Kiviuq is an eternal Inuit wanderer. Spirits, giants, cannibals, bears and sea monsters intermingle in Kiviuq's world, creating havoc for him. He walks, or travels by dog sled, kayak, or may be borne by huge fishes. His supernatural powers allow him to overcome all manner of obstacles in his travels across the North.
Stories about Kiviuq's many adventures are told across the Arctic. Kiviuq has lived a long time and has had many lives. Versions of his adventures vary with the location and the storyteller. In Greenland he is known as "Qooqa" and in Alaska he is called "Qayaq". Qajaq is short for Qajartuarungnertoq - 'He who shall always long to go roaming in his qajaq').
Versions of the legend
One well-known legend of Kiviuq tells of his friendship with the grandson of an old woman. Everyone abuses and makes fun of the boy except Kiviuq. The old woman decides to get revenge. She changes her grandson into a seal and has him swim out to sea. The men follow the seal, intending to hunt it. Before the hunters reach it, however, the old woman creates a storm and drowns everyone but the seal and Kiviuq. The seal swims safely back to shore, where the old woman turns him back into a boy. Kiviuq drifts away in his kayak continuing his adventures and living with people of many foreign lands.
In this story about Kiviuq, from the Netsilik Region, when Kiviuq's face turns solid stone it is said that the world well end. His face is currently half stone—it took about 100 years to turn half his face into solid stone.
Inuit elders say that he is in his last life now, on an adventure somewhere. However, before he dies he will return to see his people. Oral tradition has preserved many versions of the Kiviuq story-cycle, and today, a new generation of Inuit storytellers is bringing the tales to life in written or graphic form.
In the Kivalliq region, the story tells of an orphan boy who lived with his grandmother. The boy would be teased and bullied every day by other boys. He would go home crying every day with ripped clothes. His poor grandmother would have to sew perfectly good clothes every day with her poor eyesight. She grew tired of all the bullying her grandson went through that she had a plan.
There was a seal that had been caught for them as they couldn't provide for themselves. With that seal, she asked her grandson to skin it carefully and not to puncture any holes in the skin. So as she said, the boy skinned it carefully and with no punctures. Then she asked him to put the skin on and make sure he could see through the little eye holes as if he were a seal. He followed her instructions, then he was asked to put his head in a pail of water and stay in there until he needed to breathe again. So the boy did as his grandmother asked and after he did it, he had to do it over and over until he could stay in the water so long that the sun moved when he finally comes up for air. The grandmother was so satisfied that she told him to secretly go into the water with the seal skin on and get the mean boys to notice him as if he were a seal. After he gets noticed, he had to lure them out to the ocean. The boy did what his grandmother told him to do. The mean boys noticed him and thought he was a seal. Among the mean boys were Kiviuq and his brother.
After he lured them out to sea, they say he waved his arms and legs and cried as if he was a baby and asked for the wind to come. It is believed that when you were born and whatever the weather is on that day, it belongs to you. So in this case, the boy called for the wind and it came to him drowning all the mean boys but Kiviuq.
Kiviuq was a strong boy; he fought and fought against the waves. He did this for many days until he found land. It is believed that he is still out there living, so old that he is hard as stone, but his heart is still beating. If his heart stops beating, they say the world will end.
- "Arvia'juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk National Historic Site of Canada". historicplaces.ca. Retrieved 2009-12-22.