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Native American Legends

Augpilagtok

An Eskimo Legend

Augpilagtok, who was living in the southern part of the country, chanced to hear that Kangek (pron. Kanghek-at the firth of Godthaab) was an excellent place for seal-hunting. He accordingly started for it; but the autumn set in, and the ground was hard with frost before he arrived; so on coming across an old deserted house at Ikarisat, not far from Kangek, he decided to stop there, and set about preparing an abode for the winter. At first he had fair hunting; so much was he able to store up, that it might have been thought the seals came to his house of their own accord. Heavy northern gales were blowing, and the fall of snow was so great that he was forced to take his store of seals into the house, and live entirely upon them.

At last, however, they were finished. The weather was getting calmer, but the sea was still covered with ice. In these circumstances he made himself a small harpoon for hunting on the ice, but first went out to reconnoiter, and find out the breathing-holes of the seals. The first day he roamed all around the bay Ameralik without finding one opening in the ice. The next he tried Kapisilik, but also in vain. The third day, having had the same bad luck at Kangersunek, and having nothing to eat, he set to whetting his knife in the evening.

He had a dog with drooping ears, and his knife was intended for this poor animal. He killed it, and cut a piece from the loin, which he ate raw, skin and all, only scraping off the hairs; and when the rest had been boiled he again ate with a hearty appetite. The following day he remained in the house. On the next he climbed the highest mountains to survey the neighborhood, and discovered an opening in the ice, not far from his dwelling-place, but it was then too late to start. The following morning he set off, carrying his kayak on his head as far as the water's edge. Having rowed for some time along the margin of the ice, he unexpectedly detected a number of huts; and the beach was also red with blood from sea-animals which had been killed.

He pulled away; and on arriving had a friendly welcome from the inmates, who asked him to their huts. This place was that Kangek which, for want of better knowledge of the locality, he had not been able to reach before the winter overtook him. In ascending the beach he saw the frozen entrails of some auks thrown out upon the dunghill, and not till he had swallowed some of these could they get him to go inside, where he soon got a proper meal, and had his kayak filled with stores for his departure. A short time after this he removed with all his household to Kangek.

Every day he alternately went out seal-hunting and spearing birds; and during this period his little son was provided with a kayak of his own. When auk-hunting his father told him, "When thou goest out for auks and I am not with thee, thou needest not look so much for my kayak, but be watchful of the others; there are those among them whom it would be no joke to disturb while they are busy at their hunt."

One day, however, when they had gone out together after birds, Augpilagtok had got to a little distance from his son. Suddenly he heard angry voices, and turning round saw the small kayak surrounded by the other men. Augpilagtok, who at once suspected something wrong, quickly produced his amulet from out the edging of his jacket, and hiding it inside his mouth rowed on as fast as possible. Having reached them he tossed up the amulet, saying, "Whomsoever!" at which one was instantly overturned, then a second, then a third, and so on, till all were drowned excepting himself and his son, who returned home together. Not feeling secure in this place any longer, they removed farther north to Antangmik in the spring. During their stay there the father recommended the son to exert himself to grow a match for his enemies, from whom they might expect an assault some day or other.

The son soon became a first-rate "kayaker", and chased the sea-animals at the remotest places. On his excursions he was often accompanied by the middlemost of several brothers living at the same settlement. One day when he thought himself quite alone, he was surprised to hear a sound like that of an approaching kayak, and turning round he saw with some amazement his usual companion deliberately aiming at him with his harpoon. He narrowly escaped by overturning his kayak; and when he rose again the other said it was only in fun, although it had been an attempt on his life in good earnest.

At home he told his father of this occurrence, but he advised him to take no notice of it, lest he should stir up more foes for himself. The next day the same thing happened, and he barely escaped. The third time he resolved to revenge himself, and killed his antagonist.

After the deed he returned home, having first put the seal on his kayak, but turned tail foremost. By this sign his father at once knew what had happened; but the brothers of the deceased, who were standing outside the house-door, thought he had placed it the wrong way to ease the kayak while rowing against the wind. Augpilagtok's son on landing said, "I have put it thus because it was the next one after a man; he thrice attempted my life, and was in the act of killing me; if ye are longing for him ye may go and look for him." At this news they all began to cry, and entered the house, to observe the usual mourning ceremonies. After this the youth became cautious, and never started except when the weather was too bad for the others to venture out.

Once in the spring he was invited with his father to visit the brothers. Augpilagtok said to his son, "We may as well make a bold entrance, and I will go first, and take a good leap across the doorway, right to the entrance of the room." They thus entered, and saw all the brothers stretched out at full length on the ledge, only their feet visible on its outer edge (a sign of wrath). They were treated to some frozen liver in an oblong dish; but when they had got only half through with it, the frozen roof fell in and covered the dish with turf-dust. The eldest brother now said, "When the roof falls down like this, it only can be by sorcery. The Southlanders are rather deep, and know a thing or two; we had better leave them alone." Augpilagtok now said to his son, "Slip off thy clothes;" and taking a knife cut up his belly. But when the entrails began to fall out, he merely drew his hand across the cut, and instantly it healed. Some time after they once more repaired to the south.

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