ell... I have
lost a bet or two in my time... now where were my pants again...?No matter!
I'm positively filled
with terrible stories. Uh -- "terrifying
stories," I mean! Terrify-ing
Permit me to demonstrate! I offer you now an enchanting Inuit folktale about lycanthropy that I'm taking from here
. I found it when I was combing the Internet for photos of naked Inuit women -- but that
's a terrifying story for another time.
Kiviuq and the Fox Woman
"Ataataak unikkaaqtualaurit. Father, tell me a story."
"Taitsumaniguuq," he began, "there lived a heroic man who's name was Kiviuq."
Oh goody, I thought, Kiviuq was my favourite story character. Though the story has many versions, the beauty of Kiviuq was that he could and would adapt to anyone's storytelling style. In some stories, he has supernatural powers, and he always came into conflict with evil beings -- both human and animal.
Then again, he was a bit of a trickster figure, and could come into conflict with just about any entities who happened to be around. But it was the monster stories that were best.
We were at spring camp and it was warm enough to move into a tent. I, being the eldest child, was near the far wall, and I could entertain myself by staring at the white canvas, which had interesting spots.
I could pretend that the patterns on it were story characters, and "move" them around as they were silouetted against the white of the canvas tent. So, as my father spoke, the story came to life in my eyes as well as in my ears.
"Kiviuq was a powerful man," he said, "and had travelled to many strange places. He was powerful, but not as great as Iqimarasuqjuqjuaq" (an Ancient whose name has lost its meaning due to its archaic nature) "and he fell into trouble from time to time."
"Kiviuq was kayaking that day when he came across a little island which seemed something like a small, waterbound peninsula. Having been on the search for a wife for a long time now, he thought there might be women about, and wasted no time in landing his kayak. He hid it in a safe place and continued in on foot. His seal-skin boots were soon full of holes from walking on the pebbly ground by the shore.
"Not only were his clothes in bad need of repair, but he was starving, having paddled on the sea for many days. It was then a welcome sight when he noticed a trail of smoke rising over a little hill. Not believing his good luck, he decided to be cautious and peered from behind a rock.
"To his amazement, there stood a beautiful woman, the likes of which he had never seen before. She had long, shocking white hair, and was tall and slender. She was hanging some skins on a line attached to her tent, and -- wonders of wonders -- was cooking a large pot of caribou stew over a welcoming fire!
"Kiviuq wasted no time and immediately limped down to the tent, playing a tired exhausted hunter for all it was worth.
"'Lovely woman, don't be afraid, I'm not a ghost,' he said by way of introduction. 'I've been washed up on these shores and I have not seen land for a many a day. Please take pity on this poor man and be so kind as to give me just a little stew. That is all I need.'
"He didn't have to beg so hard, as the lovely vision of a woman said in the faintest of voices, 'Welcome to my humble home. I live alone and human company would be refreshing, after all.'
"Thus it was that Kiviuq began living with the white-haired, beautiful woman. It was not a bad life being waited on hand and foot, but soon Kiviuq began to feel uneasy about the whole situation. He could not exactly pinpoint any problems, but it was a feeling that gnawed at the edge of his happiness.
"'So what,' Kiviuq said to himself, 'that she is a little strange and has some eccentric habits.' Every couple of weeks or so, she would insist on hunting by herself at night, and would arrive in the wee hours of the morning looking not like herself at all; in fact, a bit... disheveled.
"That, Kiviuq didn't mind so much. When she returned from such hunts, however, she would kind of smell funny, like she had been eating old meat. Again, Kiviuq was ready to endure all for the sake of living in peace. 'I'll get used to the smell,' he thought, 'after all, I'm a little strange myself.'
"It was only when these peaceful times began to deteriorate that Kiviuq was beginning to doubt his sanity. His wife, the beautiful woman, began to have times when she would launch into a temper tantrum and decry Kiviuq's abilities as a provider and capable man. 'What kind of man are you,' she would scream, 'that you send your wife out to feed you? You're like a monster, and you smell of sweat!'
"Kiviuq kept quiet, but each time the verbal abuse became sharper and just plain strange. Once, Kiviuq swore that he heard a sound like a high-pitched squeal in one of her tirades -- more like the sound a small animal would make when threatened.
"'Uakallangaa, I've got to do something,' he thought to himself, 'and I've got to do it soon. All this lying around and being treated like dirt is getting to me.'
"One day, while he was cogitating upon his lot in life, he thought he saw scratchings in front of the tent that he hadn't noticed before.
"'And why,' he asked himself, 'does she always hang skins outside, even on a bad day? Oh, of course!' he cried in his Kiviuq logic. 'How could I have been such an idiot! She loves another! Why didn't I see it all before? That is who is giving her all those animal pelts.'
"He then hatched a plot to spy on her and follow her the next time she went 'hunting.'
"So it was that, one evening, Kiviuq pretended to fall asleep -- even faking a loud snore for good measure. He thought himself to be quite clever. 'You have to wake up pretty early to pull one over on old Kiviuq,' he chuckled to himself. 'Wait till she sees what I have in store!' He then lay on the smelly bed, keeping one eye open to launch his plan.
"One night he got lucky. His wife had gone out of the tent 'for a pee' and hadn't seemed to return. Peeking outside, he spotted no sign of life. Not even a slight breeze came up on that early fall night. It seemed that not only had Kiviuq's wife left, but she had taken a whole load of furs previously hanging on the line. 'Don't tell me she's leaving permanently this time,' Kiviuq growled. 'Women!'
"Kiviuq followed her tracks, which were visible on some sandy part of the ground. Oddly, there seemed to be an animal either with her or following her, as he began to see some strange footprints mingled with hers. 'What the... !?!' Kiviuq muttered a few curses to himself. 'This can't be happening.' Suddenly, the woman's tracks had vanished into thin air."
This was the part of this story that I had been waiting for, the part that came with sound effects and funny voices.
"'Either this lady can fly, or I'm going crazy.' Kiviuq doubted his sanity. Nevertheless, he followed what was left of the tracks to arrive at what seemed to be a small gathering of people.
"Actually, what he could see through the fine mist that had risen up from the ground made it difficult for him to see shapes. The mist also had the strange effect of muffling the people's voices. Kiviuq thought he heard a cough, but it was someone who seemed to have laughed at another's joke.
"'Ha, ha, cough, ha, ha -- that's a funny one,' he heard. 'But you know what's funnier? What's funnier is how their children look when they're born. They look like overgrown lemming cubs, all hairless and blind! Ha, ha, ha, bark, bark!'
"'Good grief!' Kiviuq barely managed to exhale in breathless terror. 'These are animals! Animals who were talking!
"And, there, right in the thick of it all, was his wife. Only, she was not in a shape that Kiviuq was accustomed to. She looked kind of like a fox but only bigger. Who could mistake those beautiful, hazel eyes, and that lovely, white hair? But her mouth: it was no longer human, but canine. And to complete the effect, her voice had become high-pitched and gravely.
"'Ka, ka, ka, ka, kaw! Ka, ka, ka, ka, kaw! Ka, ka, cough, ka, kaa, ka, kaa...'
"Then they turned, and they saw him. Kiviuq fled.
"'Bark, bark! A human! Yip, yip, yip, yiiiiiii...!'
"'Kaa, ka, ka, ka-ooooww, come bacck! Kaa, kaa, kaa, cooommme seeee your son, yip-yip-yiiiip!'
"Kiviuq prided himself as a brave man, but he ran hard, refusing to look behind him. He ran until he could no longer hear that voice, the voice that he knew so well as belonging to his beautiful wife, but that was also the voice of a fox.
"He ran until he was out of breath, finally leaning against a rock to get his bearings. He had run so hard that sweat was streaming down his face, mingled with tears. His tears were salty and tasted like the sea that he had had to prowl for many a lonely night.
"He left in his kayak that very night, and before long, the mist obliterated the island that had been his home, leaving nothing but grey clouds on the horizon. Ahead, a small shaft of light from the setting sun once more became a lure to him, and promised adventures to come."