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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "Kiviung"


An old woman lived with her grandson in a small hut. She had no husband to take care of her and the boy, and they were very poor. The lad's clothing was made of the skins of birds which they caught in snares. Whenever the boy came out of the hut to play, the other boys would call, "Here comes the bird boy! Fly away, birdie!" and the men would laugh at him and tear his clothes.

Only one man whose name was Kiv-i-ung, was kind to the boy and tried to protect him from the others, but they would not stop. The lad often came to his grandmother crying, and she would console him and promise him a new garment, as soon as they could get the skins.

She begged the men to stop teasing the child and tearing his clothes, but they only laughed at her. At last she became angry and said to the boy, "I will avenge you on your tormentors. I can do it by making use of my power to conjure."

She poured water on the mud floor and said, "Step into this puddle, and do not be frightened at anything that happens."

He stepped into it, and immediately the earth opened and he sank out of sight, but the next moment he rose near the beach and swam about as a young seal with a wonderfully smooth, shining skin.

Some one saw him and called out that there was a yearling seal close to shore. The men all ran to their kayaks eager to secure the beautiful creature. But the boy-seal swam lustily away as his grandmother had told him to do, and the men continued to pursue him. Whenever he rose to the surface to breathe, he took care to come up behind the kayaks, where he would splash and dabble in order to lure them on. As soon as he had attracted their attention and they had turned to pursue him, he would dive and come up farther out in the sea. The men were so interested in catching him that they did not observe how they were being led far out into the ocean and out of sight of the land.

It was now that the grandmother put forth her powers. Suddenly a fierce gale arose; the sea foamed and roared and the waves upset their frail vessels and plunged them under the surface.

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