Nunani: Glutton (Part Three)

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

RACHEL QITSUALIK

The blind son thrust the spear outward with all his strength, his mother’s hands guiding him. In this way, again and again, he thrust at the bear, until he heard his mother cry,

“It’s driven away!”

Not a word from his sister.

What the blind son could not know was that he had in fact killed the bear. The old woman raced over to her daughter and began to whisper harshly that her brother must not know.

“Think of all the food there will be!” the crone hissed. “He’s of no use! He would want us to have it.”

The girl simply stared at her mother in stunned horror, but when she finally opened her mouth, the old woman shook her violently, repeating what she had said.

So, cowed into silence, the daughter acquiesced to her mother’s wishes. They dragged the bear outside, and kept the blind son from knowing that it was there at all.

Days went by, and the women had plenty of meat, but the old woman always told her son that there was none. Secretly, however, the girl kept her brother alive by smuggling him some of her portions. Whenever this made the old woman suspicious, the girl would simply say that she was particularly hungry from having gone so long without.

The blind son was saddened, of course, when he finally learned of this, but he was blind, so the deception went on and on. Finally, however, he got sick of it all, and began to whisper to his sister that he wanted her to bring him to an isolated place, a peninsula or island. Waves of horror ran through her whenever he asked such things – she didn’t want him to kill himself.

Yet he was insistent. One day, he finally convinced her to bring him to a little island close to shore. She left him lying there, alone, upon the ground. And it was there, or so it is said, that something miraculous occurred:

The blind son heard the call of loons. Abruptly, two loons landed on his chest. They walked up and down the length of him, then seemed to circle, taking turns landing at either side. Somehow, he understood that something special was going on, so he took great pains to remain very still while the loons went about their business.

Eventually, they began to lick at his eyes. He could barely stand the feel of their rough little tongues upon him, but he refused to move, for with every lick, it seemed that light was coming to his eyes, growing brighter and brighter, until he at last could see the blurry sky above.

By the time the loons had finished their work and departed, his sight was restored.

Overjoyed, he made his way back to his mother and sister. As soon as he approached, he could see the great bear skin lying outside, but he resolved not to make an issue of it.

The women greeted him enthusiastically upon his arrival, the sister, out of relief; the mother, more out of guilt and fear that he knew what she had done. But he spoke little about the bear, and the old woman was pleased. It was not long before she was pressuring him to hunt. The bear meat had run out, and she was desperate for more.

So it was that the son announced that he would take a walk along the shore. And another miracle occurred! A walrus suddenly presented itself, and he quickly harpooned it. But the rocks were slippery and he was not strong enough to fight the animal, so he called for help. The women raced over and grabbed the line, but the rocks were still too slippery, and the son realized that they would all end up in the water if they did not let go. So he cried to the women to release it.

“No!” the old woman screeched. “We can get it!”

“Let go!” the son hollered. He and his sister let go.

“No! Mine!” the crone shrieked.

In her eagerness, she had wrapped herself up in the line, and now she could not disengage herself. And so it was that, with a wail of despair, the walrus pulled her into the water, and then beneath it forever.

Thus, in Inuit tradition, goes the glutton’s end.

Pijariiqpunga.

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