The Legend of Sedna

A family, no longer wanting to provide for their unmarried daughter, took her out in a boat. When a storm rose, they threw the girl overboard. Trying to save herself, Sedna clung to the side of the boat as tightly as she could. Unable to loosen her grip, the father took his knife and cut off the ends of her fingers at the first knuckle. The bits of finger fell into the sea, becoming seals. When Sedna didn’t release her grip from the side of the boat, the man cut off her fingers at the second knuckle. Falling into the sea, these pieces became the walruses. Sedna clung desperately to the side of the boat, but her father cut off the rest of her fingers, which became whales. She then fell from the side of the boat and sank into the sea. There she resides as the mother of all the sea creatures.


A story told by Kuvdluitsoq in an interview with and translated by Knud Rasmussen

Kivioq is an Inuk adventurer who travels across the Arctic facing various hardships, both real and fabulous. Kivioq was a man with many lives. He was a hero in many legends of the Inuit and he got into many adventures with creatures that lived in the Arctic. This story tells of how the ice came to the seas of the Arctic.

The to’talik widow dressed her newborn son in the skin of an unborn seal. She trained him to hold his breath in a pail of water until he could hold his breath long enough. One day she sent her son, transformed into a seal, in front of the kayaks. She instructed him to lead the kayaks out to sea and when they were far enough she would raise a storm.

When the kayaks went far out to sea a storm broke and soon everyone drowned except Kivioq. Kivioq was driven off of his course by the storm and came to a land he did not know. He saw a house without a roof and windows. He left his kayak at the edge of the beach so he could quickly flee. He climbed up the house and saw an old sorceress tanning a human skin. Kivioq spat and the sorceress tried to look up. Her eyelids were so big that they fell down over her eyes when she raised her head. She wondered how it could happen that the house had a leaky roof when it had never leaked before.

When Kivioqspat again she took her ulu and cut off her eyelids. She then saw Kivioq. Her eyes were so frightful that a man could die from her sight. She invited him inside to dry his clothes which she hung on a drying rack. She went outside to fetch fuel for the fire as she intended to eat him. When Kivioq stayed alone he saw many dead heads everywhere. One of them started to speak and warned him to escape or he will be killed.

When Kivioq went to take his clothes off the drying rack, they disappeared. Fortunately, his helping spirit flew in and returned his clothes.

The sorceress saw him go. She ran into the water to catch him but when she could not reach him she slashed at the granite rock with her ulu as easily as if she were cutting meat. But Kivioq harpooned a stone and it smashed. He warned her that he would have harpooned her in the same way. She asked him to become her husband, but he refused. She was so maddened with rage that she threw her ulu at him and turned all the water to ice.

The Hawk and the Goose

For a long time, a rough-legged hawk wanted a snow goose for his wife. The goose, however did not agree with the hawk. The hawk said, “I’ll just hover.” When travelling over open water, the snow geese land on the water when tired. Having taken the goose for his wife, the hawk started following. He was not the same, being slower and non-aquatic. The geese, tiring, were landing on the water. When they landed, the hawk hovered because he was also tired – but could not land in the water. Instead, he clutched the feathers on the back of the snow goose. Unfortunately, he fell backwards into the water.

Such is the hawk’s misfortune.

The Courtship of the Owl and the Ptarmigan

Ukpik, the great owl of the Arctic desert, fell in love with Aqilgieq, the little white ptarmigan. Aqilgieq, however, already has a husband who she loved very much. Ukpik killed his rival and strutted around the ptarmigan to court her. She did not care for this new lover and could only cry for her lost husband. She began to sing a mocking song of woe:

Ukpik, go away,
With your big head,
Your eyes are so large,
and legs your legs are so short,
You are ugly!

Who would want you for a husband?
Who would want you for a husband?

Someone like you
Who has knitted eyebrows
and long eyelids like that!
Short and fat
You’ve got no legs and no neck.

Ukpik, who thought himself to be very handsome, became furious. He sang in return:

You are an eater of owl
I will leave you now!

He left her and flew away. That is the end.

The Legend of Lumak

Lumak, a blind boy, lived with his mother and sister and their dog, Ukirk. One day, a polar bear appeared outside the window of the igloo. Lumak’s mother handed the boy an arrow and led him to the window (which was now a hole as the ice pane had fallen out) and told him to kill the bear. Lumak shot at the bear with an arrow. The bear let out a growl before wandering off to die. The mother turned to Lumak and said, “You killed Ukirk, you killed the dog.” But Lumak knew he has killed the bear because he heard it growl.

The mother and sister left Lumak in the igloo and went to build a new igloo closer to where the bear had died. The mother sent the sister back with a bit of meat for Lumak but told her to say that it was dog meat. When Lumak ate the meat he knew it was polar bear meat, but he said nothing. Every few days, the sister brought meat for Lumak and each time the mother said to tell him it was dog meat. As time passed, the old igloo began to collapse around Lumak where he sat alone and hungry.

One day a loon appeared and said to Lumak to come with him to the water. Once there, the loon told Lumak to hold onto him when hw dove down into the water and not to move until he was out of air. Lumak did as the loon said. The loon dove down into the water and swam for a long time. Just when Lumak was out of air, the loon surfaced. The loon proceeded to dive down two more times, surfacing only when Lumak was out of air. When they surfaced after a third time, Lumak regained his sight.

When Lumak returned to where his mother and sister lived, he pretended he was still blind. He suggested that if his mother helped, he could catch a whale. When he got to the shore, Lumak prepared his harpoon and his line. He told his mother to tie the line around her waist so when he harpooned a whale, she could help pull it in. She did as he asked. Even though Lumak’s mother kept yelling at Lumak each time she saw a small whale, Lumak waited. Finally, when Lumak saw a large whale, he shot his harpoon with all his might. But rather than help his mother pull the line, Lumak stood back and let the whale pull her into the sea.