The Adventures of Kivioq

Kivioq’s father had been killed by an angry hunter several months before he was born. His mother vowed to avenge her husband’s death and plotted to get even. Soon after the little boy was born, his mother wrapped his tiny body in the skin of a newborn seal and sewed it together so tightly that it fit just like his own.

Kivioq’s mother taught her young son how to hold his breath under water. They practiced each day until Kivioq grew so comfortable under water that his mother had to wait long periods of time for her young son to come up for air.

One day Kivioq’s mother said, “You are ready for the sea, my son.” And she took him down to the shore. Kivioq’s mother rubbed his sleek sealskin suit and smiled at her young son. “Swim out to sea,” she said. “And when you see kayaks, show yourself above the water.

The men will quickly paddle toward you. Let them come close, then duck under the water and hold your breath until you have led them far out to sea. After they are far enough away, I will raise a great storm, turn over their kayaks, and they will all drown.”

Kivioq did as he was told and swam out to sea.

“Look,” cried one hunter from his kayak. “There is a seal. Let’s follow it.”

Kivioq let the kayaks come close, then he dove down under the water and disappeared. When he resurfaced, he was far out at sea, and the men’s kayaks were right behind him. Kivioq quickly dove under the water again, and the men paddled rapidly after him.

Suddenly, an angry wind sent huge waves over the tops of the kayaks, and one by one, the little boats disappeared beneath the water. Only one kayak and hunter remained and continued to follow Kivioq.

But soon this single hunter grew tired and stopped to rest. No sooner had he laid the paddle across his kayak than a great wave washed over him. Kivioq never saw the young hunter again.

Kivioq bobbed up and down in the water looking for more hunters until he was certain his mother had sought her complete revenge. Then he swam to the nearest island and went ashore.

He found one small house, which had no windows or roof. Kivioq climbed up the wall of the house and looked down inside. An old witch sat on the sleeping platform tanning a human skin.

From the top of the wall Kivioq blew down on the witch’s head, then drew back so she could not see him. The witch looked up, but her thick wrinkled eyelids were so big and heavy that they fell down over her eyes and shrouded her sight. “Strange, my house has never leaked before,” muttered the old witch.

Kivioq blew down on the witch again. This time she cut off her heavy eyelids with her tanning knife and looked up toward the top of the wall. Kivioq gasped at the sight of her hideous red-black eyes and let go his grip of the side of the house.

He landed on the ground just in time for the old witch to greet him at the door. “Please come in,” she said in a kind voice. “Let me hang up your clothes to dry.”

Kivioq went inside and took off his wet clothing. The old witch hung the clothing on a long line that stretched across the room, and Kivioq jumped up onto the sleeping platform to stay warm.

“Wait here,” said the old witch. “I must go out and get some more fuel for the fire.”

Suddenly Kivioq began to fear that the old witch meant to cook him. He got down off the sleeping platform and began to poke around the room. “Oh,” he gasped out loud as his hand brushed against a pile of human skulls. “What are these?” One of the skulls spoke up, “You had better get out of here in a hurry if you do not wish to join us!”

Kivioq reached for his clothing on the line above him. But each time he grabbed at his anorak, the line flew up into the air and out of reach. Desperate, Kivioq rubbed the small white feather that hung around his neck and called out to the bird who was his helping spirit, “Snow Bunting, Snow Bunting, where are you? Please help me.”

Snow Bunting flew into the house and brushed her wings against the line that held Kivioq’s clothing. The clothing fell to the floor, and Kivioq put it on as quickly as possible. Then he rushed out of the house, down to the shore, and jumped into the water.

Soon the old witch came running after him waving her long pointed knife. Frustrated that she could not reach him, but eager to show Kivok her great powers, the old witch gashed open a granite boulder on shore, just as easily as if she were cutting a piece of fresh meat.

Kivioq quickly responded by throwing his harpoon at an even larger boulder that jutted up out of the sea. The great stone split in two and fell into the water. “That is the way I would have harpooned you,” cried Kivioq.

The old witch smiled gleefully. She was so impressed with Kivioq’s great strength that she called out, “Please come back, I want you to be my husband.”

Kivioq swam away as fast as he could go. The angry old witch hurled her knife after him. It skidded over the water and eventually turned into a great ice floe. Thereafter, the sea began to freeze over every winter.

After Kivioq had escaped far from the angry witch, he stole a kayak and began to paddle from shore to shore in search of a place to settle. At first he stopped on a small island where two giant caterpillars, helping spirits of the old witch, tried to steal his kayak.

He escaped just in time, back to the sea. Snow Bunting came to warn him that the witch had sent a giant clam after him, and Kivioq looked up just in time to dodge two huge shells that threatened to swallow him whole.

At last Kivioq returned home, but his mother was gone and the village was empty. He mourned for many months before he decided to seek a wife. Kivioq walked until he came upon a small stone house nestled against low-growing shrubs by the side of a lake.

He called out, “Is anyone at home?” A sweet-looking old lady with graying hair came out to greet him. The old lady, who was really a wolf in human form, invited Kivioq in to meet her daughter. Kivioq entered the small stone house and was surprised to see that the daughter had the same graying hair as the mother, even though she was very young.

After Kivioq had been with the women for two winters and had taught them how to hunt caribou, he asked the young girl to be his wife. Kiviok’s young bride had become an excellent hunter, but her mother was too old to run fast and seldom brought down an animal.

In the evening Kivioq brought caribou home in his kayak, and his young wife waded out into the lake to retrieve the dead animals. Kivioq admired his wife’s strength and beauty. Her knees never wobbled under a heavy load, and her shoulders stayed straight back when she walked.

But the old lady sneered at her robust daughter, “You are so young and strong you can show off for your new husband. But I am just as strong.” The young girl ignored the old lady and continued to sew her husband’s caribou-skin anorak.

One day while the daughter waited for Kivioq to come home, the old lady sneaked up behind her and hit her on the head with a rock. Then, the jealous old woman stripped her daughter of her beautiful young skin and stepped into it herself.

The new young skin covered the old woman’s wrinkled face, bony arms and hands, and torso, but it would not stretch all the way down to her feet. Still, she was pleased with her new appearance, and she covered up the old skin of her legs with high boots.

Before long, Kivioq called from his kayak, and the old lady, disguised as his wife, slipped out the door to greet him. “You forgot to take off your boots,” scolded Kivioq. But the old lady pretended she did not hear him and kept walking out toward the kayak. “Take off your boots,” he protested again. “Boots do not belong in the water.”

Finally the old lady took off the boots and threw them on the shore. After she reached Kivioq’s kayak she grabbed hold of the caribou, just as her daughter had always done, and hoisted it onto her shoulder. But the animal’s weight made her shoulders bend forward and her knees buckle. Kivioq thought his wife must be very tired.

He watched closely as his wife struggled to walk toward shore. Then he looked down in the water and saw two thin wrinkled legs below the fine young skin of his wife. Immediately, Kivioq understood his jealous mother-in-law’s terrible deed.

“You cruel old woman. You have taken my wife from me,” he shouted. And he turned his kayak around and paddled off in the opposite direction.

Kivioq never looked behind him. And he never again saw the old she-wolf who was his mother-in-law.

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