KAKUARSHUK'S TALE speaks of a time long ago when women got their children by digging in the earth. The would pry children loose from the very ground itself. They did not have to go far to unearth little girls, but boys were harder to find, and often buried deep underground. Thus strong women had many children and weaker women very few or none at all.
Kakuarshuk was one of these barren women, and despite overturning half the earth she could find no child. She was at last told to go to a certain place and dig there... which she did, until she came to the other side of the earth. On the other side everything seemed to be in reverse, there was no snow or ice and babies were much bigger than adults.
She was adopted by two of these, a girl baby and a boy baby who carried her around in an amaut sack and suckled her. They cared for her very much. One day her baby mother said to her "Is there anything you want Dear Little One?" and her baby-mother replied "I would like to have a baby of my own".
So the girl baby then tells Kakuarshuk to go to a certain place and dig... and there follows much tunneling and strange adventures and meetings with Scourge Trolls and little foxes until she finds her self home holding a boy baby in her arms.
This story is an Inuit tale and can be read in full in Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales, which I heartily recommend to anyone who likes fairy tales that weren't meant for children; it is "a celebration of strong minds, low cunning, black arts and dirty tricks".
A while before I read this story, I saw the lovely film Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner, an Inuit tale written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit. It is set in ancient Igloolik and unfolds as a life-threatening struggle between powerful natural and supernatural characters.
In this film I saw that Inuit women have enormous hoods in which they carry their babies...
Kakuarshuk's tale and these Inuit women's hoods inspired my latest painting, below, in watercolour and pencil.
Prints for sale here