees to
heal, and when at last his knees were well again, he began once more
to go out in his kayak, always without catching anything, as usual. And
when he had thus been out one day as usual, without catching anything,
he said to himself again:

"What is the use of my staying out here?"

And he rowed in to land. There he found a long stone, laid it on his
kayak, and rowed out again. And when he came in sight of other kayaks
that lay waiting for seal, he stopped still, took out his two small
bladder floats made from the belly of a seal, tied the harpoon line
to the stone in his kayak, and when that was done, he rowed away as
fast as he could, while the kayaks that were waiting looked on. Then
he disappeared from sight behind an iceberg, and when he came round
on the other side, his bladder float was gone, and he himself was
rowing as fast as he could towards land. His wife, who was looking
out for him as usual, shading her eyes with her hands, said then:

"But what has happened to Qasiagssaq?"

As soon as a voice could reach the land, Qasiagssaq cried:

"Now you need not be afraid of breaking the handles of your knives;
I have struck a great walrus, and it has gone down under water with
my two small bladder floats. One or another of those who are out
after seal will be sure to find it."

He himself remained altogether idle, and having come into his house,
did not go out again. And as the kayaks began to come in, others went
down to the shore and told them the news:

"Qasiagssaq has struck a walrus."

And this they said to all the kayaks as they came home, but as usual,
there was one of them that remained out a long time, and when at
last he came back, late in the evening, they told him the same thing:
"Qasiagssaq, it is said, has struck a walrus."

"That I do not believe, for here are his bladder floats; they had
been tied to a stone, and the knot had worked loose."

Then they brought those bladder floats to Qasiagssaq and said:

"Here are your bladder floats; they were fastened to a stone, but
the knot worked loose."

"When Qasiagssaq does such things, one cannot but feel shame for him,"
said his wife as usual.

"Hrrrr!" said Qasiagssaq, to frighten her.

And after that Qasiagssaq went about as if nothing had happened.

One day he was out in his kayak as usual at a place where there was
much ice; here he caught sight of a speckled seal, which had crawled
up on to a piece of the ice. He rowed up to it, taking it unawares,
and lifted his harpoon ready to throw, but just as he was about to
throw, he looked at the point, and then he laid the harpoon down again,
saying to himself: "Would it not be a pity, now, for that skin, which
is to be used to make breeches for my wife, to be pierced with holes
by the point of a harpoon?"

So he lay alongside the piece of ice, and began whistling to that
seal. [12] And he was just about to grasp hold of it when the seal
went down. But he watched it carefully, and when it came up again,
he rowed over to it once more. Now he lifted his harpoon and was
just about to throw, when again he caught sight of the point, and
said to himself: "Would it not be a pity if that skin, which is to
make breeches for my wife, should be pierced with holes by the point
of a harpoon?" And again he cried out to try and frighten the seal,
and down it went again, and did not come up any more.

Once he heard that there lived an old couple in another village,
who had lost their child. So Qasiagssaq went off there on a visit. He
came to their place, and went into the house, and there sat the old
couple mourning. Then he asked the others of the house in a low voice:

"What is the trouble here?"

"They are mourning," he was told.

"What for?" he asked.

"They have lost a child; their little daughter died the other day."

"What was her name?"

"Nipisartangivaq," they said.

Then Qasiagssaq cleared his throat and said in a loud voice:

"To-day my little daughter Nipisartangivaq is doubtless crying at
her mother's side as usual."

Hardly had he said this when the mourners looked up eagerly, and cried:

"Ah, how grateful we are to you! [13] Now your little daughter can
have all her things."

And they gave him beads, and the little girl's mother said:

"I have nothing to give you by way of thanks, but you shall have my
cooking pot."

And when he was setting out again for home, they gave him great
quantities of food to take home to his little girl. But when he came
back to his own place, his fellow-villagers asked:

"Wherever did you get all this?"

"An umiak started out on a journey, and the people in it were hurried
and forgetful. Here are some things which they left behind them."

Towards evening a number of kayaks came in sight; it was people coming
on a visit, and they had all brought meat with them. When they came
in, they said:

"Tell Qasiagssaq and his wife to come down and fetch up this meat
for their little girl."

"Qasiagssaq and his wife have no children; we know Qasiagssaq well,
and his wife is childless."

When the strangers heard this, they would not even land at the place,
but simply said:

"Then tell them to give us back the beads and the cooking pot."

And those things were brought, and given back to them.

Then Qasiagssaq's wife said as usual:

"Now you have lied again. When you do such things, one cannot but
feel shame for you."

"Hrrrr!" said Qasiagssaq, to frighten her, and went on as if nothing
had happened.

Now it is said that Qasiagssaq's wife Qigdlugsuk had a mother who
lived in another village, and had a son whose name was Ernilik. One
day Qasiagssaq set out to visit them. He came to their place, and
when he entered into the house, it was quite dark, because they had
no blubber for their lamp, and the little child was crying, because
it had nothing to eat. Qasiagssaq cleared his throat loudly and said:

"What is the matter with him?"

"He is hungry, as usual," said the mother.

Then said Qasiagssaq:

"How foolish I was not to take so much as a little blubber with
me. Over in our village, seals are daily thrown away. You must come
back with me to our place."

Next morning they set off together. When they reached the place,
Qasiagssaq hurried up with the harpoon line in his hand, before his
wife's mother had landed. And all she saw was that there was much
carrion of ravens on Qasiagssaq's rubbish heap. Suddenly Qasiagssaq
cried out:

"Ah! One of them has got away again!"

He had caught a raven in his snare. His wife cooked it, and their lamp
was a shoulder-blade, and another shoulder-blade was their cooking pot,
and when that meat was cooked, Qigdlugsuk's mother was given raven's
meat to eat. Afterwards she was well fed by the other villagers there,
and next morning when she was setting out to go home, they all gave
her meat to take with her; all save Qasiagssaq, who gave her nothing.

And time went on, and once he was out as usual in his kayak, and when
he came home in the evening, he said:

"I have found a dead whale; to-morrow we must all go out in the umiak
and cut it up."

Next day many umiaks and kayaks set out to the eastward, and when
they had rowed a long way in, they asked:

"Where is it?"

"Over there, beyond that little ness," he said.

And they rowed over there, and when they reached the place, there
was nothing to be seen. So they asked again:

"Where is it?"

"Over there, beyond that little ness."

And they rowed over there, but when they reached the place, there
was nothing to be seen. And again they asked:

"Where is it? Where is it?"

"Up there, beyond the little ness."

And again they reached the place and rowed round it, and there was
nothing to be seen.

Then the others said:

"Qasiagssaq is lying as usual. Let us kill him."

But he answered:

"Wait a little; let us first make sure that it is a lie, and if you
do not see it, you may kill me."

And again they asked:

"Where is it?"

"Yes ... where was it now ... over there beyond that little ness."

And now they had almost reached the base of that great fjord, and
again they rounded a little ness farther in, and there was nothing
to be seen. Therefore they said:

"He is only a trouble to us all: let us kill him."

And at last they did as they had said, and killed him.





Next: The Eagle And The Whale

Previous: Kagssagssuk The Homeless Boy Who Became A Strong Man



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