“I am sick, old, and tired,” said Anuniaq, “honor me now by putting me on a great ice mountain and letting me go to sea. I would see the ocean again before I die.”
“Oh NO! honored one!” cried the Others, “Do not say such things. We never tire of your wisdom. Do not deprive your family of your knowledge.”
“Phah,” said Anuniaq, disgusted, “I have told those stories so many times that I have forgotten to believe them myself. Your young poets correct me when I exaggerate and remind me when I forget. Let me walk the white road as my fathers did before me.”
“Father Anuniaq, may it never be,” said the Others, “From you we learned to sail, we learned the ways of the sea and the waters great and small. We would not know how to make the simplest coracle but for your teaching. Do not leave us without your knowledge.”
Anuniaq replied, “If that were so, perhaps I would have to suffer on, but it is not! Why the youngest among you can make for themselves any number of craft better than anything I could ever make. Would you have me suffer for no reason? Let me at least be a man on the last day of my life.”
The argument went on and on, but though the Others had surpassed Anuniaq in wisdom and knowledge and craft and hunting and wind knowing and wave reading none could surpass him in stubbornness. So it was that Anuniaq sat upon the great back of a sea going ice mountain.
For days they had given him gifts which lay piled around him and they kept bothering him, pestering him with questions they knew the answers to and begging him to stay with them. His guts hurt more now then ever they had before and he guessed his time was short.
“It is well,” thought Anuniaq, “I have lived a good life, At last I can die in peace as my ancestors did.” He sat and watched the clouds slide by overhead, but this was fairly boring, he had to admit it. He imagined that there aught to me something more to this going to sea for the last time.
“Phah!” he said to the world in general, “They spoiled it with all their gift giving, and “oh don’t go Grandfathering”, and their goings on have made a mess of what should have been a meaningful and dignified end.
Instead of dead he was just cold. They had made him an ice seat so he wouldn’t have to lie down where he couldn’t see the world go by. But just like them, all it was giving him was a cold pain in the ass. Pretty soon Anuniaq was shivering.
He sighed heavily. “There must be a cancer in my gut, the way it twisted at me, Oh, to be done with that pain.” Anuniaq thought, “Indeed, why would you torment an old man with feasting who’s guts were ruined with cancer? Oh they didn’t care about him, just the idea of him.”
“It wasn’t their fault really. He had enjoyed the feasting and a bit too much to tell the truth. It was just that this dying thing would be a lot more dignified if he didn’t have to get up and go purge his canker riddled bowels again.” He staggered to his feet, not just cold, but he was wet now. “Would the humiliation ever end?” He tottered off to find a new place to empty himself.
On his way back he dug through the gifts and found a fine seal skin to wrap around himself while his breeches dried. In his explorations he also found more of the wonderful stuffed leaves boiled in sauce and so full of wonderful goodness he could not resist eating them until they were gone. They were his favorite, even cold. Well fed he returned to his ice throne.
He could see now where the wetness had come from. His body, sitting as it had for so long and on such a remarkably warm day, had melted the seat of his throne. Well, there were wraps and gifts of embroidery and this and that enough so that he piled up a fine lot of them and had many more to cover himself while he watched the sun descend into the sea.
“Perhaps this moment is much more the sort of thing one ought to see before he goes.” Thought Anuniaq. He watched the sun die in fire, setting the whole of the sky alight with red and gold. He was well pleased to see the stars come out after that and He watched the moons rise as well before nodding off to sleep.
He awoke in sweat and agony. “Oh mercy, why could he not have died with that marvelous sunset.” He ran off a ways and spilled his bowels, glad that he wore a skin around his waist and not his breeches. After that he felt a bit better.
* * *
“Surely he was cursed. He had been stranded on the damn ice-flow for a week now. The blue skies and fluffy clouds had been boring that first whole day alone, but that was as nothing to day after day of nothing but sun and his chair. Worse, now, he had eaten anything even remotely edible among his gifts days ago. He was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it,” Anuniaq thought.
Anuniaq pondered, “Would it be better to starve or freeze?” For the hundredth time he rummaged through the things strewn around his ice chair, though there were hides aplenty there was not enough other material to form a frame. Even if there was he had nothing to grease the joinings. “And nothing, nothing, nothing to eat,” fussed Anuniaq.
Defeated, Anuniaq slumped in his skin covered ice throne. He gazed out over the sea, quiet and boring really, it was nearly still from his ice flow to the horizon beneath the clear blue of the sky. “There were very slight whispy clouds far off, perhaps some interesting weather would come his way. Likely rain to add misery to his bordum. There was also something else at the very horizon.
“That’s a sail!” shouted Annuniaq, leaping to his feet on his ice throne. And surely as he could feel a slight breeze pressing against his face, low on the horizon rose a boat, sails full of that whisper of a breeze.
It’s approach seemed interminable, but at last a very fine sloop rigged wooden boat drew up and hailed him. When Annuniaq shouted who he was there was a great furor aboard, a row boat was put out, and rowed to get him.
“What are you doing out on the ice Grandfather?” asked the Others. Annuniaq noticed that this group of his “children” avoided calling him “wise one”
“Oh, my people often do this,” lied Annuniaq. “Haven’t I told you tales of great wandering by my folk on these mountains of ice?”
They all shook their heads, honest to a fault, “No. Never.”
“Ah, well you must have missed that night’s storytelling, because it is a good way to think and so common among my old people, the Ice-folk. Haven’t you wondered why we are called that? Surely you don’t think we are made of frozen water.” Annuniaq commented reproachfully. Slightly disturbed murmerings followed, drowned out by a loud rumbling from the region of Annuniaq’s empty stomach.
“Well none of that matters now,” said Annuniaq as he was hauled aboard the sloop. “Do you have anything to eat?”
“Oh yes grandfather! We will bring you refreshment,” said the Others.
“That is well, then I can relate to you my thinkings and the way of my people, the Ice-folk… ” And so it was that a new tradition of the ice-folk was created that none of them, save Anuniaq, was aware, ” …say would you have some of those leaves stuffed with…”
“Humble apologies Grandfather”
” No? Well that’s probably for the best, come to think on it.”
This is not the first tale about Annuniaq (formerly Mamute) that could be told. I will see if I can find some of what is already imagined to add to what is known about this character who figures into the westward expansion of the UiUilsen and their transformation into the folk called Wanderers whether they were found on the waters or on land as in the story of “The Man Who Forgot Himself.”
In the story I will need a few Inuit names: The hero of the story (formerly Mamute) / Amak — tag (play), Annakpok — free (not caught), Anuniaq — one who hunts for food or knowledge, Illiivat — a person young or old who is learning something, Ipiktok — keen, sharp, Pakak — one that gets into everything,
Father’s Friend / Ataninnuaq— one who counsels/one who has lived and knows things, Illiivat — a person young or old who is learning something, Itigiaq — weasel, Nagojut — friendly, Oogrooq — bearded Seal, one who has a long life,
Hero’s remembered first love / Anana — beautiful, Iyaroak — apple of the eye, Buniq — sweet daughter, Nigaq — rainbow, Yuralria— dancing one