Ice Friday: Qasiagssaq, The Great Liar

Qasiagssaq, men say, was a great liar. One day, when he had been in his kayak, without even a sight of a seal. He noticed a man from his village towing in a big black seal. Qasiagssaq rowed behind the man and stole the seal.

“Qasiagssaq, you have made a catch,” cried his fellow villagers. “Where did you get that tow line?”

“I have had it a long time,” he answered, “but have never used it before today.”

The other man from the village returned. “I got a big black seal today, but it was taken with my tow line.”IMG_4620The next day he was out again in his kayak and said to himself, “What is the use of my being out here, I who never catch anything?” He went to shore and lay his knees across a stone and used another stone to hammer his knee caps.

When he returned to the village, he told the villagers, “An iceberg calved right on top of me so that I barely escaped alive.”

Some time later, Qasiagssaq heard that a couple in another village had lost their child and went to visit. “Today my little daughter, Nipisartangivaq, is doubtless crying at her mother’s side as usual.”

The mourners looked up eagerly. “Ah, how grateful we are to you! Now your little daughter can have all her things.” And they gave him a cooking pot, beads and a great quantity of food. When he returned home, the other villagers asked where he got so many things.

“An umiak started out on a journey, and the people in it were hurried and forgetful.”

Towards evening, a number of kayaks arrived; the people from the other village had brought meat for Qasiagssaq’s daughter. When they learned that Qasiagssaq did not have a daughter, they asked for their cooking pot to be returned.IMG_4614The next evening he returned home and told the villagers he had found a dead whale. They rowed out for it and asked Qasiagssaq where the whale was.

“Over there, beyond that little ness,” he replied.

They rowed there and found nothing and asked again.

“Over there, beyond that little ness,” Qasiagssaq replied.

This happened again and again until the others finally said, ‘Qasiagssaq is only a trouble to us all. Let us kill him.”

And at last they did as they had said, and killed Qasiagssaq.*

*Greenlandic Folk Tale, as collected by Knud Rasmussen

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