Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/26

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1 8 Journal of A merican Folk-Lore.

word "kak," became a raven (Turner, "The Hudson Bay Eskimo," Eleventh Ann. Report Bureau of Ethn. p. 262). A boy who was abused on account of his long ears ran away and became a hare (Turner, p. 263). This sort of incident is very frequent as a con- clusion to Eskimo tales ; and further it reminds of Indian tales, in that at first sight it seems to obliterate the difference between man and animal. But as in all these cases we do not have the animal as agent in any way, and in fact the transformation seems to be regarded as the act that ends the human qualities of the transformed, we can omit this class of apparent animal tales. There is the more reason for this as in many cases the transformation at the end of the story has no connection at all with the preceding events, — is a mere gratuitous addition. (Compare Rink, p. 232, and Boas, "The Central Eskimo," p. 639, with Turner, "Origin of the Guillemots," p. 262.)

If, accordingly, we omit these kinds of animal incidents, we find the animal tales proper of the Eskimo to be very few. Eskimo mythology is, compared with Indian, very strongly human. Beside a single story that is found in the identical form over a large part of western North America, and is therefore as likely as not of Indian origin, — and three or four others that are all rather scant, — the tales of the Eskimo that attribute human qualities to animals, and have animals as their characters, belong clearly to two naturally sharply defined groups. In the first group the central incident is the mar- riage between a human being and an animal. The tales of the sec- ond group resemble the ordinary European beast-fable that we are familiar with, and are all remarkable for their brevity.

The marriage between an animal and a human being, especially a woman, seems to be a favorite motif in Eskimo mythology. It is found no less than seven times, and the animals vary from a shark to the petrel, from a huge reptile to a dog. To a certain extent, these animals seem endowed with human faculties : most of them speak ; and a few times we are told that they had assumed the shape of men. But on the whole the opposite idea of contrast between man and beast, and of essential difference between them, seems to have been uppermost in the mind of the Eskimo narrators. To them the animals are animals, as is shown by the fact that, in all cases where there is any offspring consequent upon the union, the young are animals. Therefore there is in this group of stories little real resemblance with the average Indian tale containing animals. In both, animals are agents : but the Indian forgets, ignores the dis- tinction between animal and man ; the Eskimo tends to empha- size it.

The other group consists of about twenty very short stories. The

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