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

The Bird Wife

When the Inuit saw this they cried, "Itajung, your wife is flying away."

Itajung became very sad. He no longer cared for the meat and blubber, nor for the whales spouting near the shore. He followed in the direction his wife had taken, and went over all the land in search of her.

After traveling for many weary months, he came to a river where a man with a large axe was chopping chips from a piece of wood, and as fast as he chopped them they were turned into salmon and slipped out of the man's hands into the river and swam down to a large lake near by. The name of the man was Small Salmon.

As Itajung looked at the man he was frightened almost to death; for the back of the man was entirely hollow, and Itajung could see right through him and out at the other side. He was so scared that he kept very still and crept back and away out around him. He wanted to ask if the man had seen his wife, for that was what he asked everyone he came to. So he went around and came from the opposite direction, facing the man.

When Small Salmon saw him approaching he stopped chopping and asked, "Which way did you approach me?"

"I came from that direction," said Itajung, pointing in the way he had last approached.

"That is lucky for you, for if you had come the other way and had seen my back, I should have killed you at once with my hatchet."

"I am glad I don't have to die," said Itajung. "But haven't you seen my wife? She left me and came this way."

"Yes, I saw her. Do you see that little island in the large lake? That is where she lives now, and she has taken another husband."

"Oh, I can never reach her," said Itajung in despair. "I have no boat and do not know how to reach the island."

"I will help you," said Small Salmon kindly. "Come down to the beach with me. Here is the backbone of a salmon. Now shut your eyes. The backbone will turn into a kayak and carry you safely to the island. But mind you keep your eyes shut. If you open them the kayak will upset."

"I will obey," said Itajung.

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