Inuit - Ka-ha-si and the Loon
Inuit adapted by Terri Cohlene
In the land of the frozen North, there lived an Eskimo boy named Ka- ha-si. He lived with his mother in a small hunting village near the sea. Every day, all day long, Ka-ha-si slept on a warm caribou hide near the lamp in his igloo.
"Why do you not play with other children?" his mother would ask, "You should be learning how to hunt and fish so you will grow to be a good man."
But Ka-ha-si never answered. He stayed asleep by the lamp day after day, and no one could wake him.
One morning, before the sun was up, Ka-ha-si heard a faint rustling sound and felt a feather-light touch on his cheek. What is this? he thought. Who disturbs my sleep? He blinked his eyes open to see a beautiful black bird with white speckles on its back.
"Who are you?" asked Ka-ha-si.
"Hush," whispered the bird, "It is I, The Loon. I bring a message from your grandfather. Come.'
Quietly, so he would not waken his mother, Ka-ha-si dressed and followed The Loon. "But I do not know my grandfather,' he whispered to the bird. "He has been gone since my mother was a young girl."
"This is true," answered The Loon. "But you will meet him one day.
Then he will explain."
Together, they went a great distance frim thi village until they came upon a flowering shrub. Ka-ha-si had never seen such a plant before. "You must come here every day," said The Loon, "and eat four leaves from this magical bush. Then you will bathe in the waters of this stream. You must be strong when your grandfather calls for you."
Ka-ha-si did not understand, but he ate four of the bitter leaves and bathed in the icy waters. Each day after that, The Loon woke him and went with him to the magical place. Then, before he was missed, the boy would return to his warm bed by the lamp.
"He is a lazy one," people would say to Ka-ha-si's mother. "What good is he to you or to our village? He does not hunt or fish, or even help you repair your igloo."
But Ka-ha-si's mother would always answer, "He is a good son. He does not find trouble. He will learn to be a man someday, an important man, you will see."
One day followed the next until there came a season of hunger in the village. Time after time, the hunters returned empty-handed. All the animals seemed to be hiding. What were The People to do? Ka-ha-si woke to see The Loon sitting beside him. "Why have you come, Loon?" he asked.
"Your people are starving," The Loon answered. "You must help them."
Ka-ha-si immediately went out to see what he could do. When he found the hunters gathered in the village, they all pointed and stared at him. "So you finally woke up!" someone shouted. "What is it, Lazy One, are you hungry? Do you miss the food your mother always catches for you?"
"I will help you," Ka-ha-si said.
The men laughed. "You! That is impossible. How can you do what our best hunters cannot?"
Ka-ha-si held up a big walrus skin. "Each of you take hold around this," he said. "I will stand on it, then you can throw me into the air. When I am high enough, I will be able to see where the animals are hiding."
The villagers had never before heard of such a thing, but the rumbling in their stomachs told them to try. Ka-ha-si bounced higher and higher into the air until he shouted, "There! I see a herd of walruses on an ice floe!"
Quickly, the hunters grabbed their harpoons and tied the dogs to the sledges. Ka-ha-si rode with the leader as they raced in the direction of the walruses. Soon they turned the sledges over and anchored them in the snow. Then they pushed their umiak into the water. Ka-ha-si sat silently in the bow.
"You helped us find the walruses," said a hunter, "but surely you do not think you can hunt?" Ka-ha-si said nothing.
"Let him stay," the leader said. "He may learn something."
They paddled through rough waters to the ice floe. Each time they drew near enough to throw a harpoon, again wave pushed them back, and the weapon missed its mark. Finally, the men were exhausted and they decided to turn back.
Ka-ha-si stood up. "Paddle close one more," he said. "I know what to do." The hunters murmured in disbelief, but did as he asked. When they drew close, a powerful wave lifted the umiak high into the air, and Ka-ha-si jumped from the boat onto the ice floe.
Before the startled walruses had time to attack or dive into the sea, the boy began knocking their heads together. Then he picked up the stunned animals and hurled them one by one into the waiting umiak.
When it could hold no more, Ka-ha-si jumped back into the boat. The hunters couldn't believe what happened. It took many men to drag a walrus. How could a boy do such a thing as this? When they returned to their village, there was much rejoicing. The People wanted to thank Ka-ha-si, but he was nowhere to be seen. His mother finally found him, curled up, asleep by the lamp.
Days passed and Ka-ha-si still slept by the fire, waking only to go secretly with The Loon each morning to their special place. The people soon forgot how he had saved them from hunger. They remembered only his laziness.
One day, strangers came to the village, bringing with them a fierce giant. "Who among you can defeat our champion?" called one of the strangers. "Or are you all too weak?"
The giant was twice the size of the strongest man in the village, but it would cast shame on their people to refuse such a challenge. There was nothing else to be done. One by one, the men took their turn to fight.
Ka-ha-si woke to see The Loon sitting beside him in the sunlight. "Why have you come, Loon?" he asked.
"Your people are threatened by a fierce giant," The Loon said. "You must help them."
Ka-ha-si immediately went out to see what the trouble was. He reached the circle of shouting people, just as the giant tossed the last hunter aside like a mosquito. Laughing, the giant shouted, "You fight like women! Is these no one among you who can fight like a man?"
Ka-ha-si stepped forward. "You have not yet challenged me!"
The giant looked down. "Ha! Now you send a boy to fight? I will throw him away like an old bone!" With that, he reached out and grabbed Ka- ha-si's arms, but he could not move him. The giant tried again and again, but it was as though Ka-ha-si were anchored to the ground.
Then the boy reached out and with one hand picked the giant up and tossed him beyond the last igloo in the village. The People cheered, and the strangers hurried to carry their champion off in shame. The People tried to thank their hero, but he was gone. Again, his mother found him, asleep in his favorite place by the lamp.
Soon afterward, harder times yet fell on The People. With great shaking of the earth, the mountains began moving toward the sea. Closer and closer they came until they reached the edge of the village. "Ka-ha-si!" The People shouted. "Wake up, wake up! You must save us!"
But Ka-ha-si slept on, and The People took anything they could carry and pulled their umiaks and kayaks to the shore. Just then, The Loon swooped over their heads to Ka-ha-si's igloo.
Ka-ha-si awoke to feel the Earth's trembling. "What is this, Loon?" he asked.
"It is the mountains," answered The Loon. "They are attacking your people. You must help."
When Ka-ha-si crawled out of his igloo, the villagers were pushing their boats into the water. "Wait!" called the boy. "I will stop this terrible thing." With that, he hurried past all the igloos that now lined the shore. He held up his hands shouting, "Go back! Go back where you belong, my grandfather would have it so!"
But the mountains continued their march to the sea. "Come Ka-ha-si!
Save yourself," The People called.
Ka-ha-si ignored them and laid his hands against the biggest mountain. With all his strength, he pushed harder and harder until finally it was back where it belonged. Then he pushed another mountain, and another, until they were all in their places. After this, he took a giant piece of driftwood from the beach and dredged a space between the mountains and the village all the way to the sea. This became a river, which the mountains could never cross.
As The People sang with joy, The Loon came to Ka-ha-si and said, "You have done well. Your grandfather, He-Who-Holds-Up-The-Earth, needs you. He is old and becomes weak. He bids you hurry."
Unseen by the villagers, Ka-ha-si got into his kayak and paddled after The Loon. When they were far from shore, a giant whirlpool caught the small boat, swirling it fiercely. With all his strength, Ka-ha-si could not free himself.
"Do not worry," calmed The Loon. "It is but the way to your grandfather." At last, Ka-ha-si understood. He dropped his paddle, and allowed the sea to swallow him up.
When The People searched for Ka-ha-si, he was nowhere to be seen. His mother looked for him by the fire, but he was not thee. "Where is my son?" she called. But before anyone could answer, The Loon landed beside her.
"Do not worry," he said. "Ka-sa-si is safe. He has gone to be with his grandfather."
As The Loon explained, the villagers understood how important Ka-ha- si really was. In all the days that followed, The People sang of his deeds. And each time they felt the Earth tremble, they knew it was only Ka-ha-si, The Strong One, shifting the Earth from one shoulder to the other.