Inuit Folklore: The Woman and the Polar Bear

Long ago in the far north, there lived a people on the icy shores of the Arctic. IMG_3153One woman lived alone. She had no husband and no sons to hunt and fish for her, and though her neighbors shared their food with her, she was lonely. She longed for a family of her own. IMG_3257One cold winter day, she was walking by the glacier when she spotted a tiny white polar bear sitting alone on the rocks. At once she felt a kinship toward him, for he looked as lonely as she. His mother was nowhere in sight. “Someone must have killed her,” she said softly as she picked up the cub. “You will be my son. I will name you Kunik.” polar bearThe woman took her cub home and from that day on shared all of her food with Kunik. A strong bond grew between them. A strong bond grew between them. Kunik was gentle with the children as if they were his brothers and sisters. The children taught him to fish. The woman was now the happiest of all the villagers. She had plenty of food and a son who loved her with all of his heart. bearandsealBefore long the men began to whisper among themselves. “That bear brings home the fattest seals and the biggest salmon. He puts us to shame. We’ll have to kill him.”

The woman begged the hunters and fishermen. “Kill me instead. He is my child. I love him dearly.”

“He is a danger to our children,” the others replied. “We cannot let him live.”

The woman wept as she spoke to Kunik. “Run away, but do not go so far that I cannot find you.” He had tears in his eyes, but he obeyed his mother’s wishes. polarbear_1969371bOne day the woman walked and walked, determined to find Kunik and saw her bear running toward her. He was fat and strong. They embraced and the old woman whispered, “I love you.”

Kunik could see that his mother was hungry and ran to get her fresh meat and fish. Every day after that the old woman went to visit her son and the villagers understood that the love between the woman and the bear was true.*

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