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The Guillemot That Could Talk






Source: Eskimo Folktales

A man from the south heard one day of a guillemot that could talk. It
was said that this bird was to be found somewhere in the north,
and therefore he set off to the northward. And toiled along north
and north in an umiak.

He came to a village, and said to the people there:

"I am looking for a guillemot that can talk."

"Three days' journey away you will find it."

Then he stayed there only that night, and went on again next
morning. And when he came to a village, he had just asked his way,
when one of the men there said:

"To-morrow I will go with you, and I will be a guide for you, because
I know the way."

Next morning when they awoke, those two men set off together. They
rowed and rowed and came in sight of a bird cliff. They came to the
foot of that bird cliff, and when they stood at the foot and looked
up, it was a mightily big bird cliff.

"Now where is that guillemot, I wonder?" said the man from the
south. He had hardly spoken, when the man who was his guide said:

"Here, here is the nest of that guillemot bird."

And the man was prepared to be very careful when the bird came out
of its nest. And it came out, that bird, and went to the side of the
cliff and stared down at the kayaks, stretching its body to make it
very long. And sitting up there, it said quite clearly:

"This, I think, must be that southern man, who has come far from a
place in the south to hear a guillemot."

And the bird had hardly spoken, when he who was guide saw that the man
from the south had fallen forward on his face. And when he lifted him
up, that man was dead, having died of fright at hearing the bird speak.

Then seeing there was no other thing to be done, he covered up the
body at the foot of the cliff below the guillemot's nest, and went
home. And told the others of his place that he had covered him there
below the guillemot's nest because he was dead. And the umiak and
its crew of women stayed there, and wintered in that place.

Next summer, when they were making ready to go southward again, they
had no man to go with them. But on the way that wifeless man procured
food for them by catching fish, and when he had caught enough to fill
a pot, he rowed in with his catch.

And in this way he led them southward. When they came to their own
country, they had grown so fond of him that they would not let him
go northward again. And so that wifeless man took a wife from among
those women, because they would not let him go away to the north.

It is said that the skeleton of that wifeless man lies there in the
south to this day.





Next: Kanagssuaq

Previous: Anarteq



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