An Inuit Myth
Long, long ago, on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, there lived an old woman with her little grandson. They were very poor, so poor that the old woman had a hard time to feed and care for the boy. It was always cold and stormy, and sometimes they had almost nothing to eat for days at a time, because the wind blew so hard that the little boy could not stay out to catch fish.
One time when it had been stormy for many days, and the old grandmother was nearly dying of hunger, the little boy said to her, “Grandma, do you know what makes storms like this?”
“No,” said she; “I only know that it is always cold and windy; only some days are worse than others. In some places they have sunshine, but never here. We will die of hunger and cold, but the wind will go on blowing just the same, and the snow will fall.”
The poor grandmother bowed her head, and the tears fell on her cheeks.
The boy said, “How is it, Grandma, that you live so long and do not know what makes storms? I shall find out myself.”
The grandmother had to laugh, weak and sad as she was. “Why, how can you find out such things? You are only a little boy.”
He stood up beside her and tried to look very big and strong.
“Grandma,” said he, “I will teach you about storms myself, even if I am only a little boy. I will find out how to stop these storms.”
Then he asked her to mend his mukluks and his mittens, and to be sure there were no holes in his parka, for he was going out.
The old woman said “No” at first, and begged him not to go, but seeing how determined he was she let him have his way and got his things ready as he had asked her to do.
When she had finished, the little fellow put the parka over his head, and with his high fur mukluks, and good mittens, he was well protected from the wind.
Outside the igloo he stopped to watch the storm and which way the snow was drifting. After studying it for a while he said to himself, “I know now where the storm comes from,” and putting his head down he took a long breath and started to walk against the wind, which was so strong that it took him a long time to make any progress at all. The snow was thick and caused him to stop every few steps, and turn his back to the wind, to rest and get his breath.
At last, when he began to despair of getting any farther, he saw something big and dark moving through the snow. It was a man, a very big man. He had on a fine parka with a big band of wolverine fur about the hood, that stood out from his face like the rays of the sun; only the little boy had never seen the sun, so he never thought of that.
Luckily the man had his back to the boy, and of course could not hear him in such a howling wind.
Back and forth, the man walked in the snow, intent upon his work, and not looking about him at all.
The boy watched him closely, and saw that he had a spear, and a big shovel made from the shoulder-bone of a whale. First the man would break up a lot of snow with the spear, then he would scoop it up with his shovel, and with a great shout fling that snow wildly about in every direction. He seemed to be singing some kind of a wild song, and as he waved his shovel high in the air the snow flew thick and fast, whirling away in the great blast of wind made by the fanning of the shovel.
The boy listened for the words of the song. They sounded something like this:
Fill the day,
With flying snow.
Here you go.
There you go.
Blow, blow, BLOW!”
At the last “BLOW” he would give a great shout, and whirl around so fast, and fling the snow so hard, that he would almost lose his balance and fall over on the ground.
How do you think the boy felt when he realized that he had all unexpectedly come upon the Storm Man himself? He was so excited he forgot to feel cold or tired, and began to wonder what he could do, he, a little boy, as his dear old grandmother had so rightly said, to stop the Storm Man from making any more storms. The man was very big and fierce and strong, and he himself was so very little, and had had so little to eat for a long time that he was not strong at all.
Watching the Storm Man, he noticed that every time he got through chopping a lot of snow, he would drop the spear behind him, and stoop to pick up the shovel; so, waiting until the man was entirely absorbed in his shovel and his song, the little boy grabbed the big spear and scampered off across the snow for dear life.
My! How heavy that spear did feel, and how the boy did run! For in spite of his burden, he was so sure the Storm Man was after him that Fear lent wings to his feet, and he fairly flew over the snow toward his grandmother’s little house.
Safely he reached the door and fell breathless on the floor behind his grandmother with the spear in his hand. Almost at his heels, he heard the Storm Man shouting behind him, “Give me my spear! Give me my spear!”
The old woman roused herself, opened her eyes, and saw the boy.
“My son,” said she, “if you have anything belonging to that man, give it to him or he will kill us.”
“Grandmother, dear Grandmother, don’t make me give back the spear, for that is the Storm Man, and if I give it back now, he will make a terrible big storm and we shall die anyhow. If I keep it he cannot make the storms.”
Then the man shouted louder than ever, “If you do not give me back my spear the sky will fall on you! You will be killed and everyone on St. Lawrence Island will die, too; but if you give it back right away, it will be summer when you wake up tomorrow morning. The sun will be shining, and the salmon-berries will be ripening all about the house. Then go down to the river and set your nets, and they will quickly be full of fine salmon. Hurry! Hurry! Give me my spear!”
The grandmother again said, “Boy, give that man his spear.”
The little boy was very angry, because he did not believe the Storm Man, and thought they would be killed anyway, but he did not dare disobey the grandmother, so he took the spear to the fireplace and struck the point against the stone lamp to make it dull. When he had finished, he threw it out of the window hole, and called, “There is your spear. I know you are the Storm Man.”
The Storm Man only laughed, and said, “Konnu has sharpened my spear.” Now “Konnu” was the boy’s name.
After that the grandmother and the boy heard the howling song of the Storm Man grow fainter and fainter in the distance, until they both fell asleep to its soothing sound.
Early in the morning the boy was awakened by a strange dazzling light in his eyes. It was the sun. True to his word, the Storm Man had let the summer come.
Outside it was warm. Sunshine was everywhere, making everything look bright and beautiful. The ground about the house was thick with ripening salmon berries, and the sky was blue, with little white puffy clouds floating over it.
Konnu took his nets down to the river and saw the salmon swimming lazily about. His heart was full of joy, for he knew the Storm Man had kept his word, that this was summer, and they need not be hungry and cold anymore.
Citation: Riggs, Renee Coudert. Animal Stories from Eskimo Land. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1923. Edited by S.E. Schlosser. This story is in the public domain and is part of the cited work.