Oral traditions and Myths

A man that was married to a goose


My name is Sakkariasi Tukkiapik and my disk number is E8-719. March 28, 1968, I started writing the following stories. I deeply appreciate the fact that I have been receiving notebooks to write my stories. My problem is that I have forgotten parts of the stories I know, but I will attempt to write them to the best of my knowledge.


This is a story of a man who was married to a goose. One summer day, a man was walking along the shoreline of a lake, and happened to see numerous geese in human form. They were swimming in the lake, and their feathered skins were drying on the shore. The man stalked the geese and without been seen, took a female's skin and its gosling's.

The geese in human form noticed that they were being watched, and were startled. They dashed for their skins, grabbed them, transformed, scattered and flew hastily away. The female goose could not transform because the man had taken her feathered skin. She wept and begged for her skin. The man replied “Only if you become my wife...” Since she could not transform back into a goose, she became the man's wife. Her gosling was in the same situation.

As time went by, the goose woman gave birth to a child by her husband. She also had a mother-in-law. The goose woman cooked food, but when she was cooking, she mixed some grass into the food because deep inside, she was still a goose, even though she was not allowed to have her skin back. Her mother-in-law grew fed up eating food with a grassy taste. So she said: “I wish I ate food that did not have a grassy taste for a change.”

Her daughter-in-law, the goose woman, now have two children. She ordered her children to look for feathers along the shore and gather them. After the children gather the feathers, the goose woman stuck the feathers into the bases of their fingers to make wings. They transformed back into goose form and flew away. The goose woman was fed up with being criticized for adding grass to the food she was cooking. She left her husband behind because he was a human and could not fly like the geese do. [...]



TUKKIAPIK, Sakkariasi, 1995, “A man that was married to a goose”, Tumivut, no 6, p. 17-18.



The story of Lumaaq


The myths are a part of the traditional Inuit culture and were orally passed on by generation in generations. Today, the elders tell these stories to the youngest, inherit from their parents and their grand-parents. Some stories are very popular in the Arctic thus, inspiring the contemporary artists in sculpture as in graphic arts.

The story of Lumaaq, the blind-boy cared by loons is well known. There are different versions of this story, depending the families and areas; all talk about a young blind-boy living with his sister and his mother (or grand-mother) who mistreated them. We see here how the boy magically gets his sight back, in this excerpt of the myth of Lumaaq.

This story was described by Abraham Nastapoka (Aipajaqaa Nastapuuka) in Inukjuaq in Nunavik (Northern Quebec), in1967.


In the month of June, when people were living in tents, all kinds of birds migrated north. Some loons, heading to the lakes from the sea, flew by the family’s tent, calling. The blind-boy heard the loon’s calls, and thought they could probably cure his blindness. So the blind-boy asked his sister if there was a lake nearby.

The man spent all day long all alone in the tent. He started thinking that his sister could take him to the lake where the loons went. One day, their mean, adoptive mother was away, he told his sister, “Sister, guide me to the nearest lake. After you take me there, head back home, but make some rock piles close to one another so I can use them as markers to lead me home.” And so they headed for the nearest lake.

They reached the lake. His sister went home, and the blind boy stayed at the lake, waiting for the loons that he had heard calling. The same loons flew to the lake and landed on the water, calling loudly. The boy shouted, “hey, loons, make me able to see! Make me able to see!” The loons came close to the shore and responded, “Okay, if you want to get rid of your blindness, come to the shore and strip off your clothing.”

The boy did as he was instructed, and stripped off his clothes. He went into the water while the loons held his hands. He stood in the water up to his neck, and the loons licked his eyes. Afterwards, they made him dive under the water, telling him, “Give us a signal when you need to come up for air. Then we’ll pull you up.”

When he was under water, the boy felt nervous, so he signalled the loons even though he knew he could stay under a bit longer. To his astonishment, the loons pull him to the surface as soon as he gave the signal. When he surfaced, they asked him, “Can you see now? ” He replied, “Yes, I can see you two.”

Again, they licked his eyes, and he has to do the same thing as before, giving a signal when he needed to breathe. On the second dive, he was less nervous, so he staid underwater a bit longer, then signalled for air. When he surfaced, the loons asked him, “Can you see the distant beach-rye grass way out by the foothills” He answered, “No”.

So, for the third time, they licked his eyes and made him dive underwater. He was brave enough to stay under much longer than he had before. After he signalled for air, the loons pulled him up again. When he surfaced, they asked him again, “Now, can you see the distant beach-rye grass by the foothills?” He answered, “Now, I can see the beautiful beach-rye grass.”

The loons said, “We have cured your blindness.” The boy, able to see, went back to the shore and put on his clothes. After that, the loons flew away.

[transcribed by Jacob Oweetaluktuk and translated by Johny Nowra]



NASTAPOKA, Abraham, 1995, “How the tuulliik cured the blind man”, Tumivut, atuagait inuit nunavimmiut iluqqusinginnuangajut/ Tumivut, the cultural magazine of the Nunavik Inuit/Tumivut, la revue culturelle des Inuit du Nunavik, n◦6, p 21-22.




Uinigumasuittuq: the Inuit myth of the living beings’ origins


The origin of the living beings is one of the most popular Inuit myths in the Arctic as well in non-Inuit territories. It is about the story of Uinigumasuittuq “the one who did not want to get married”, so called Takannakaaluk “the Big there below”; more known by Qallunaat as Sedna. The artists often represent her under the shape of a siren. Various versions of the myth exist, according to the Arctic areas. Here is a version of the story told by an elder from Iglulik in Nunavut:


Unigumasuittuq lived with her parents and their dog Siarnaq. She refused all the pretenders. One day however, she bestowed the favours on a seductive visitor. He was their transformed dog who nobody had recognized. He often returned and she became pregnant. The father discovered then the identity of his host and furious, he transported the couple on an island.

As they went hungry, the girl sent several times the dog to look for some meat by her father. The dog used to bring back the food in a bag placed on his back. Then one day, the father was so furious of having puppies for grandchildren that he placed rocks into the bag thus, provoking the dog drowning.  On the advice of their mother, puppies tore their grandfather’s kayak when he came himself to bring food to them.

Henceforth without food, Uinigumasuittuq sent its puppies far off to allow them to survive. She made a first group leave southward to the wide on an old sole of boot: they disappeared in the mist and became Qallunaat (White people). She sent another group southward inside lands, provide with bows and with arrows: they became the Amerindians. Then she decided that the last group of puppies would leave less far, in the North but that they should not be seen by Inuit people: those were transformed into Ijirait, invisible beings living on caribous.

After the dispersal of those who were at the origin of the human races, Uinigumasuittuq returned then with her father. She continued to repel the pretenders until the day when arrived a man who wore sealskin clothes and sunglasses. She found him so beautiful that she agreed to marry him. She discovered too late that he was a petrel disguised as human.

So she ran away in a kayak, helped by her father. Discovering their escape but not succeeding in catching up them, the bird provoked a terrible storm. The terrified father threw his daughter to the water and as she caught the edges of the boat, he cut her fingers and burst her eyes with his knife. Every split phalanx was transformed into marine mammal: ringed seals, bearded seals and beluga whales appeared then. The woman disappeared under the water and lived there henceforth.

And so she became for ever Takannaaluk, “the Big there below” Deprived of the fingers, she was henceforth incapable to do hair thus, getting tangled. Every time knots formed, marine mammals remained captive as in fishnets there. When it occurred, Inuit got hungry because no more game could be captured. The shaman then had to come down at the bottom of the sea to untangle Takannaaluk’s hair and release marine mammals. Inuit could hunt then again the game.



RASMUSSEN, Knud, 1929, “Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos”, in Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, VII(1), Copenhagen.

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