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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, April 14, 1912, Image 1

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The Tales the Eskimo Hell
of Themselves
, --,-» • :- • ' •** , , ; „-■■.. :■,-■ ,
THAT strange - dwarflike • people of 'the * frozen
north, the Eskimo, have been thought by some
'to be the last, descendants of the cavemen who
•'. roamed in western: : Europe toward" the end of
the ice age, and who, as the glacial sheet retreated,
century after century, ever farther from the equator,
followed-it gradually until their present location in
Greenland and Alaska, nearer the pole than any other
nation, was reached. How the ancestors of the Es
' ? kimo, if this view is correct, : traversed the Atlantic 1
ocean from the European \ side ' to 'the American con
, tinent—whether on drifting • ice floes * or by a now
submerged land bridge from Scotland or Norway via;
Iceland^to Greenland—remains a mystery. : But there
is much; known concerning ! both peoples,;'the-ancient'
and the 1 existing, that bears out the theory so strongly
, as to have led eminent scholars to accept it.. 7"
y Both :nations, though 10,000 years separate the past
from the present, lived, in anZarctic/climate at the
edge of continental ice-sheets.;/ Both hunted therein-?
deer. or r its near kin, the caribou. ; Both ;carved, tools
and ornaments from ivory and bone with the" greatest:
; ingenuity. The modern Eskimo harpoon is paral-;
leled by ! the prehistoric implement of the same type,;
of which numerous barbed heads have been preserved
Rtn the caves of France. But above all, a remarkable
art development links the two people together The
famous etchings of 7mammoth/: reindeer and horse
. from the Magdalenian deposits and layers of /western
; *«rope. find their closest; parallel among /ail y living
savage tribes in the carvings and engravings which
.the .untutored: Eskimo makes with such-;surpassing'
•• skill. Z The ' similarities % are,?; indeed^ striking, « and Z to:
many convincing. " *" ' Z '"'-':. 7 -'■■ "'■:' ???'Z/7.?7
* One other link can. be \ added: 'The traditions and
legends. The, tales, told by the Eskimo.vparticularly,;
those of Greenland, resemble in their;incidents, their
character and their tenor the folk "tales"*"of*; European'/
'peoples far ; rmore/; closely than/do/the numerous:'
legends of any of the tribes .of(American; Indians. In
the» Indian '■- traditions/: y there 7is always ''something -
bizarre, something that appeals as 'grotesque. One
S -feels immediately- that the people who invented or *
'repeated -• these {stories ".must have had ways '■ of? think
?-/ ing very different from our own. TZ/^rZ^ 1 -^O
■ ■7. .. ...■..--'. ■- ;.*.-. .
Dr. A. L. Krobeber
The t Eskimo' legends, on the other hand, stand very
close to those kept alive among civilized people. Of
course, there are differences, too. There must neces
sarily be dissimilarities between the, uncivilized and
the civilized, and in spite of all their high ingenuity,*
the Eskimo were and ;i ; are savages. Enchantments
: they 7understood and- believed in, but castles and
- * . * ** - .
princes can not appear in their tales because **§£$
knew neither castles nor princes. The magic ring
and the winged harp can also not be told of by their
t story i makers, v for they had neither rings nor harps.
Much of the .outward form is, therefore, strange and"
barbaric. " 7y - ,
. But when we look beyond the shell, the kernel and
the spirit -.are, quickly/ revealed as something familiar,
■ and; 1 kindred. Is it, ; then, merely 4 an » incident, a co-•
incidence, that- the Eskimo stand apart from all the
Indian tribes of /the continent and nearer to ourselves 4
in what may 7 well be called their literature? It
seems, hardly likely. ■«. Much more probable that some
thing of- the same methods of thought and expression
. prevailed among the ancient palaeolithic cave dwell
ers :of Europe, and'? that from this common/source '■■
both ■ races, we by long,residence of our ancestors on
the same? soil -and in : the/; same,. surroundings, the
/Eskimos/perhaps" by direct descent or transmission,
derived their similar narratives.
/ Viewing.the Eskimo legends from this aspect, they
become of interest not oily for what they recall of:
our own folk, traditions, but' on account of their. an
tiquity. ■ Any"/ or /.each/of the specimen^ that follow
may have/ an age 'of7thousands of years—may be ?
older, in- fact, than many of the- • prehistoric bones
and. stone tools .that . geologists and archaeologists
have dug from their resting places of :a, long past *
time. ;* 77 ': -■■'„■' ■'■ ; '■■■■'■■ -7"
-■ ..-: Many tales, told for, amusement;" but: at least h^Jf >
* believed" in by the" Eskimo, are narrated about' Inuk
pan, an enormous giant, who is said to have been so
large that a whole family of people could stand on
one of w his toes. For instance, once he lost the merest
tip end of his boot lace. Some time later an Eskimo
hunter came along- and discovered the piece of
leather, which he dragged home, joyful at -his-find,
A*"' ' ' . .'-'.';• :' HsJ*g
C5CA^> V /^l
Ss§!- lQil i
yJ^tXwiihSdi^ on account of -its size. -He was
able to cover a whole. or skin boat, with it,
so big was it. ' j- \^ /, T 7^- i - I !^ A
■■ -*7'W - *"** *VI'RL- •-^ t" ■s *' i'*?-^-*^ v***,.'*******, :*v^-*vf.'«&->9rag^«
Once again Inukpan saw a troop of polar bears on
? ; the ; ice. "What pretty little foxes!" he cried in de
..light,. and took them up to'play with, for, like many
of the giants of our own tales, he was as stupid
as he was well meaning.- But his fingers were so
tremendously clumsy that he crushed the fierce ani
mals as we maim : a fly in trying to handle it. 7A
In fact, ,Inukpan usually intended well, and the
; only time he came doing any damage to human l
t * - * ■ 4i- *i 7* ' * " •.,..*>
beings was one day swhen he was out paddling and
saw five Eskimo hunters in ;lhetr*boats. t They made
haste to get away, but with a few sweeps of his
".7 ** If i * ' ■ "i "- -r . ' ' 7
paddle he overtook them as if they were anchored
and scooped them all, men and boats, up in his hand.
He carried them to his house and thcrg* set them
afloat in the bucket of drinking water he had hanging
over his cooking lamp, and ; fo»,:a'time^watched! them
rowing around in it. -When lat last he grew tired and
fell asleep, the five men then let themselves down to
the ground by their long hunting lines, ran out of
the enormous house, and escaped safely home, where
they had much to tell of their remarkable adventure.
i__ _-■ '" - "•; . . „ t - -,»
THE SWAN MAIDEN, v -, . A. - .' . -AA >„
■ 7/Another story which has a parallel in European
folk tales is that of the "Swan Maidens." But the
practical Eskimo, knowing nothing of the poetical
associations which .cluster around our i!ea-*of,%thttS
stately bird, and even less of the prosaic barnyard
•reminiscences of its nearest domestic relative, makes
his legend deal with a -.woman in the form of a .'goose.'
This is the tale: ' ..''-; \. ' ' '
A young man on a journey. came to a pond where
he saw a? strange and unexpected sight. A" flock of
wild geese were taking .-off their * feather - garments
and disporting in the water in the form of human
maidens. Moved by curiosity, the man cautiously
crept up until he was; able 'to; rush forward and seize
the heap of garments on the hank. One and all'the
girls began to beg for their feathery coverings, and
gradually relenting before their entreaties, he re
turned them to one after another. Quickly each girl
Continued oa >«xt Page

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