Native American Legends
An Eskimo Legend
There was once an old man, and he had only one son, and that son
was called Anarteq. But he had many daughters.
They were very fond of going out reindeer hunting to the eastward
of their own place, in a fjord. And when they came right into the
base of the fjord, Anarteq would let his sisters go up the hillside
to drive the reindeer, and when they drove them so, those beasts
came out into a big lake, where Anarteq could row out in his kayak
and kill them all.
Thus in a few days they had their umiak filled with meat, and
could go home again.
One day when they were out reindeer hunting, as was their custom,
and the reindeer had swum out, and Anarteq was striking them down,
he saw a calf, and he caught hold of it by the tail and began to
play with it. But suddenly the reindeer heaved up its body above
the surface of the water, and kicked at the kayak so that it turned
over. He tried to get up, but could not, because the kayak was full
of water. And at last he crawled out of it.
The women looked at him from the shore, but they could not get
out to help him, and at last they heard him say:
"Now the salmon are beginning to eat my belly."
And very slowly he went to the bottom.
Now when Anarteq woke again to his senses, he had become a salmon.
But his father was obliged to go back alone, and from that time,
having no son, he must go out hunting as if he had been a young
man. And he never again rowed up to those reindeer grounds where
they had hunted before.
And now that Anarteq had thus become a salmon, he went with the
others, in the spring, when the rivers break up, out into the sea
to grow fat.
But his father, greatly wishing to go once more to their old hunting
grounds, went there again as chief of a party, after many years
had passed. His daughters rowed for him. And when they came in near
to the base of the fjord, he thought of his son, and began to weep.
But his son, coming up from the sea with the other salmon, saw the
umiak, and his father in it, weeping. Then he swam to it, and caught
hold of the paddle with which his father steered. His father was
greatly frightened at this, and drew his paddle out of the water,
"Anarteq had nearly pulled the paddle from my hand that time."
And for a long while he did not venture to put his paddle in the
water again. When he did so at last, he saw that all his daughters
were weeping. And a second time Anarteq swam quickly up to the umiak.
Again the father tried to draw in his paddle when the son took hold
of it, but this time he could not move it. But then at last he drew
it quite slowly to the surface, in such a way that he drew his son
up with it.
And then Anarteq became a man again, and hunted for many years
to feed his kin.
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