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The Goose-Wife
Qiviuq and the Fishmaker, by Janet Kigusiuq

Qiviuq and the Fishmaker, by Janet Kigusiuq


As told by Samson Quinangnaq

As he walked southward, Kiviuq came across many birds. The story is that in those days, birds wore socks on their feet. He studied the birds, romping on the water without their socks. Kiviuq slowly made his way to the socks on the ground and gathered all of them in his arms.

Once the birds realized that their socks were in the hands of Kiviuq, they approached him. First to reach him was a swan, “Give me back my socks,” she said.

“I’ll give them back to you if you’ll be my wife”, replied Kiviuq. The swan took one look at Kiviuq’s legs, then her own, took her socks and walked away.

Next to approach him was a goose. Kiviuq repeated his earlier demand, this time to the goose. She immediately began to cry. Feeling sorry for her, Kiviuq claimed her as his wife. (I’m always amazed by this marriage.)

The couple bore four eggs. Kiviuq slurped two of the eggs and raised the remaining two. Kiviuq lived with and provided for his new family all summer long.

The mother goose asked her goslings to go down to the shore and gather sand for their food. The goslings did this and many times brought some sand back for her to eat.

Kiviuq’s mother lived with the couple. She was disturbed by the eating habits of her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. She’d coax them, “There is plenty of food provided for you. Eat some meat from the larder instead of eating sand.” Geese are unable to eat meat, so they continued with their sandy diet. They molted and now were beginning to learn to fly.

The mother goose gathered some flight feathers with her goslings and inserted them between their fingers. They did this in the absence of Kiviuq, only the mother-in-law and they, knew of their intentions. After inserting all the feathers, they began practicing take-off. Soon they were able to take flight, they flew around the old woman three times then on towards Kiviuq’s direction. They circled him three times in flight and continued on to the land of the birds.

That evening, Kiviuq returned to his camp, only to find that his family had left. He asked his mother, “Where are my wife and children?”

“They left in the general direction you took this morning. They may have circled you too”, she replied. Leaving his mother behind, Kiviuq began to walk in the direction his mother had indicated, to search for his family.

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Kiviuq’s Journey Song as sung by Henry Evaluarjuk

To hear the song sung by Henry Evaluardjuk and Annie Peterloosie click here.

Now the birds were in flight. Walking along his journey Kiviuq sang;

Over yonder I walked, behind the mountains to the land of the birds, where winter nevr comes and ice never freezes;
Over yonder, over yonder aiyaa
Over yonder I walked, over yonder, over yonder aiyaa
I come across a large qulliq with bright lights, only if I jump over it’s flame can I then pass it aiyaa.

(The oil in the lamp represents the vast sea, its candy is its blubber, and they depict pieces of detached ice in the vast sea.)

Over yonder I walked, behind the mountains to the land of the birds,
Where winter never comes and ice never freezes; to the bag of the world.
Over yonder, over yonder aiyaa.
I come across a boiling pot, only if I step on the meat
Can I then pass it aiyaa.
Over yonder I walked, over yonder, over yonder aiyaa.
Looking down, he went over yonder.

Over yonder I walked, behind the mountains to the land of the birds,
to the bag of the world, over yonder, over yonder aiyaa.
Large necklaces I see clashing into each other, only if slither in between them can I pass it aiyaa.

Over yonder I walked, aiya over yonder yes over yonder there,
Two grizzlies biting each other, only if I go in between them,

Can I then pass, aiyaa.

Now they were biting each other’s throats, to and fro they went, side to side then back again biting at each other, the two grizzlies.

Down yonder, I walked over yonder, over yonder aiyaa.
Now these large buttocks banging onto each other,
Clank, clank without slippers these, without slippers these, sexless these

Over yonder I walked, over yonder, over the yonder,
At last he’s done, he awakes with these large buttocks on top of him, only by having intercourse with them shall he be allowed to pass.
The large river was hard for people to cross because of it’s width.

Over yonder, I walked behind the mountains to the land of the birds,
Over yonder there aiyaa ayaa,
There the buttocks banging onto each other, aiyaa
Only if I have intercourse with them,
Can I pass it aiyaa.

Over yonder, I walked behind the mountains to the land of the birds,
Over yonder over the yonder aiyiyaa aya aiyaa,
The large pot is here boiling aiya one should not be here
Only if I step on its face, I’ll walk over there continuing my journey.

Over the yonder, I walked behind the mountains to the land of the birds,
There aiya
Over yonder aiyaayaa
These two grizzly’s are here playing around aiyaa one should not be here
Only if I go in between them over there shall I walk

Over yonder, I walked behind the mountains to the land of the birds,
Over the yonder there ayaa aiyaa
Two mountains there just playing there I hear there foggy there I shall run my walk,
Over yonder I walked behind the mountains to the land of the birds, over yonder there ayaa iyaa aiyaa these ropes are here just here aiyaa can’t eat them. Only if I untie them shall I walk there

Over yonder, aiyaa I walked behind the mountains to the land of the birds, over yonder ayaa iyaa aiyaa
These skulls just there aiyaa can’t pass them only if I over-night maybe I’ll get there walking. Over yonder I walked behind the mountains to the land of birds over yonder there ayaa iyaa aiyaa.

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Artwork: Qiviuq’s Journey, by William Noah

Qiviuq’s Journey, by William Noah


The goose-wife, told by Bibianne Niviuvak

Kiviuq and his wife, who was a goose, had two goslings. They shared their tent with Kiviuq’s mother. Their children were now maturing into young geese.

While Kiviuq was on a hunting trip, the mother goose asked her goslings to go down to the shore to pick sand for their food. “Go down to the tide level and get some sand.” The goslings did as they were told and brought some back for their mother. This disgusted Kiviuq’s mother. Taking the goose’s wing tips, (I wonder if they had fingers at the time) the mother-in-law said there is plenty of meat provided for you, I wish you and the young ones would eat meat instead of sand.

After their sandy meal, the mother goose and her two young ones went down to the shore area to collect flight feathers. Every feather found was inserted in between their wing fingers by the mother goose including hers. They did this overnight.

On the outskirts of their camp area, the mother goose and her goslings practiced flying. Finally the mother took flight, and her children followed.

In unison the geese honked and circled their human grandmother. Then upon hearing her gasp with disappointment, they flew towards the land of the birds, probably because it was fall time.

Kiviuq came home from hunting to find his mother alone. She told him that they had left for good, and she must have shown him the direction that they flew to, because Kiviuq set out in that direction to look for his family.

He set out on foot in the direction towards the land beyond the great water.

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Kiviuq’s Journey Song as sung by Annie Peterloosie

To hear the song sung by Henry Evaluardjuk and Annie Peterloosie click here.

Over yonder I walked, I walked to the land of birds where winter never comes, over yonder, over yonder there.

A large bag sitting there how can one pass it outdoors can I shake it only if I step on its contents shall I pass it now I can shake it.

Over yonder I walked, I walked to the land of birds where winter never comes and ice never freezes there over yonder aiyaa,

A large lamp is just sitting there bright never shut off how shall I pass it only if I jump its contents shall I pass it shall I shake it.

Over yonder I walked, I walked to the land of birds where winter never comes and ice never freezes there over yonder aiyaa,

This large pot is just sitting there boiling to the point where I cannot pass it only if I jumped on its content shall I pass it shall I cross it.

Over yonder I walked, I walked to the land of birds where winter never comes and ice never freezes there over yonder aiyaa

This large rock just sitting there pounding itself how shall I pass it I shall shake it only if I go in between its clashing shall I pass it shall I cross it.

Over yonder I walked, I walked to the land of birds where winter never comes and ice never freezes there over yonder aiyaa

Two large grizzlies here just playing here biting each other how shall I pass them only if I go in between their bites shall I pass it shall I cross it

Over yonder I walked, I walked to the land of birds where winter never comes and ice never freezes there over yonder aiyaa

Two large buttocks just sitting there how shall I pass them only if I have intercourse with them shall I pass them shall I cross them.

Over yonder I walked, I walked behind the mountains to the land of birds where winter never comes and ice never freezes there over yonder aiyaa.

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Continuing with Bibianne Niviuvak


On his journey he came upon a lake where a man was chipping wood pieces. He wore a parka with a pointed hood.

Kiviuq approached the man carefully and stood near him but was not yet noticed by the man. Standing on ice, he was chipping off pieces of wood.

Taken by surprise, he immediately held his ax towards Kiviuq when he finally noticed him.

“From which direction did you approach me?” he asked.

“From your side.” Kiviuq answered.

The man had an opening from his mouth to his rear end and was extremely embarrassed about it so he continued to ask Kiviuq, “From which direction did you approach me?” Wielding his ax towards Kiviuq. Again Kiviuq answered “From your side.” This settled the man.

He continued to chip off pieces of wood and when he threw them into the

water, they would turn into fish! (When fish meat is sliced, the grain of the meat is similar to the grain of wood) Whenever he threw a wood chip into the water, it would turn to fish and swim off in the lake.

He told Kiviuq to sit on a large fish to cross the big water. He said whenever fish reach shallow water, they becomes jittery and will jerk towards the deeper waters. “That jerking motion will be your cue to jump for the shore.”

Sitting on the back of the large fish he crossed the lake. As instructed, Kiviuq felt the jerking motion of the fish he was on, and leapt hard towards the shore. He landed in water up to his waistline and walked to land. He then put his ear on the ground to listen. He could hear great noises of birds gathered somewhere close by.

He continued towards the noisy area. Over the ridge a multitude of birds was playing. He recognized his two children among them. They saw their father and were delighted to see him. Joyfully they went to inform their mother of their father’s arrival.

His wife, a goose, was now remarried to a small Brant goose. When he realized that Kiviuq had arrived, fiddling with his tool bag, (his tool bag was his gut) he explained “I’m not afraid of him.”

Kiviuq entered the geese’s tent, cowardly the Brant goose sprang out of the tent and flew down to the lake to swim. Meekly, he exclaimed, “I left my tool bag.” He had left behind his gut!

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The Goose-wife told by Theresa Kimmaliadjuk
The story is that the man Kiviuq was married to a goose, and they had two children. The mother goose often went down to the shore to gather sand for their food.

Kiviuq’s mother exclaimed, “People with fingers normally eat meat, please eat meat from the larder instead of sand.”

Against her mother-in-law’s wishes, she and her goslings gathered sand for food. Soon they started gathering flight feathers, which she stuck in between their fingers. They practiced flight take-off and were soon in flight. Off they flew towards the land of birds, as it was fall time.

In flight, they circled her husband and children’s father but continued to the land of the birds.

When Kiviuq came home, he asked about his family. The old lady explained that she had insisted that they eat meat instead of sand and against her wishes they took flight and flew away to the land of the birds. She blamed herself for their departure.

Yearning for his family, Kiviuq set off on foot towards the south. He came upon a man whose mouth had an opening all the way to his rear end. He could see the other side of the land through the hole.

The man was bent over, chipping pieces of hard and soft wood and throwing them into the lake. He would chip off a piece then rub it against his penis, giving it color, then place it in the water. Once in the water, the soft wood pieces turned into trout and the hard wood pieces turned into char.

Carefully, Kiviuq approached the man from his side. With a surprised look, the man asked; “From which direction did you arrive?”

“From your side.”

“From which direction did you arrive?” he insisted.

“From your side.”

This went on for a while, finally the man mellowed and Kiviuq explained that he wanted to reach his family who had flown beyond the big water.

The man motioned to what Kiviuq thought was an island in the water.

It began to move towards them, it was a large fish. The man told the fish that Kiviuq wanted to reach his family and instructed Kiviuq that when the fish notices shallow water it’ll start jerking nervously, that’s when you should leap for the shore.

Kiviuq sat on the fish and was taken on a long journey across the lake, when they reached the other side the fish began nervously jerking. As was instructed, Kiviuq leapt towards the shore and landed in the water up to his waist.

He walked to the land and soon found his children among many birds on the land. Recognizing their father, the children cried, “Our father has arrived.” Their mother in disbelief answered, “My children, we left your father on the other side of this land, it’s not possible for him to come.”

The children replied happily, “He is here!”

The goose had remarried a Brant goose but when Kiviuq entered their tent, it ran away exclaiming, “I forgot my tool bag.” His tool bag was his gut! I’ve never heard of Kiviuq’s return from that area since.

I have never heard of his return from that land, but I’ve heard that Kiviuq grew old there and his cheeks turned into stone from old age.

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What other elders said
Many said that Kiviuq held the bird’s feathers instead of their socks. He gave the feathers back to the birds he found less attractive but held out on the beautiful Canada goose until she agreed to marry him.

In discussion with the elders we learned that the goose-woman was torn between loving her husband and her instinct to fly south in the fall. At last she had to go because she realized she would not be able to find food for the children after the snow fell. Some elders feel strongly that she left because Kiviuq’s mother had offended her.

In conversation Niviuvak told us that the children, who were half goose and half human, had little holes between their fingers, convenient for fitting the feathers in.

Some say that Kiviuq’s mother set the obstacles he encounters in his song. She is angry and frightened because he has left her alone.

Inuit traditionally sang journey songs in part as a way of mapping the territory they travelled in. In this case Kiviuq untertakes a journey that would be nearly impossible in physical terms – crossing huge bodies of water and travelling on land while the geese flew much more quickly overhead. Because it was so difficult he needed to sing, using the shamanic power of words and music to transport him.

Some elders use the term silaup putunga, which is difficult to translate. It means Kiviuq passed through an opening in the physical world that allowed him to cross a very large distance in short time. Translators have called this “the hole in the environment” or “the hole in the universe”.

Some say that the Fishmaker rubbed the chips on his penis before putting them in the water, which is why fish are slimy. Some say he put them down through the hole in his body.

Kiviuq may still be living in the south. Those who saw him most recently (in the 1940s, according to Samson Quinangnaq,) say that his face was getting covered with lichens and that he had a very hard time moving around, especially in winter. When he dies there will be no more air to breathe and life on earth will end.

Vocabulary — Inuktitut words that appear in this part of the story.

Silaup putunga — Hole in the environment or hole in the universe.


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