Inuit - Inuarutligak - Whose Christian Name Was Peter Rantholl
[A tale from North Greenland.]
In times far back, the ancestors of this same Inuarutligak (viz., fabulous dwarf-islander or mountain-elf) are said to have lived at the southernmost point of the country, at a place called Kutserfik; and this was before they had learned to be shy of human beings. Just about that time a lasting enmity sprang up between them on account of an Inuarutligak being killed by a man; and ever after, they say that the gnomes have resorted to desert places, making hollows in the earth for their abodes, and shunning the society of man. Thirsting for vengeance, they in return killed a man whom they chanced to meet with on one of their excursions. Being sadly in want of proper arms, they found a large willow-bush on the sunny side of the Kutserfik- mount. Its form was like a man bending down on his knees and supporting his hand against the ground. From one of its roots they made a weapon not larger in size than a closed fist, shaped like a pistol; and at the end they put a little black stone, with a little red one on the top of it. This instrument, when finished, they named the pointing weapon. Knowing and fearing its killing powers for their own kith and kin, they are said always to have carried it in their hand. At this time the Inuarutligak of our tale was born. His father's name was Malerke; that of the eldest son Kinavina; of the second, Kook; of the third, Asarfe; and of the fourth, Sersok, of whom we are going to tell. Being given to moving about, his parents and relatives set out on a journey to the north, and travelled on for several years successively, always passing the winter in hollows in the earth, and starting again in the early spring. It is told that they once met with some singular people, whose upper limbs were those of human beings, but below the waist they were shaped like dogs.
These creatures were armed with bows, and dreadful to behold, and could catch the scent of man and beast against the wind like animals.
One winter they covered the whole inside of their abode under ground with a single skin-that of the large beast called kilivfak, the one with six legs. The story goes that when they had eaten the flesh of this animal, the bones were covered anew with flesh, but only up to the sixth time; and despite its strength and size, they killed it with the above-mentioned instrument, by merely pointing at it. They also knew how to diminish the distance from one place to another, by drawing the various parts of the country closer, and performed this by merely kneeling down together and spreading their arms out towards the mountain-tops; but finding some of them too high to spread their arms over, the foremost crossed the already contracted parts with one long stride, the others one by one following in his tracks. Whenever one of them was unfortunate enough to make a false step, several of them were left far behind for a long time.
After a journey of several years, they arrived at Ikerasarsuak (at the mouth of Wygat Straits), a place where lived Inuarutligaks, as well as Inoruseks. There they settled to wait till the frost should cover the ground with ice and make it possible to join those on the other side. Starting again in spring, and passing several winters at different places, they at length reached Noosak on the continent, and came to their long-wished-for relatives, and there they lived for many winters. People say that at the beginning of the journey to the north the high mountains were still without ice, and Ikerasarsuak without any glacier.
These elves had two different ways of clothing themselves-one suit they had fitting their natural size, and the other was large enough to fit a man. During their wandering they wore their own proper clothes, carrying the large ones with them, ready to put on in case they should get some heavy load to carry. They could then, by beating themselves, reach human size. Their way of regaining their natural appearance was by bending down to enter their cave, and hitting the crown of their heads against the roof, on which they dwindled down to their ordinary smallness.
An angakok at Noosak, whose wife was childless, wanted to buy a child from the Inuarutligaks, and offered to pay for him with three knives, a piece of bearskin, and some whalebones already twisted into fishing- lines. Malerke, on seeing them, grew very desirous of these things; and having got them, he gave the knives to his three sons, but the fourth and youngest he sold in exchange for them. His new father brought him home, and went to hide him behind the house. At night, however, he got inside, and at once slipped into the womb of his mother, on which account it was said that he was in a state of perfect consciousness while he remained in his mother's womb.
These elves were long in turning old; their youth was renewed five times over. On getting old the first time, they let themselves fall headlong down a precipice, and in this way regained the vigour and elasticity of youth. After repeating this five succeeding times, it was useless to try a sixth. This practice of letting themselves fall down they called Inutsungnartok. They never die young, but only after having undergone their five separate ages, excepting those who are killed by snowslips.
Taken from: The Eskimo of Siberia by Waldemar Bogoras;[Leiden & New York, 1913]