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3 Creatures From Inuit Folklore

On this week's episode of Misfits and Mysteries, I explored three creatures from Inuit mythology. There surprisingly isn’t a ton of stuff written about Inuit folklore online, so I’m going to try and be as informative as possible and keep the silliness to a minimum.

1. Mahaha

Inuit Demon the Mahaha

The Mahaha is an emaciated looking demon from Inuit folklore with long stringy hair, cold blue skin, long fingers with claws instead of nails. The Mahaha is always smiling and giggling and runs around the arctic completely naked. Oh and he kills his victims by tickling them to death. Lets just say you don’t want to run into this tickle monster. According to Inuit legend if you find someone dead with a permanent grin on their face, they were killed by the Mahaha. Luckily for the Inuit’s, the Mahaha is easily tricked. According to Inuit oral tradition, the Mahaha can be defeated by offering him a drink of water and shoving him into the water hole, where he will be swept away by the strong ocean currents.

2. Qallupilluk

Qallupilluk, Inuit mythological marine creature that steals children

The Qallupilluk are aquatic creatures that inhabit the cold arctic waters of Canada and are often found near cracks in the sea ice. They are described as scaly marine creatures that look similar to a sculpin, (a type of arctic fish), and they reek of sulfur. The Qallupilluk hide in the ocean waiting for children playing alone on beaches or near cracks in the ice and jump out of the water and grab them without warning. According to some Inuit elders, if the ocean is particularly wavey or streams begin to rise, the Qallupilluk could be lurking near by. No one is really sure why they steal children, but according to oral tradition; they either: (i) eat them, or (ii) steal them because they are lonely and want companionship. Regardless of their intentions, the Qallupilluk serve as a warning that you should never go to the edge of the arctic waters alone or risk drowning and hypothermia.

3. Tuniit (Dorsett)

Tuniit man carrying a walrus from Iuit Folklore

According to Inuit folklore, the Tuniit were a giant, yet peaceful race of humans that co-inhabited the arctic with the Inuit. In Inuit folklore, the Tuniit were described as being taller and stronger than the Inuit, with “the muscularity of a polar bear.” Legends say that a single Tuniit man could carry a 1,000 pound seal on his back and drag a whole walrus. Other stories suggest that the Tuniit would sleep with their legs in the air to drain the blood from their feet so they could outrun caribou. Despite being bigger and stronger than the Inuit, the Tuniit were very shy and were actually afraid of the Inuit. In fact, they let the Inuit take over the best hunting spots without a fight, and according to oral tradition, they vanished shortly after the Inuit arrived in the Arctic.

What’s particularly fascinating about the Tuniit, is that unlike most folklore, they actually existed. According to a 2014 paleo-genomic study, DNA analysis found that 169 ancient human specimens from across the arctic were all a part of a “Paleo-Eskimo” culture known as the Dorset. The Dorset thrived in the arctic for at least 4,000 years before disappearing within a couple generations of the Inuit arrival in 1200 AD. What's fascinating is that the Dorset, match the Inuit description of them (taller and more muscular) and their disappearance lines up perfectly with Inuit oral tradition. This is one of those cool stories where mythology turns out to be more fact than fiction. While the Tuniit probably weren't as strong as a polar bear, they did actually exist.

If you enjoyed this blog please consider sharing it and check out our latest episode Where we discuss this topic further. As always, Stay Spooky Misfits.

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Matt Kennedy
Matt Kennedy
13 juin 2022

What are the artists ' names whose illustrations appear on this page?

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