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Main > Native American folktales > Fairy tale "The Bird Wife"

The Bird Wife

Itajung, one of the Inuit tribe, was vexed because a young woman would not marry him, so he left his home and traveled far away into the land of the birds. He came to a small lake in which many geese were swimming. On the shore he saw a great many boots. He cautiously crept near and stole a pair and hid them.

Presently the birds came out of the water, and finding a pair of boots gone they were alarmed, and quickly forming into two long lines with their leader at the point where the lines met, they flew away crying, "Honk! Honk! Honk!"

But one of the flock remained behind crying, "I want my boots! I want my boots!"

Itajung came forth from his hiding-place and said, "I will give you your boots if you will become my wife."

"That I will not do," she replied.

"Very well," he said, and turned around to go away.

"I don't want to, but I will be your wife if you will bring back my boots," she called.

He came back and gave her the boots, and when she put them on she was changed into a woman.

They walked away together, and wandered down to the seaside and, as she liked to live near the water, they settled in a large village by the sea. Here they lived for several years and had a son. Itajung became a highly respected man, for he was by far the best whaler in all the Inuit tribe.

One day they killed a whale and were busy cutting it up and carrying the meat and blubber to their homes. Many of the women were helping, but though Itajung was working very hard, his wife stood lazily looking on.

"Come and help us," he called to her.

"My food is not from the sea," she replied. "My food is from the land. I will not eat the meat of a whale; neither will I help."

"You must eat it; it will fill your stomach," said he.

She began to cry, and said, "I will not eat it. I will not soil my nice white clothing."

She went to the beach and searched for feathers. When she found some, she put them between her fingers and the fingers of her child. They were both turned into geese and flew away.

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