Alaska Native Lore

The Old Woman Who Lives Under the Sea
The Origin of Light


The Old Woman Who Lives Under the Sea

From the Eskimo

Most Eskimo of Northern Canada have an Old Woman legend. The Eskimo of the central arctic called her SEDNA.

Two giants co-existed peacefully along side the Eskimo. No one knew where they came from or their names. They had a girl child who had an enormous appetite and little concern for what she ate. One night the giants were awaken to the realization that their daughter was chewing on their limbs.

Horrified, the giants gathered up the girl and rowed her out to the middle of the sea. There they began to cut off her fingers and toes and throw them into the sea. The fingers and toes turned into whales and seals. On seeing this, the giants threw the entire girl into the sea and paddled furiously for home.

The girl became SEDNA, Mother of the Sea. SEDNA controlled all the elements of the sea. She, when angry, could create storms and other bad conditions. She could tell the seals and whales to move away from hunting grounds.

When confronted by a shaman, SEDNA, at her fancy, promises to provide abundant food to the Eskimo or cut off the local food supply forcing them to move to another fishing ground.

The Origin of Light

From the Inuit

The Origin of Light

In the early times, there was only darkness; there was no light at all. At the edge of the sea a woman lived with her father. One time she went out to get some water. As she was scraping the snow, she saw a feather floating toward her. She opened her mouth and the feather floated in and she swallowed it. From that time she was pregnant.

Then she had a baby. It's mouth was a raven's bill. The woman tried hard to find toys for her child. In her father's house was hanging a bladder that was blown up. This belonged to the woman's father. Now the baby, whose name was tulugaak (Raven), pointed at it and cried for it. The woman did not wish to give it to him but he cried and cried. At last she gave in and took the bladder down from the wall and let the baby play with it. But in playing with it, he broke it. Immediately, it began to get light. Now there was light in the world, and darkness, too.

When the woman's father came home, he scolded his daughter for taking the bladder down from the wall and giving it to the child. And when it was light, tulugaak had disappeared.

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