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The Dwarfs

Source: Eskimo Folktales

A man who was out in his kayak saw another kayak far off, and rowed
up to it. When he came up with it, he saw that the man in it was a
very little man, a dwarf.

"What do you want," asked the dwarf, who was very much afraid of
the man.

"I saw you from afar and rowed up," said the man.

But the dwarf was plainly troubled and afraid.

"I was hunting a little fjord seal which I cannot hit," he said.

"Let me try," said the other. And so they waited until it came up to
breathe. Hardly had it come up, when the harpoons went flying towards
it, and entered in between its shoulder-blades.

"Ai, ai--what a throw!" cried the dwarf in astonishment. And the man
took the seal and made a tow-line fast.

Then the two kayaks set off together in towards land.

"Hum--hum. Wouldn't care to ... come and visit us?" [5] said the
dwarf suddenly.

But this the man would gladly do.

"Hum--hum. I've a wife ... and a daughter ... very beautiful daughter
... hum--hum. Many men wanted her ... wouldn't have them ... can't
take her by force ... very strong. Thought of taking her to wife
myself ... hum--hum. But she is too strong for me ... own daughter."

They rowed on a while, and then the little one spoke again.

"Hum--hum. Might perhaps do for you ... you could manage her ... what?"

"Let us first see her," said the man. And now they rowed into a great
deep fjord.

When they came to the place, they landed and went up at once to the
house of the little old man. And those in the house did all they
could that the stranger might be well pleased. When they had been
sitting there a while, the old man said:

"Hum--hum ... our guest has made a catch ... he comes to us bringing

Now it was easy to see that they would gladly have tasted the flesh
of that little seal. And so the guest said:

"If you care to cook that meat, then set to work and cut it up as
soon as you please. Cut it up and give to those who wish to eat of it."

The little old man was delighted at this, and sent out his two
women-folk to cut up that seal. But they stayed away a long while,
and no one came in with any meat. So the little old man went out to
look for them.

And there stood the two women, hauling at the little fjord seal,
which they could not manage to drag up from the shore. They could not
even manage it with the old man's help. They hauled away, all three
of them, bending their bodies to the ground in their efforts, but the
seal would not move. Then at last the stranger came out, and he took
that seal by the flipper with one hand, and carried it up that way.

"What strength, what strength! The man is a giant indeed," cried the
little folk. And they fell to work cutting up the seal, but to them
it seemed as if they were cutting up a huge walrus, so hard did they
find it to cut up that little seal.

And people came hurrying down from the houses up above, and all wished
to share. The women of the house then shared out that seal. Each of
the guests was given a little breastbone and no more, but this to
them was a very great piece of meat. When they held such a piece in
their hands, it reached to the ground, and their hands and clothes
were covered with fat.

Inside on the bench sat an old hag who now began trying to make
herself agreeable to the guest. She squeezed up close to him and kept
on talking to him, and looking at him kindly. She was old and ugly,
and the man would have nothing to do with her. Suddenly he gave a
loud whistle.

"Ugh--ugh!" cried the old hag in a fright, and fell down from the
bench. Then she stumbled down into the passage way, and disappeared.

And now after they had feasted on the seal meat, those from the houses
up above cried out:

"Let the guest now come up here; we have foxes' liver to eat!"

And as he did not come at once, they cried again. And then he went
up. The house was full of people, all busy eating foxes' liver.

"It is very hard to cut," said the dwarfs. "It is dried."

And the dwarfs worked away as hard as they could, but could not cut
it through. But the guest took and munched and crunched as if it had
been fresh meat.

"Ai, ai--see how he can eat," cried some.

But all those in the house were very kind to him, and would gladly
have seen him married into their family. And the young women had
dressed their hair daintily with mussel shells, that the guest might
think them the finer. But he cared for none of them, for the little
old man's daughter was the most beautiful.

And therefore he went down to that house again when it was time to
go to rest. And he said he would have her to wife.

And so they lived happily together, and soon they had a child.

And now the man began to long for his own place and kin. He thought
more and more of his old mother, who was still alive when he started

And so one day he said he was going to visit his home.

"We will all go with you," said the little old man; "we will visit
your kinsfolk."

And so they made ready for the journey, and set out.

Now when they came to the place of real people, all these were greatly
astonished to find their old comrade still alive. For they had thought
him dead long since.

And the dwarf people lived happily enough among the real men, and
after a little time they forgot to be troubled and afraid.

But one day when the little dwarf grandmother was sitting at the
opening of the passage way with the little child, she dropped the
child in the passage.

"Hlurp--hlurp--hlurp," was all she heard. A great dog, his face black
on one side and white on the other, lay there in the passage, and it
ate up the child on the spot.

"Ai--ai," she cried. "Nothing is left but a little smear on the

And now the dwarf folk were filled with horror, and the little old
man was for setting off at once. So they gathered their belongings
together and set out.

And whenever they came to a village, they went up on shore, and the
old man always went up with his tent-skins on his back.

"Are there any dogs here? Is there a great beast with a black-and-white
face?" was always the first thing he asked.

"Yes, indeed." And before they could turn round, the old man was back
in his boat again, so great was his fear of dogs.

And at last the skin was worn quite away from his forehead with
carrying of tent-skins up on to the shore in vain. [6]

One day they were lying-to, when a wind began to blow from the north.

"Are there dogs here?" asked the old man, and groaned, for his forehead
was flayed and smarting, so often had he borne those tent-skins up
and down. But before any could answer, he heard the barking of the
dogs themselves. And in a moment he was back in his boat again.

The wind had grown stronger. The seas were frothing white, and the
foam was scattered about.

Then the old dwarf stood up in his boat and cried:

"The sky is clearing to the east with crested clouds."

Now this was a magic song, and as soon as he had sung it, the sea
was calm and bright once more.

Then the old man went on again. So great was the power of his magic
words that he could calm the sea. But for all that he had no peace,
by reason of the dogs.

And he went on his way again, but whither he came at last I do
not know.

Next: The Boy From The Bottom Of The Sea Who Frightened The People Of The House To Death

Previous: The Very Obstinate Man

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