Kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt Kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk

Variations: Akhlut (erroneously)

kakwanugat-kegurlunik

Around the coastlines of the Bering Strait, pack ice constantly breaks off and floats away. If there are wolf tracks on the ice, and a chunk of that breaks loose, then it looks as if the prints lead into the water’s edge, or as if a wolf came out of the sea. Yupik folklore holds that this is evidence of the Kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt Kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk.

A kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is a killer whale (akh’-lut) that can shapeshift at will into a wolf (kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk) to hunt on land. The name of kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is applied to those creatures when in wolf form. They are aggressive and will kill humans if given the chance.

The kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is typically depicted as halfway through its transformation – whale at one end and wolf at the other. The beluga whale and caribou are a similarly symbiotic pair, becoming a whale in the sea and a reindeer on land.

References

Nelson, E. W. (1900) The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Extract from the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office, Washington.

Păl-raí-yûk

Pal-rai-yuk

Long ago, the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers were far warmer than they are today, and the winters shorter, with the snow melting and the birds returning as early as February. This allowed for large stretches of creeks, lakes, and marshland, and the Păl-raí-yûk haunted the waterways between the two rivers. They were most common around the temperate Kuskokwim, and they fed on humans and animals alike.

Păl-raí-yûk was one of Raven’s many creations, one that would lie in wait, submerged, to attack anyone coming to the water’s edge. It would also attack boats that entered its territory. For this reason Raven warned First Man to be cautious about approaching lakes and rivers.

The păl-raí-yûk has been compared to the crocodile or alligator, which it resembles in both form and habit, but it is also very similar to the muskox. It is typically represented on umiaks, masks, and dishes as an elongated, stylized reptilian creature with a long, narrow head and six legs. “Cutaway views” above the legs show human remains, indicating the grisly nature of its meals. One păl-raí-yûk that was killed by the Sky People had six legs, the hind ones long, the fore ones short, and the small middle ones hanging from the abdomen. It had small eyes and fine, dense, very dark fur on its body, like that of a shrew, that was longest on its feet. A pair of horns, extending forward, out, and curving back, are present on the head.

Păl-raí-yûk are large and bulky, but can lie on grass without bending the stems. On the other hand, a dead păl-raí-yûk would become so heavy that its body would sink into the ground if not supported. Many hunters were usually required to kill one, usually by holding it down with logs while smashing its head with clubs.

The last known păl-raí-yûk was slain by a hunter after it killed and ate his wife who was fetching water from a lake.

References

Nelson, E. W. (1900) The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Extract from the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office, Washington.

Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti

Variations: Walrus Dog

Aziwugum

Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti, the “Walrus Dog”, can be found roaming the rugged coastlines of Alaska. While not walrus-like, it lives with herds of walrus and acts as a protector of sorts. It is one of Raven’s many creations.

An az’-i-wû-gûm ki-mukh’-ti is rather like a large dog in general appearance, smaller than a walrus, elongate and slender, with a long, powerful rounded tail. Its body is covered with tough black scales which make it impervious to all but the best spears.

Walrus hunters in the Bering strait fear the az’-i-wû-gûm ki-mukh’-ti. Its muscular tail can easily kill a man, and at least one case is known of a walrus dog attacking an umiak and killing all aboard.

References

Nelson, E. W. (1900) The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Extract from the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office, Washington.

A-mi’-kuk

Variations: Ă-mi’-kuk, Ä-mi’-kuk

A-mi-kuk

Kayakers in the cold seas of the Arctic Circle are the A-mi’-kuk’s favorite prey. The last thing they see are the a-mi’-kuk’s prehensile tentacles exploding from under the surface and wrapping around them, dragging both kayaker and boat under.

The a-mi’-kuk is large, leathery-skinned, and slimy. Its four long tentacular arms are used for seizing prey and swimming rapidly through the water. There is no escaping it – it will follow prey taking refuge on ice by swimming below it and bursting out onto the surface. Making for land is equally futile, as the a-mi’-kuk can swim through the earth with as much ease as it does through water.

A-mi’-kuks around St. Michael, Alaska, are known to migrate underground to inland lakes. The presence of one is a good sign for the lake. When an a-mi’-kuk leaves its lake, the channel it digs drains it dry, but when it returns the sea returns with it.

Nelson proposed the octopus as the origin of the a-mi’-kuk. He also gives ä-mi’-kuk as the name of the sea otter; what bearing this has on the legendary creature is unknown.

References

Nelson, E. W. (1887) Report upon Natural History Collections Made in Alaska Between the Years 1877 and 1881. Arctic Series of Publications Issued in Connection with the Signal Service, Government Printing Office, Washington.

Nelson, E. W. (1900) The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Extract from the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office, Washington.