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Indigenous Arts & Stories - How the Narwhal Came to Be

How the Narwhal Came to Be

2017 - Art Winner

Alexander Angnaluak

Iqaluit, NU
Age 24

Author's Statement

This drawing is based on an Inuit story about how the narwhal came to be. There are different versions of the story and this is the one I was told. There was once a boy and his mother who lived together and the boy was a great hunter. He caught so much animals that he always had skins for his mother to work on. One day she got tired of cleaning furs for him and decided to blind her son with seal oil from the qulliq. She rubbed the oil in his eyes as he slept and the next day he was blind. Unable to see he spent his days by the waterfront. One day a giant loon approached the boy and told him that it can help regain his eyesight. All the boy had to do was climb onto its back and they would swim out to the middle of the lake. Once on the lake the loon told the boy, “We are going to dive and you must keep your eyes open.” Each time the boy’s eyesight improved, first he can see light, then figures, then finally he was able to see clearly. The loon brought him back to shore and told him that it was his mother who had blinded him. The boy grew furious and wanted vengeance. The boy went back to camp and found his mother. Then the boy grabbed his harpoon; tied one end to his mother and pulled her to the waterfront. At that time, a beluga was passing and he harpooned it. His mother was dragged under water with the beluga. She spun and spun around the line and her hair got entangled. The mother’s hair spun so tightly around the line that it turned into a tusk and the mother transformed into a narwhal. The boy’s actions solved nothing and only brought more pain and suffering. This is how the narwhal came to be, as I was told.