|The Eskimo Twins|
|by Lucy Fitch Perkins|
|Share the adventures of Menie and Monnie, 5 year-old twins in an Eskimo village, where the villagers have to provide for all their own needs. Their father, Kesshoo, is a brave fisherman and strong hunter and their mother Koolee is clever in making clothing and shoes out of the skins of the animals which he brings home. We watch the twins as they spot a polar bear while coasting on their sleds, then join with the villagers in the sharing of the meat and the feasting afterwards. Among the other activities they enjoy are ice fishing, building a snow house, hunting for seals, and traveling by boat to their summering ground where they catch salmon to dry for the winter. Children are captivated by the humor and playfulness in this community where the winter night lasts for four long months! Ages 6-8 |
THE TWINS GO FISHING
HEN the people had all gone away, Menie and Monnie sat down on
the side of the sledge. Nip and Tup were busy burying bones in the
snow. The other dogs had eaten all they wanted to and were now
lying down asleep in the sun, with their noses on their paws.
Everything was still and cold. It was so still you could almost
hear the silence, and so bright that the twins had to squint
their eyes. In the air there was a faint smell of cooking meat.
Menie sniffed. "I'm so hungry I could eat my boots," he said.
"There are better things to eat than boots," Monnie answered.
"What would you like best of everything in the world if you could
 "A nice piece of blubber from a walrus or some reindeer tallow,"
"Oh, no," Monnie cried. "That isn't half as good as reindeer's
stomach, or fishes' eyes! Um-m how I love fishes' eyes! I tell
you, Menie, let's get something to eat and then go fishing,
before the sun goes down!"
"All right," said Menie. "Let's see if Mother won't give us a
piece of bear's fat! That is almost as good as blubber or fishes'
They dived into the igloo. Their mother was standing beside the
oil lamp, putting strands of dried moss into the oil. This lamp
was their only stove and their only light. It didn't look much
like our stoves. It was just a piece of soapstone, shaped
something like a clamshell. It was all lowed out so it would
hold the oil. All along the shallow side of the pan there were
little tendrils of dried moss, like threads. These were the
Over the fire pan there was a rack, and from the rack a stone pan
hung down over the lamp flame. It was tied by leather thongs to
the rack. In the pan a piece of bear's meat was simmering. The
fire was not big enough to cook it very well, but there was a
little steam rising from it, and it made a very good smell for
"We're hungry enough to eat our boots," Menie said to his mother.
"You must never eat your boots; you have but one pair!" his
 She pinched Menie's cheek and laughed at him.
Then she cut two chunks of fat from a piece of bear's meat which
lay on the bench. She gave one to each of the twins. "Eat this,
and soon you can have some cooked meat," she said. "It isn't
quite done yet."
"We don't want to wait for the cooked meat," cried Monnie. "We
want to go fishing before the sun is gone. Give us more fat and
we'll eat it outside."
"You may go fishing if your father will go with you and cut holes
for you in the ice," said her mother.
Koolee cut off two more pieces of fat. The twins took a piece in
each hand. Then their mother reached down their own little
fishing rods, which were stuck in the walls of the igloo. The
twins had bear's meat in both hands. They didn't see how they
could manage the fishing rods too.
But Menie thought of a way. "I'll show you how," he said to
Monnie. He held one chunk of meat in his teeth! In his
 left hand
he held the fishing rod, in his right he carried the other piece
Monnie did exactly what Menie did, and then they crawled down
into the tunnel.
The twins had some trouble getting out of the tunnel because both
their hands were full. And besides the fishing rods kept
between their legs. When they got outside they both took great
bites of the bear's fat.
Kesshoo was hanging the dogs' harnesses up on a tall pole, where
the dogs could not get them. The pole was eight feet long, and it
was made of the tusk of a narwhal. The harnesses were made of
walrus thongs and the dogs would eat them if they had a chance.
That was the reason Kesshoo hung them out of reach. The twins ran
to their father at once. They began to tell him that they wanted
to go fishing right away before the sun went down but their
mouths were so full they couldn't get the words out!
"Mm-m-m-m," Menie began, chewing with all his might!
Then Monnie did a shocking thing! She swallowed her meat whole,
she was in such hurry! It made a great lump going down her
throat! It almost choked her. But she shut her eyes, jerked her
head forward, and got it down!
"Will you make two holes in the ice
 for us to fish through?" she
said. She got the words out first! Then she took another bite of
"Have you got your lines ready, and anything for bait?" asked
By this time Menie had swallowed his mouthful too. He said, "We
can take a piece of bear's meat for bait. The lines and hooks are
Kesshoo looked at the lines. The rods were very short. They were
made of driftwood with a piece of bone bound to the end by tough
There was a hole in the end of the bone, and through this hole
the line was threaded. The line was made of braided reindeer
thongs. On the end of the line was a hook carved out of bone.
"Your lines are all right," said Kesshoo. "Come along."
He led the way down to the beach. The twins came tumbling after
him, and I am sorry to tell you they gobbled their meat all the
way! After the twins came Nip and Tup. The ice was very thick.
 and the twins and the pups walked out on it quite a
distance from the shore.
Kesshoo cut two round holes in the ice. One was for Menie and one
for Monnie. The holes were not big enough for them to fall into.
By this time the twins had eaten all their meat except some small
pieces which they saved for bait. They each put a piece of meat
on the hook. Then they squatted down on their heels and dropped
the hooks into the holes.
 Kesshoo went back to the village, and left them there. "Don't
stay out too long," he called back to them.
The twins sat perfectly still for a long time. Nip sat beside
Menie, and Tup sat beside Monnie. It grew colder and colder. The
sun began to drop down toward the sea again. At last it rested
like a great round red wheel right on the Edge of the World!
Slowly, slowly it sank until only a little bit of the red rim
showed; then that too was gone. Great splashes of red color came
up in the sky over the place where it had been.
Still the twins sat patiently by their holes. It grew darker and
darker. The colors faded. The stars began to twinkle, but the
twins did not move. Nip and Tup ran races on the ice, and rolled
over each other and barked.
At last—all of a sudden—there was a fearful jerk on Monnie's
line! It took her
 by surprise. The little rod flew right out of
her hands! Monnie flung herself on her stomach on the ice and
caught the rod just as it was going down the hole! She held on
hard and pulled like everything.
"I believe I've caught a whale," she panted.
But she never let go! She got herself right side up on the ice,
somehow, and pulled and pulled on her line.
"Let me pull him in!" cried Menie. He tried to take her rod.
"Get away," screamed Monnie. "I'll pull in my own fish."
Menie danced up and down with
excite-  ment, still holding his own
rod. The pups danced and barked too. Monnie never looked at any
of them. She kept her eyes fixed on the hole and pulled.
At last she shrieked, "I've got him, I've got him!" And up
through the hole came a great big codfish!
My! how he did flop around on the ice! Nip and Tup were scared.
They ran for home at the first flop.
"Let's go home now," said Monnie. "I want to show my fine big
fish to Mother."
But Menie said, "Wait a little longer till I catch one! I'll give
you one eye out of my fish if you will."
Monnie waited. She put another piece of meat on her hook and
dropped it again into the hole. After a while she said, "You can
keep your old eye if you get it. It's so dark the fish can't see
to get themselves caught anyway. I'm cold. I'm going home."
Menie got up very slowly and pulled up his line.
 As they turned toward the shore, Monnie cried out, "Look, look!
The sky is on fire!" It looked like it, truly!
Great white streamers were flashing from the Edge of the World,
clear up into the sky! They danced like flames. Sometimes they
shot long banners of blue or green fire up to the very stars.
Overhead the sky shone red as blood. The stars seemed blotted
 The twins had seen many wonderful things in the sky, but never
such color as this. Their eyes grew as round and big and popping
as those of Monnie's codfish, while they watched the long banners
join themselves into a great waving curtain of color that hung
clear across the heavens.
"What is it? Oh, what is it?" they gasped. They were too
astonished to move, and they were a good deal frightened, too.
They never knew the sky could act like that.
Monnie felt her black hair rise under her little fur hood. She
seized Menie's coat. "Do you suppose the world is going to be
burned up?" she said.
Just then they heard a voice calling, "Menie, Monnie, where are
"Here we are," they answered. Their teeth were chattering with
cold and fright, and they ran up the slope and flung themselves
into their mother's arms.
"Oh, Mother, what is the matter with the sky?" they gasped.
Then Koolee looked up too. The long
 streamers were still flinging
themselves up toward the red dome overhead.
We call this the "aurora," or "northern lights," and know that
electricity causes it, but the twins' mother couldn't know that.
She told them just what had been told her when she was a little
She said, "That is the dance of the Spirits of the Dead! Haven't
you ever seen it before?"
"Not like this," said the twins. "This is so big, and so red!"
"The sky is not often so bright," said Koolee. "Some say it is
the spirits of little children dancing and playing together in
the sky! They will not hurt you. You need not be afraid. See how
they dance in a ring all around the Edge of the World! They look
as if they were having fun."
"It goes around the Edge of the World just like the flames around
our lamp," said Menie. "Maybe it's the Giants' lamp!"
Menie and Monnie believed in Giants. So did their mother. They
thought the Giants
 lived in the middle of the Great White World,
where the snow never melts.
The thought of the Giants scared them all. The twins gave the
fish to their mother, and then they all three scuttled up the
snowy slope toward the bright window of their igloo just as fast
as they could go. When they got inside they found some hot bear's
meat waiting for them, and Monnie had both the eyes from her fish
to eat. But she gave one to Menie.
When they were warmed and fed, they pulled off their little fur
suits, crawled into the piles of warm skins on the sleeping
bench, and in two minutes were sound asleep.
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