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The Story in EnglishElders' CommentsInuktitut words that appear in this part of the story

The Grizzly Bear
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The Grizzly Bear (This story is presented differently from the others, since we have not yet received full translations and transcriptions. I wrote this version down, combining what I heard from many elders. Soon we hope to replace it with a full translation, like those of the other stories. — Kira Van Deusen.)

Kiviuq returned to his community and lived there.

Meat was being stolen from the cache. No one had been able to catch the thief, although they suspected it was a bear.

Kiviuq offered to help. “Bury me in the cache,” he said, “and I will find out who is stealing the meat.”

They took him out and buried him under rocks. He lay there for many months like a dead man. From time to time people came and took meat from the cache, but still Kiviuq stayed there.

At last one day he heard someone approaching on powerful paws. Then rocks were being tossed away from the cache, and at last Kiviuq found himself face to face with a huge grizzly bear. He pretended to be dead.

The bear pulled him out and looked him over, a little disappointed that it was only a human. Nonetheless he decided to bring Kiviuq home for his children to eat. But how would he carry him?

This was no problem for the bear. He took off his bearskin and laid it out on the ground, placed Kiviuq’s body on top, and pulled it like a travois. Under his bearskin, the grizzly was a man.

After a while the bear began to have doubts. Was the man really dead? He came back to check, sniffing around Kiviuq’s nose and mouth. Kiviuq started to breathe through his rear end. But the bear was still suspicious. He sniffed around Kiviuq’s rear and and at that time Kiviuq breathed through his nose.

At last, convinced that the man was dead, the bear continued on his way. They passed through a place where willows grew close to the trail. Kiviuq reached out and held onto the willows, making himself harder to pull. Of course he stopped holding the willows when the bear turned around to look.

The grizzly bear man arrived at his own home. His children came running out to greet him. “Ataata, papa! What have you brought us?”

“I’ve brought you a man to eat. And when we’ve finished eating, you can have his bones to play games with.”

The bear’s wife came out of the igloo. She too was in human form. She took Kiviuq’s body inside and tried to cut him up. But he held his muscles so tight that she couldn’t cut him. Thinking he was frozen, she set his body up to thaw out, and sat down to sharpen her ulu. Her husband lay down for a nap.

The children came over to investigate the thawing body. Snot was dripping from his nose and they licked it from his face. Meanwhile Kiviuq wanted to find out if there were some kind of weapon in the igloo so he surreptitiously opened his eyes.

“Ataata,” the children cried, “the dinner is opening its eyes!” The bear-man dragged himself awake. “Let him open his eyes,” he said. “I thought he was alive all the time. I thought he was holding onto the willow branches to make my work harder.”

Kiviuq noticed an axe over on the other side of the igloo. He leapt over there, grabbed the axe and struck the bear man a terrific blow on one leg, putting him out of action. He headed out the door and began running.

The bear-woman came after him, stopping in the porch just long enough to get into her bearskin, which would help her run faster.

Kiviuq looked back over his shoulder. The bear was gaining on him. He came to a small mound of earth, took saliva on his finger and ran it around the mound.

“Grow a big mountain!” he called. And the mound grew into a big mountain. This slowed the bear down for a while but pretty soon she was gaining on him again.

Kiviuq came to a small creek. He jumped to the other side and then took saliva on his finger and ran it along the edge of the creek. “Grow a big river,” he called. The creek grew quickly into a river that was swift and wide. Now Kiviuq waited.

The bear came up to the creek bank. She sniffed in both directions.

“How did you get over there?” she asked Kiviuq.

“Me?” said Kiviuq, “I just drank the river. I ate and kissed and licked the river. I fought the river, and then I crossed.” The bear did just that. She drank and ate and kissed and licked and fought the river, and came across. But when she got near Kiviuq’s side she shook herself to get the water off her fur. Her big stomach burst and because the water was so warm inside it turned into mist and fog. And that was the very first fog that ever appeared on earth.

The bear’s body was carried downstream, Kiviuq following along on shore. At last it got snagged and he pulled it out of the water. He skinned the bear on a big boulder that you can still see today if you go to the place. It is called Paniqsiivik.

After that Kiviuq walked away through the new fog.

Elders' Comments. Some say that Kiviuq made a tent from the bearskin. Simon Tookoome says that the fox came into that tent to cook Kiviuq’s food, and the fact that she wasn’t afraid of the bearskin proves that she was really part human. As you can see, Tookoome was telling the story in a different order from that used by many elders.

[Vocabulary to come]

Continue the story: The Goose-Wife.

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