Content A Treasury of Eskimo Tales:
Notes: Contains 31 folktales gathered from the Eskimo living in North America.
Author: Clara Kern Bayliss
Publisher: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, USA
The Central Eskimo live away up north in that great American archipelago which lies between Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay, and the Arctic Ocean; an archipelago in which the islands are so large, so numerous, and so irregular in outline that, as one looks at a map of them, he could fancy they were “chunks” of the continent which had been broken to pieces by some huge iceberg that bumped into it.
The land is ice-bound during so much of the year that the inhabitants cannot depend upon getting a living by the cultivation of the soil, and have to subsist almost entirely upon meat which they get from reindeer, seal, bear, whale, and walrus.
In summer their clothing is of sealskin and fishskin; and in winter it is of the thicker reindeer hides. Their life is a hard one owing to the rigorous climate, and they make it harder by their superstitions, for diseases are supposed to be cured by charms and incantations of the shaman or priest; and everything in the way of hunting, fishing, cooking, or of clothing themselves must be done in a prescribed way or it is “taboo” or “hoodoo” as the negroes say. When you read “The Baby Eskimo” you will see just a tiny bit of the hardships, but I should not like to tell you how much more terrible a time he might have had, if he had happened to be a girl baby.
By referring to the Table of Contents you will note that the first group of tales were told by the Central Eskimo. The second group were derived from the Eskimo living along Bering Strait, to the west; and it is interesting to compare many of these folk tales along similar subjects.
The writer is indebted to the Sixth Ethnological Report, issued by the U. S. Government, for many of the legends found in the Central Eskimo group; and to the Eighteenth Report for many of those from Bering Strait. She wishes to express her thanks for this invaluable and unique material.