The other day when I was talking on Facebook about my obsession with the Wendigo, a friend from Baffin Island mentioned to me the Inuit myth of Qalupalik. (Since I learned how to pronounce Qalupalik I haven’t been able to stop saying it to myself! It’s such a wonderful word to say aloud.)
The Qalupalik is a human-like creature that dwells in the frigid waters of the Arctic. She has masses of dark, wild hair, greenish skin and fingernails so long they appear more like claws.
She wears an amauti – a traditional Inuit parka with a special built-in pouch at the back for a child to be carried around in. When a mother wears it, its function is to bond with the child and keep them safe from frostbite. When a Qalupalik wears it however, it’s to carry away children who disobey their parents by playing on unstable sea ice and wandering off by themselves.
One way you will know if a Qalupalik is waiting in ambush is if you hear a distinctive humming sound. People say different things about what Qalupalik does with the children she steals away. Some say she wants to eat them, while others suggest she raises them as her own. Though one of the most interesting things I’ve heard is that she puts them to sleep, and steals their vitality – as the children get older, she grows younger.
After the artworks, you will find a beautifully made animation about the legend of the Qalupalik that is well worth watching.