Imarasugssuaq Who Ate His Wives
: Eskimo Folktales
It is said that the great Imarasugssuaq was wont to eat his wives. He
fattened them up, giving them nothing but salmon to eat, and nothing at
all to drink. Once when he had just lost his wife in the usual way, he
took to wife the sister of many brothers, and her name was Misana. And
after having taken her to wife, he began fattening her up as usual.
One day her husband was out in his kayak. And she had grown so fat
that she could hardly move, but now she managed with difficulty to
tumble down from the bench to the floor, crawled to the entrance,
dropped down into the passage way, and began licking the snow which
had drifted in. She licked and licked at it, and at last she began to
feel herself lighter, and better able to move. And in this way she
afterwards went out and licked up snow whenever her husband was out
in his kayak, and at last she was once more quite able to move about.
One day when her husband was out in his kayak as usual, she took her
breeches and tunic, and stuffed them out until the thing looked like
a real human being, and then she said to them:
"When my husband comes and tells you to come out, answer him with
these words: I cannot move because I am grown so fat. And when he
then comes in and harpoons you, remember then to shriek as if in pain."
And after she had said these words, she began digging a hole at the
back of the house, and when it was big enough, she crept in.
"Bring up the birds I have caught!"
But the dummy answered:
"I can no longer move, for I am grown so fat."
Now the dummy was sitting behind the lamp. And the husband coming
in, harpooned that dummy wife with his great bird-spear. And the
thing shrieked as if with pain and fell down. But when he looked
closer, there was no blood to be seen, nothing but some stuffed-out
clothes. And where was his wife?
And now he began to search for her, and as soon as he had gone out,
she crept forth from her hiding-place, and took to flight. And while
she was thus making her escape, her husband came after her, and seeing
that he came nearer and nearer, at last she said:
"Now I remember, my amulet is a piece of wood."
And hardly had she said these words, when she was changed into a
piece of wood, and her husband could not find her. He looked about
as hard as ever he could, but could see nothing beyond a piece of
wood anywhere. And he stabbed at that once or twice with his knife,
but she felt no more than a little stinging pain. Then he went back
home to fetch his axe, and then, as soon as he was out of sight,
she changed back into a woman again and fled away to her brothers.
When she came to their house, she hid herself behind the skin
hangings, and after she had placed herself there, her husband was
heard approaching, weeping because he had lost his wife. He stayed
there with them, and in the evening, the brothers began singing songs
in mockery of him, and turning towards him also, they said:
"Men say that Imarasugssuaq eats his wives."
"Who has said that?"
"Misana has said that."
"I said it, and I ran away because you tried to kill me," said she
from behind the hangings.
And then the many brothers fell upon Imarasugssuaq and held him fast
that his wife might kill him; she took her knife, but each time she
tried to strike, the knife only grazed his skin, for her fingers lost
And she was still standing there trying in vain to stab him, when
they saw that he was already dead.
Here ends this story.