Volume 2 Issue 15 | September 18, 2007 |


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From the Galpoghor Series:
Kotura, Lord of the Winds

In an Eskimo camp in the wilds of the far north lived an old man with his three daughters. The man was very poor. The deerskin tent that was home to his family-barely kept out the icy wind and driving snow. And when the frost was keen enough to singe their naked hands and faces, the three daughters could only huddle together round the fire for warmth. As they lay down to sleep at night, their father would rake through the ashes; then they would shiver throughout the long cold night til morning with no fire at all.

One day in the depths of winter, a snow-storm blew up and raged across the tundra. It whipped through the camp the first day, then the second, and on into the third. There seemed no end to the driving snow and fierce wind. No hunter, however bold, dared show his face outside his tent and families sat fearful in their camps, hungry and cold, dreading that the camp would be blown clean away.

The old man and his daughters crouched in their tent harking to the howling of the blizzard.

The father said, 'If the storm continues for much longer, we shall all die for certain. It was sent by Kotura, Lord of the Winds. He must be very angry with us. There's only one way to appease him and save the camp: We must send him a wife from our clan. You, my eldest daughter, must go to Kotura and beg him to halt the blizzard.'

'But how am I to go?' asked the girl in alarm. 'I do not know the way.'

'I shall give you a sled,' said her father. 'Turn your face into the north wind, push the sled forward and follow wherever it leads. The wind will tear open the strings that bind your coat; yet you must not stop to tie them. The snow will fill your shoes; yet you must not stop to shake it out. Continue on your way until you arrive at a steep hill. When you have climbed to the top, only then may you halt to shake the snow from your shoes and do up your coat.

'Presently, a little bird will perch on your shoulder. Do not brush him away, be kind and caress him gently. Then jump on to your sled and let it run down the other side of the hill. It will take you straight to his door. Patiently wait until he comes.'

Eldest daughter put on her coat, pointed the sled into the north wind and sent it gliding along before her.

She followed on foot and after a while the strings on her coat came undone, the swirling snow squeezed into her shoes and she was very, very cold. She did not heed her father's words: she stopped and began to tie the strings on her coat and shake the snow from her shoes. That done, she moved on.

On and on through the snow she went until at last she came to a steep hill. And when she finally reached the top, a little bird flew down and would have alighted on her shoulder had she not impatiently waved her hands to shoo him away. Alarmed, the bird fluttered up and circled above her three times before flying off.

Eldest daughter sat on her sled and rode down the hillside. The first thing that met her gaze was a fat piece of roast venison. Being hungry from her journey, she made a fire, warmed herself and tore off pieces of fat from the meat. She tore off one piece and ate it, then tore off another and ate that too, and another until she had eaten her fill. Just as all the fat was eaten she heard a noise behind her and a handsome young giant entered. It was Kotura himself.

He gazed at eldest daughter and said in his booming voice, 'Where are you from, girl? What is your mission here?'

'My father sent me,' replied the girl, 'to be your wife.' Kotura frowned, fell silent, then finally said, 'I've brought home some meat from hunting. Set to work and cook it for me.'

Eldest daughter did as he said, and when the meat was cooked, Kotura bade her divide it into two parts.

'You and I will eat one part,' he said. 'The remainder you will take to my neighbour. But heed my words well: do not go into her room. Wait outside until and old woman appears. Give her the meat and wait for her to return the empty dish.'

Eldest daughter took the meat and went out into the dark night. The wind was howling and the blizzard raging so wildly she could hardly see a thing before her. She struggled on a little way, then came to a halt and tossed the meat into the snow. That done, she returned to Kotura with the empty dish.

The giant looked at her sternly and said, 'Have you done as I said?'

'Certainly,' replied the girl.

'Then show me the dish, I wish to see what she gave you in return,' he said.

Eldest daughter showed him the empty dish, Kotura was silent. He ate his share of the meat hurriedly and lay down to sleep. At first light, he rose and brought some untanned deer hides into the tent.

'While I hunt,' he said, 'I want you to clean these hides and make me a coat, shoes and mittens from them. I shall try them on when I get back and judge whether you tongue.

With those words, Kotura went off into tundra, And oldest daughter set to work. By and by an old woman covered in snow came into the tent.

'I have something in my eye, child,' she said, 'Please remove it for me.'

'I've no time. I'm too busy,' answered eldest daughter.

The old snow woman said nothing, turned away and left the tent. Eldest daughter was left alone. She cleaned the hides hastily and began cutting them roughly with a knife, hurrying to get her tasks done by nightfall. Indeed, in such a rush was she, that she did not even try to shape the garments properly, she was intent only on finishing her works as quickly as possible.

Late that evening, the young giant, Lord of the Winds, returned.

'Are my clothes ready?” he asked at once.

'They are,' eldest daughter replied.

Kotura took the garments one by one, and ran his hands carefully over them: the hides were rough to the touch so badly were they cleaned, so poorly were they cut, so carelessly were they sewn together. And they were altogether too small for him.

At that he flew into a fearful rage, picked up eldest daughter and flung her far, far into the dark night. She landed in a deep snowdrift and soon froze to death.

The howling of the wind became even fiercer.

Back in the nomad camp, the old father sat and harkened to the bitterness of the northern winds.

Finally, in deep despair, he said to his two remaining daughters, 'Eldest daughter did not heed my words, I fear. That is why the wind is still shrieking and roaring its anger. Kotura is in a terrible temper. You must go to him, second daughter.'

The old man made a sled, told the girl just what he had said to the one before, and sent her on her way. The lonely choom became misty with the warm tears of its last two occupants, the father and his youngest daughter.

Meanwhile, second daughter pointed the sled into the north wind and, giving it a push, walked along behind it. The strings of her coat came undone and the snow forced its way into her shoes. Soon she was numb with cold and, heedless of her father's warning, she shook the snow from her shoes and tied the strings of her coat sooner than she was instructed.

She came to the steep hill and limped to the top. There, seeing the little bird fluttering towards her, she waved her hands crossly and shooed him away. Then quickly she climbed into her sled and rode down the hillside straight to Kotura. She entered the tent, made a fire, ate her fill of the roast venison and lay down to sleep.

To be continued

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