Native American Legends
Atungait, who went a-wandering
An Eskimo Legend
Atungait, that great man, had once, it is said, a fancy to go out
on a sledge trip with a strong woman. He took a ribbon seal and
had it flayed, and forbade his wife to scrape the meat side clean,
so that the skin might be as thick as possible. And so he had it
When the winter had come, he went out to visit a tribe well known
for their eagerness in playing football. He stayed among them for
some time, and watched the games, carefully marking who was strongest
among the players. And he saw that there was one among them a woman
small of stature, who yet always contrived to snatch the ball from
the others. Therefore he gave her the great thick skin he had brought
with him, and told her to knead it soft. And this she did, though
no other woman could have done it. Then he took her on his sledge
and drove off on a wandering through the lands around.
On their way they came to a high and steep rock, rising up from
the open water. Atungait sprang up on to that rock, and began running
up it. So strong was he that at every step he bored his feet far
down into the rock.
When he reached the top, he called to his dogs, and one by one
they followed by the way of his footsteps, and reached the top,
all of them save one, and that one died. And after that he hoisted
up his sledge first, and then his wife after, and so they drove
on their way.
After they had driven for some time, they came to a place of people.
And the strange thing about these people was that they were all
left- handed. And then they drove on again and came to some man-eaters;
these ate one another, having no other food. But they did not succeed
in doing him any harm.
And they drove on again and came to other people; these had all
one leg shorter than the other, and had been so from birth. They
lay on the ground all day playing ajangat.* And they had a fine
ajangat made of copper.
Atungait stayed there some time, and when the time came for him
to set out once more, he stole their plaything and took it away
with him, having first destroyed all their sledges.
But the lame ones, being unable to pursue, dealt magically with
some rocky ridges, which then rushed over the ice towards the travelers.
Atungait heard something like the rushing of a river, and turning
round, perceived those rocks rolling towards him.
"Have you a piece of sole-leather?" he asked his wife.
And she had such a piece. She tied it to a string and let it drag
behind the sledge. When the stones reached it, they stopped suddenly,
and sank down through the ice. And the two drove on, hearing the
cries of the lame ones behind them: "Bring back our plaything,
and give us our copper thing again."
But now Atungait began to long for his home, and not knowing in
what part of the land they were, he told the woman with him to wait,
while he himself flew off through the air. For he was a great wizard.
He soon found his house, and looked in through the window. And
there sat his wife, rubbing noses with a strange man. "Huh!
You are not afraid of wearing away your nose, it seems." So
he cried. On hearing this, the wife rushed out of the house, and
there she met her husband. "You have grown clever at kissing,"
he said. "No, I have not kissed any one," she cried. Then
Atungait grasped her roughly and killed her, because she had lied.
The strange man also came out now, and Atungait went towards him
at once. "You were kissing inside there, I see," he said.
"Yes," said the stranger. And Atungait let him live, because
he spoke the truth. And after that he flew back to the strong woman
and made her his wife.
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