It’s been awhile since I’ve covered Inuit myths. I’ve already examined all the major gods and goddesses so here is a look at one of their mythical heroes. For my initial list of Inuit deities click HERE
INUURAQ – Like many of the heroes in Inuit myths Inuuraq overcomes the disadvantage of being orphaned and goes on to achieve greatness. Inuuraq lived so long ago that it was before the wind and weather god Sila had made war on the giants and reduced them all to three feet tall. (After that the giants were the Inuit version of elves and were called Ishigaq.)
The chief of Inuuraq’s village had sent his son and two other men off together to hunt caribou. Many days had gone by and the trio were presumed to have fallen into the hands of the roving giants. The chief asked for volunteers to search for his son and the other missing hunters, but only Inuuraq was courageous enough.
As an orphan the young man had no kayak or weapons of his own so he had his grandmother Nengzurluung go to the chief and his wife to tell them that her grandson was brave enough to search for the missing trio but would need a kayak and weapons.
The chief was grateful that at last a volunteer had come forward. He allowed Inuuraq to have the pick of his (the chief’s) boats and weapons. Our hero selected a fine kayak, a bow and arrows and an ulu: a bladed weapon longer than a knife but not quite as long as a sword. (It is the kind of weapon used by the Inuit disemboweling goddess Ululijarnaq.)
Inuuraq set out in the morning, solemnly guiding his kayak into wild giant territory. Over the next few days he practiced every chance he got with his ulu and the bow and arrows to familiarize himself with them. By night he would pull his kayak ashore and overturn it to sleep underneath it.
At length Inuuraq encountered an Ugrungnaqpak, a giant shrew monster. Our hero crept up on the creature and, once at close range he attacked. The fight was furious but using his arrows and his ulu Inuuraq managed to slay the beast and cut off its head to ensure it was dead.
Around the next turn in the river (or in some versions our hero follows the Ugrungnaqpak’s footprints in the snow, suspecting it would lead him to giant humanoids) Inuuraq saw the huge igloo of a married giant couple. The giant shrew had apparently been used by the couple as a guard.
Our protagonist tried to sneak into the igloo but his presence was detected and the giant husband attacked Inuuraq with his own enormous ulu while singing his battle song. Inuuraq sang his own battle song back at the giant and the fight was on.
Ultimately our hero beheaded the male giant, following which the female giant picked up her late husband’s enormous ulu and attacked Inuuraq. The pair exchanged battle songs and then this fight, too, ended with the giantess getting beheaded like her mate.
Inuuraq found the missing trio from his village bound alive in the igloo’s storage area so they would be fresh when eaten. Some versions say one of them had already been devoured and still others say two had been eaten, leaving – conveniently – only the chief’s son Mummak still alive.
Our protagonist untied the captives and nursed them back to health. When they could travel again Inuuraq took them home in his kayak, along with the giant shrew’s head and the enormous ulu of the slain giants.
Inuuraq was feasted like a hero for his deeds and from then on whenever trouble arose with any roving giants he set out with his bow and arrows and his ulu to defend his village. +++
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