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Aterfio

An Eskimo Legend

Two widows, having each a son, had chosen their winter quarters at no great distance from one another. Both of them happened to have several neighbors; but though these principally consisted of rich and prosperous people, they did not think of assisting the poor orphans. Having lost their supporters, the widows suffered much from want, and they therefore admonished their young sons to be wise and kind to the other children, lest they should be deprived of the scanty help they now enjoyed. At last, however, the relatives furnished the orphans with kayaks. He who lived furthest south was named Aterfio, and the other one living to the north was called Sukallassok.

They grew up to be much renowned for their strength and vigor. They always chose their hunting-places far off the coast; and even in hard weather and heavy gales went out, and never came home empty-handed. On their return they always used to give the orphans a plentiful repast, and had special stores of provisions set apart for orphan children against hard times.

One day Aterfio had gone out hunting beyond the skerries and islands; the wind was northerly and the sky clear. He had already got two seals, and, expecting to catch some more, he still rowed on, till all of a sudden he heard a noise, and turning round, beheld Sukalassok with raised arm aiming his harpoon at him. Not being able to make any resistance, he was obliged to await his fate; keeping his eyes on him, he capsized his kayak towards him so as make the harpoon only touch the side of it. As soon as he again had risen, the thought flashed through him to revenge himself on Sukalassok; but be gave up the idea and turned towards home.

On his arrival he did not mention the matter at all; but sometime later, in a gale from the north, the same thing happened over again. He forbore to take revenge; but this time told those at home that Sukalassok had twice attempted to kill him. But his mother bade him not to take revenge. "Never mind," she went on; "let him go on as be likes, only thou shun his companionship."

Soon after, however, Aterfio being busy in his hunting-grounds, suddenly heard a whizzing sound close by, and presently afterwards was grazed by an arrow, which fell into the water alongside of him. His wrath was now up, and be could not resist paying him back. In less than no time be leveled his harpoon at Sukalassok and killed him right off.

At home he reported his deed, and said be would flee to the south, thinking it probable that the relatives of Sukalassok might take part with the slain and pursue him. But his mother told him be need not fear his new enemies, and he remained at the old place as before. Soon after he married and got a son, whom be called Akeralik.

One day an old man came to visit them, who reported that the relatives of Sukalossok were ill-minded towards Aterfio; to which he rejoined, "They are quite welcome to anything; and thou mayst tell them that I myself, my little son, and the rest of the household, are ready to receive them whenever they like." But from that day they grew suspicious, and not long afterwards a great many strange boats appeared off the coast. At the sight Aterfio went in, relieved himself of his jacket, went straight down to the beach, and seated himself on a flat stone with his back turned to the sea.

Rowing on, the kayakers deliberated among themselves who should be the first to wound him. Some of them quickly gained upon the rest, and on coming quite close to him, the foremost took up his harpoon to strike him; although it hit the mark, it did him no harm, but the harpoon broke in three pieces.

The next kayakers likewise un-launched their harpoons at him, but had them broken in the same manner without wounding him in the least. They now held a council, and agreed in landing to try a match with him on shore. Aterfio willingly attended. The strangers stayed the night over; and early the next morning four stout and powerful men made their way through the entrance; but Aterfio said, "My house is too small, let us fight in the open air." Having reached the meadow above, one of the strong men instantly rushed in upon Aterfio to try a wrestling-match with him; but Aterfio only turned to him and thrust him down as easily as if he had been a fox, upon which he soon died.

The foreigners now made a general assault on him, but he shook them off like children, and on the way home he killed the whole of them. After this Aterfio trained his son to all kinds of daring feats on land as well as at sea; and thus Akeralik grew to be a man, and was still stronger and even more fearless than his father. His hunting-ground was far out at sea, and he hunted seals and white whales alike, and could keep his breath under water as well as any seal.

One day when they were a long way off the coast, a small-topped cloud rose on the horizon. Aterfio asked his son, "Dost thou see the cloud yonder? When the mists come up from that side it will not be child's-play; let us put back with all speed." They put their seals on the top of their kayaks and made them fast with the harpoon-lines, and headed for the shore. Each of them had captured two seals. Scarcely had they put about, before a heavy gale came rushing down upon them, turning the sea into one mass of foam, and completely hiding the land.

A roaring noise was now heard, and Aterfio said, "Take care we don't smash together; keep further away from me." At the same time he saw a great sea topped with foam close upon them, and turning side on, bolted across them; but notwithstanding, they kept their breath and rowed away under water until they soon afterwards both emerged on the surface. At last his son got a tear in his thick outer jacket; then he spoke to his father, "Now mind thine own self, I must needs speed on;" and he skimmed the surface like a falcon pursuing his prey, and was lost to sight in less than a moment. Both safely reached home.

About this time the South Landers happened to hear the fame of the mighty Aterfio and of his son Akeralik, who with his kayak matched a falcon in speed. Among this people of the south there was a strong man named Tajarnek, who greatly longed to have an encounter with Aterfio. One day Aterfio and all his family remained at home.

The air was clear and the weather fine. They saw a great many boats and kayaks apparently passing by their place; but Aterfio came down to the water's edge, and hailed them, shouting, "Where are ye for? It is late in the evening; ye had better put in and take shelter with us for the night." One of the men replied, "We have heard of the mighty Aterfio, and have come to offer him a match." Aterfio replied, "He whom ye see is nothing extraordinary, but his son is a man of great strength;" so saying, he pointed to him as he stood at his side, to let them know of whom he was speaking.

The kayakers stopped short in great amazement, never thinking him to be the person in question. But Aterfio went on, "But here is a first-rate landing-place, and ye can pass the night here." Accordingly they landed; and after a needful rest, they all resorted to a level spot above the houses. Tajarnek first seized Aterfio, but was soon thrown over without being hurt, however.

Several times they closed with him, but Aterfio was as staunch as a rock. Akeralik now thought it time for him to interfere; every man he touched was soon thrown down. At first they turned them over without injuring them further; but at length they slew Tajarnek and all the rest. All the South Landers, women and children included, were thus put to death.

From this time upwards Aterfio roamed all along the coast-side, and father and son were equally renowned; and they both ended their days without ever having been wounded them know of whom he was speaking. The kayakers stopped short in great amazement, never thinking him to be the person in question. But Aterfio went on, "But here is a first-rate landing-place, and ye can pass the night here." Accordingly they landed; and after a needful rest, they all resorted to a level spot above the houses. Tajarnek first seized Aterfio, but was soon thrown over-without being hurt, however.

Several times they closed with him, but Aterfio was as staunch as a rock. Akeralik now thought it time for him to interfere; every man he touched was soon thrown down. At first they turned them over without injuring them further; but at length they slew Tajarnek and all the rest. All the South Landers, women and children included, were thus put to death. From this time upwards Aterfio roamed all along the coast-side, and father and son were equally renowned; and they both ended their days without ever having been wounded.

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