Kagssagssuk The Homeless Boy Who Became A Strong Man

: Eskimo Folktales

One day, it is said, when the men and women in the place had gone to

a spirit calling, the children were left behind, all in one big house,

where they played, making a great noise.

A homeless boy named Kagssagssuk was walking about alone outside,

and it is said that he called to those who were playing inside the

house, and said:

"You must not make so much noise, or the Great Fire will come."
br />

The children, who would not believe him, went on with their noisy

play, and at last the Great Fire appeared. Little Kagssagssuk fled

into the house, and cried:

"Lift me up. I must have my gloves, and they are up there!"

So they lifted him up to the drying frame under the roof.

And then they heard the Great Fire come hurrying into the house from

without. He had a great live ribbon seal for a whip, and that whip

had long claws. And then he began dragging the children out through

the passage with his great whip, and each time he drew one out, that

one was frizzled up. And at last there were no more. But before going

away, the Great Fire reached up and touched with his finger a skin

which was hanging on the drying frame.

As soon as the Great Fire had gone away, little Kagssagssuk crawled

down from the drying frame and went over to the people who were

gathered in the wizard's house, and told them what had happened. But

none believed what he said.

"You have killed them yourself," they declared.

"Very well, then," he said, "if you think so, try to make a noise

yourselves, like the children did."

And now they began cooking blubber above the entrance to the house, and

when the oil was boiling and bubbling as hard as it could, they began

making a mighty noise. And true enough, up came the Great Fire outside.

But little Kagssagssuk was not allowed to come into the house,

and therefore he hid himself in the store shed. The Great Fire

came into the house, and brought with it the live ribbon seal for

a whip. They heard it coming in through the passage, and then they

poured boiling oil over it, and his whip being thus destroyed, the

Great Fire went away.

But from that time onward, all the people of the village were unkind

to little Kagssagssuk, and that although he had told the truth. Up to

that time he had lived in the house of Umerdlugtoq, who was a great

man, but now he was forced to stay outside always, and they would

not let him come in. If he ventured to step in, though it were for no

more than to dry his boots, Umerdlugtoq, that great man, would lift

him up by the nostrils, and cast him over the high threshold again.

And little Kagssagssuk had two grandmothers; the one of these beat him

as often as she could, even if he only lay out in the passage. But

his other grandmother took pity on him, because he was the son of

her daughter, who had been a woman like herself, and therefore she

dried his clothes for him.

When, once in a while, that unfortunate boy did come in, Umerdlugtoq's

folk would give him some tough walrus hide to eat, wishing only

to give him something which they knew was too tough for him. And

when they did so, he would take a little piece of stone and put it

between his teeth, to help him, and when he had finished, put it

back in his breeches, where he always kept it. When he was hungry,

he would sometimes eat of the dogs' leavings on the ground outside,

finding there walrus hide which even the dogs refused to eat.

He slept among the dogs, and warmed himself up on the roof, in the

warm air from the smoke hole. But whenever Umerdlugtoq saw him warming

himself there, he would haul him down by the nostrils.

Thus a long time passed, and it had been dark in the winter, and was

beginning to grow light near the coming of spring. And now little

Kagssagssuk began to go wandering about the country. Once when he

was out, he met a big man, a giant, who was cutting up his catch,

and on seeing him, Kagssagssuk cried out in a loud voice:

"Ho, you man there, give me a piece of that meat!"

But although he shouted as loudly as he could, that giant could not

hear him. At last a little sound reached the big man's ears, and then

he said:

"Bring me luck, bring me luck!"

And he threw down a little piece of meat on the ground, believing it

was one of the dead who thus asked.

But little Kagssagssuk, who, young as he was, had already some helping

spirits, made that little piece of meat to be a big piece, just as

the dead can do, and ate as much as he could, and when he could eat

no more, there was still so much left that he could hardly drag it

away to hide it.

Some time after this, little Kagssagssuk said to his mother's mother:

"I have by chance become possessed of much meat, and my thoughts will

not leave it. I will therefore go out and look to it."

So he went off to the place where he had hidden it, and lo! it was

not there. And he fell to weeping, and while he stood there weeping,

the giant came up.

"What are you weeping for?"

"I cannot find the meat which I had hidden in a store-place here."

"Ho," said the giant, "I took that meat. I thought it had belonged

to another one."

And then he said again: "Now let us play together." For he felt kindly

towards that boy, and had pity on him.

And they two went off together. When they came to a big stone, the

giant said: "Now let us push this stone." And they began pushing

at the big stone until they twirled it round. At first, when little

Kagssagssuk tried, he simply fell backwards.

"Now once more. Make haste, make haste, once more. And there again,

there is a bigger one."

And at last little Kagssagssuk ceased to fall over backwards, and was

able instead to move the stones and twirl them round. And each time

he tried with a larger stone than before, and when he had succeeded

with that, a larger one still. And so he kept on. And at last he could

make even the biggest stones twirl round in the air, and the stone said

"leu-leu-leu-leu" in the air.

Then said the giant at last, seeing that they were equal in strength:

"Now you have become a strong man. But since it was by my fault that

you lost that piece of meat, I will by magic means cause bears to

come down to your village. Three bears there will be, and they will

come right down to the village."

Then little Kagssagssuk went home, and having returned home, went up to

warm himself as usual at the smoke hole. Then came the master of that

house, as usual, and hauled him down by the nostrils. And afterwards,

when he went to lie down among the dogs, his wicked grandmother beat

him and them together, as was her custom. Altogether as if there were

no strong man in the village at all.

But in the night, when all were asleep, he went down to one of the

umiaks, which was frozen fast, and hauled it free.

Next morning when the men awoke, there was a great to-do.

"Hau! That umiak has been hauled out of the ice!"

"Hau! There must be a strong man among us!"

"Who can it be that is so strong?"

"Here is the mighty one, without a doubt," said Umerdlugtoq, pointing

to little Kagssagssuk. But this he said only in mockery.

And a little time after this, the people about the village began to

call out that three bears were in sight--exactly as the giant had

said. Kagssagssuk was inside, drying his boots. And while all the

others were shouting eagerly about the place, he said humbly:

"If only I could borrow a pair of indoor boots from some one."

And at last, as he could get no others, he was obliged to take his

grandmother's boots and put them on.

Then he went out, and ran off over the hard-trodden snow outside the

houses, treading with such force that it seemed as if the footmarks

were made in soft snow. And thus he went off to meet the bears.

"Hau! Look at Kagssagssuk. Did you ever see...."

"What is come to Kagssagssuk; what can it be?"

Umerdlugtoq was greatly excited, and so astonished that his eyes would

not leave the boy. But little Kagssagssuk grasped the biggest of the

bears--a mother with two half-grown cubs--grasped that bear with his

naked fists, and wrung its neck, so that it fell down dead. Then he

took those cubs by the back of the neck and hammered their skulls

together until they too were dead.

Then little Kagssagssuk went back homeward with the biggest bear over

his shoulders, and one cub under each arm, as if they had been no

more than hares. Thus he brought them up to the house, and skinned

them; then he set about building a fireplace large enough to put a

man in. For he was now going to cook bears' meat for his grandmother,

on a big flat stone.

Umerdlugtoq, that great man, now made haste to get away, taking his

wives with him.

And Kagssagssuk took that old grandmother who was wont to beat him,

and cast her on the fire, and she burned all up till only her stomach

was left. His other grandmother was about to run away, but he held

her back, and said:

"I shall now be kind to you, for you always used to dry my boots."

Now when Kagssagssuk had made a meal of the bears' meat, he set off

in chase of those who had fled away. Umerdlugtoq had halted upon the

top of a high hill, just on the edge of a precipice, and had pitched

their tent close to the edge.

Up came Kagssagssuk behind him, caught him by the nostrils and held

him out over the edge, and shook him so violently that his nostrils

burst. And there stood Umerdlugtoq holding his nose. But Kagssagssuk

said to him:

"Do not fear; I am not going to kill you. For you never used to

kill me."

And then little Kagssagssuk went into the tent, and called out to him:

"Hi, come and look! I am in here with your wives!"

For in the old days, Umerdlugtoq had dared him even to look at them.

And having thus taken due vengeance, Kagssagssuk went back to

his village, and took vengeance there on all those who had ever

ill-treated him. And some time after, he went away to the southward,

and lived with the people there.

It is also told that he got himself a kayak there, and went out hunting

with the other men. But being so strong, he soon became filled with

the desire to be feared, and began catching hold of children and

crushing them. And therefore his fellow-villagers harpooned him one

day when he was out in his kayak.

All this we have heard tell of Kagssagssuk.