Friday, February 3, 2017

Inuit Mythology of Greenland

Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti

You may think my cat has just walked across my keyboard, but no, today I'm going to introduce you to an unusual mythological beastie hailing from Greenland... the Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti.

Image Courtesy: A Book Of Creatures

The "Az-i-wu-gum" as I will simplify, is a hybrid creature commonly known as the "Walrus Dog". It is described in detail in the "Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore," by Theresa Bane (2016), as having a long, thin, black scaled body, thick, sturdy dog-like legs, and a ferocious dog-like head. It also is described as having a rounded thick tail, with which it strikes its enemy. According to the writings of the 19th Century explorer E. W. Nelson in 1900, the Az-i-wu-gum was universally feared by the native peoples around Alaska and the Bering Strait, as well as Greenland. The beast is said to have lived amongst  herds of walrus, but would kill a man easily and without mercy - should one happen upon it.

Nelson reported a tale of Walrus hunters in the Bering strait being attacked by an Az-i-wu-gum whilst in their boat, with all on board being killed. Although Nelson did not allege to have sighted the beast himself, he reported that all the native peoples were very familiar with it.

Common (viviparous) lizard (zootoca vivipara).jpg
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
As for what exactly the Az-i-wu-gum ki-mukh-ti could actually have been - I just don't know. Being described as scaly is deeply problematic considering the climate of the area in which it is found. There are only two reptilian creatures that I could find that inhabit the Arctic regions. One is is a Canadian garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, "This animal has an incredible ability to withstand low temperatures. It can tolerate temperatures of -5°C without freezing. When temperatures drop lower than this, it can survive with up to 40% of its body fluids turned to ice [ref]".  The other is the viviparous lizard found throughout Europe and Asia, whose range extends north of the Arctic Circle. However, neither of the creatures fit the description or size of the 'Walrus Dog'. 

Additionally, cannot find any details on its diet, though one could guess that if its head was dog-like, then it would most likely be carnivorous. There is however, no mention of it actually eating the walrus with which it lived, or of it eating meat at all. 

In my (non-exhaustive) search of the internet, I have only found Nelson's references to this beast, and no Inuit written texts or recounts -which is disappointing and perhaps I will have to research in detail when time permits.

Anyway I hope you found this as interesting as I did!
  Happy February!

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