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The Fox-wife
Artwork: Qiviuq’s Animal Wives, by Victoria Mamnguqsualuk Kayuruk

Qiviuq’s Animal Wives, by Victoria Mamnguqsualuk Kayuruk


As told by Niviuvak Marqniq

Another version of Kiviuq’s journey goes like this.

After he got home, Kiviuq pitched his tent and went on a hunting trip. To his surprise, when he got back to his empty tent he found that someone had already prepared a cooked meal for him. Along with the boiled meat was some caribou fat on the side. Each day, a meal was waiting for him whenever he returned from hunting. Curious about his anonymous cook, Kiviuq hid outside his camp and waited.

A small white fox trotted up to the tent and cautiously opened the flap. Nervously she went in and out of the tent to check if anyone was coming.

Thinking that she was alone, she removed her skin and hung it on a tent line, and went in to cook. Kiviuq quickly grabbed the skin and when the fox looked out of the tent, he held it up out of her reach.

“Give me back my skin”, she cried.

“Only if you’ll be my wife”, he replied. The fox did not want to marry him but she needed her skin back. She agreed, thus becoming his wife.

The next fall, in early winter, they traveled to the sea. They came across a pair of wolverines who were a couple and were living in an igloo. They decided to camp with the pair. The male wolverine began helping Kiviuq erect an igloo outside of theirs. As they worked, he asked Kiviuq, “I’d like to visit your wife tonight, if I may?”

Kiviuq replied, “Yes you may, but I have to warn you, she is an extremely shy woman.”

That night after Kiviuq and his wife were settled in their new igloo, the wolverine paid them a visit. Due to his wife’s extreme shyness, Kiviuq insisted that the wolverine be careful not to embarrass her in any way. Then he left for the wolverine’s igloo. (He had agreed to switch partners for the night). Kiviuq told the wolverine to securely close the doorway behind him.

While the wolverine was securing the door, the fox quickly and nervously urinated on her side of the bed. Looking towards the fox, he asked her, “What is that sweet sewer odor that I am smelling?”

She stammered, “Probably from me.” Then she quickly escaped into the night through a small gap in the doorway because the wolverine had not finished securing it yet!

The wolverine returned to his igloo and told Kiviuq, “She’s gone, I’ve lost her.” Kiviuq replied, “I told you she was shy!”

Kiviuq tracked his wife into the long night and in the morning he caught up to her. She had entered a fox den. He waited outside.

A lemming came out of the den saying, “She wants you to take me instead.”

Kiviuq replied, “You bleed too much, I do not want you.”

A weasel came out, “Take me instead.”

“Your waist is too narrow, I do not want you.” Kiviuq answered.

A raven came out, “Take me instead,”

“Your beak is too large, I do not want you.” Kiviuq answered again.

A seagull came out, “Take me instead.”

Kiviuq initially thought she was beautiful but declined to take her.

A wolf came out, “Take me instead.”

Once again Kiviuq refused her although he thought she was very beautiful.

A wolverine came out…. one by one many different animals offered themselves to Kiviuq but he refused them all. At last the little lemming came out again and said to Kiviuq, “Close your eyes and enter the den in a backward position”, then she quickly ran back in.

Closing his eyes and in a backward position, he entered the den to find many pairs of animals sitting on their individual sleeping platforms.

He looked for his wife and found her dripping with tears, she had been uncontrollably crying. He went for her but was told to spit in front of himself in order to reach her.

A siksik and her mate, began busily fixing up a sleeping platform for their visitor. How amazingly alike these two are, Kiviuq thought to himself.

The siksik called to his own wife and said, “Hey, wife, he thinks we’re identical!”

That evening, the animals held a feast. Each animal brought in some food. The raven brought in some shit that he had saved but was told, “No one but your self can eat this shit, take it out and eat it by yourself!” The raven took the shit outdoors then came back in with some dry dog gut. Again, he was told to take it outside and eat it himself. He did.

The seagull brought a nice big male char, the wolf brought some caribou fat. The wolverine brought in a hind leg of a caribou, saying, “Do not steal! Do not steal!” Everyone knew that he and the wolf are meat cache robber’s. Continuing the story as told by Gidion Qitsualik

There was great celebration and to mark the event, the animals decided to have a feast. Each animal, brought in some of their own delicacies. The wolverine brought in a rump of a caribou and told the congregation, “Do not steal, do not steal!” Everyone knew the rump was stolen from someone’s meat cache.

The seagull brought a nice large fish. The wolf brought some more caribou meat. The raven brought in some frozen excrement, but was told to take it outside and eat it to himself. He tried bringing in some dog excrement but was once again thrown out, “You eat it outside.” He said a smart remark back but I can’t remember how it goes.

After a hearty meal, the animals relaxed and decided to make fun of each other through song. The wolverine began by making fun of the wolf. It was common knowledge that the wolf was boisterous about his ability to catch any game by foot.

Wolverine’s song to the wolf; The wolf, cunning and boisterous, ran after the hare up the brow of a cliff, but I clearly remember watching him unsuccessful in his chase, aiya.

Wolf’s retaliation to the wolverine; The wolverine whose snout is like that of a grizzly, is always around a meat cache, frustratingly irritating, iya iya iya aiya.

Jimmy Qiqqut added to the singing When they completed their meal, the animals lampooned each other through song. The wolf and the wolverine sang against each other, and the seagull against the raven.

The wolf sang: This wolverine, whose snout is that of a grizzly, picking on meat caches, angering their owners, should be beaten iya ya ya ya.

The wolverine sang: The wolf is cunning and boisterous, in chase of a hare on the brow of a cliff, I distinctly remember him unsuccessful iiya iiya iiyi.

The gull sang: Last spring as the river’s mouth was opening, as I took my fish spear I can hear his call in the distance, now where oh where is this disgusting eater.

The raven sang: During the cold air of winter as I feast on excrement, you are no where to be seen as I grow fat on garbage and shit.

What other elders say about this story
Some end the story here – others even earlier, as soon as Kiviuq is reunited with his fox-wife. Some go on to say that the party broke up and all the animals left the den. (Herve Paniaq said that was because Kiviuq farted!) Even the fox ran away. Kiviuq was trying to follow her but he was stopped by a scratching being that fell from over the door. Henry Evaluardjuk says this being was the reincarnation of his second wife.

A number of elders say that the fox came out of the grave of Kiviuq’s favourite wife. This would mean that she was the wife’s reincarnation.

Some people say that the first day Kiviuq came home to find the mysterious housekeeper had been in his tent, the food she left was cold. Each day it was a little warmer until at last one day he found it piping hot. This is when he decided to hide and find out who was helping him.

The little lemming told Kiviuq he could enter the fox den but that he must enter backwards and keep his eyes closed. He obeyed, but halfway in he opened his eyes to sneak a peek. The den opening closed tight around him, squeezing him. Quickly he closed his eyes again and arrived safely inside.

Vocabulary
Siksik – Ground squirrel

Continue the story: The Grizzly Bear

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