|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 SNOW HOUSE
T is very hard to tell what day it is, or what hour in the day,
in a place where the days and nights are all mixed up, and where
there are no clocks.
Menie and Monnie had never seen a clock in their whole lives. If
they had they would have thought it was alive, and perhaps would
have been afraid of it.
But people everywhere in the world get sleepy, so the Eskimos
sometimes count their time by "sleeps." Instead of saying five
days ago, they say "five sleeps" ago.
The night after the bear was killed it began to snow. The wind
howled around the igloo and piled the snow over it in huge
The dogs were buried under it and had
 to be dug out, all but Nip
and Tup. They stayed inside with the twins and slept in their
The twins and their father and mother were glad to stay in the
At last the snow stopped, the air cleared, and the twins and
Kesshoo went out. Koolee stayed in the igloo.
She sat on her sleeping bench upon a pile of soft furs. A bear's
skin was stretched up on the wall behind her. She had a cozy nest
to work in.
The lamp stood on the bench beside her. She was making a
beautiful new suit for Menie. It was made of fawn-skin as soft as
velvet, and the hood and sleeves were trimmed with white rabbit's
Her thimble was made of ivory, and her needle too. Her thread was
a fine strip of hide. There was a bunch of such thread beside
Soon Kesshoo came in, bringing with him a dried fish and a piece
of bear's meat, from the storehouse.
Koolee looked up from her sewing. "Isn't
 it five sleeps since you
killed the bear?" she said.
Kesshoo counted on his fingers. "Yes," he said, "it is five
"Then it is time to eat the bear's head," said Koolee. "His
spirit is now with our fathers."
"Why not have a feast?" said Kesshoo. "There hasn't been any
fresh meat in the village since the bear was killed, and I don't
believe the rest have had anything to eat but dried fish. We have
plenty of bear's meat still."
Koolee hopped down off the bench and put some more moss into the
"You bring in the meat," she said, "and tell the twins to go to
all the igloos and invite the people to come at sunset."
"All right," Kesshoo answered, and he went out at once to the
storehouse to get the meat.
When he came out of the tunnel, Kesshoo found the twins trying to
make a snow house
 for the dogs. They weren't getting on very
Kesshoo could make wonderful snow houses. He had made a beautiful
one when the first heavy snows of winter had come, and the family
had lived in it while Koolee finished building the stone igloo.
The twins had watched him make it. It seemed so easy they were
sure they could do it too. Kesshoo said, "If you will run to all
the igloos and tell the people to come at sunset to eat the
bear's head, I will help you build the snow house for the dogs."
Menie and Monnie couldn't run. Nobody could. The snow was too
deep. They went in every step above their knees. But they
ploughed along and gave their message at each igloo.
Everybody was very glad to come, and Koko said, "I'll come right
now and stay if you want me to."
"Come along," said the twins.
They went back to their own house, kicking the snow to make a
path. Koko went with them. The snow was just the
 right kind for a
snow house. It packed well and made good blocks.
While the twins were away giving the invitations, Kesshoo carried
great pieces of bear's meat into the house.
Koolee put in the cooking pan all the meat it would hold, and
kept the blaze bright in the lamp underneath to cook it.
Then Kesshoo took his long ivory knife and went out to help the
twins with the snow house, as he had promised.
"See, this is the way," he said to them.
 He took an unbroken patch of snow where no one had stepped. He
made a wide sweep of his arm and marked a circle in the snow with
The circle was just as big as he meant the house to be. Then he
cut out blocks of snow from the space inside the circle. He
placed these big blocks of snow around the circle on the line he
had marked with his knife.
When he got the first row done Menie said, "I can do that! Let me
He took the knife and cut out a block. It wasn't nice and even
like his father's blocks.
"That will never do," his father said. "Your house will tumble
down unless your blocks are true."
He made the sides of the block straight by cutting off some of
"Now all the other blocks in this row must be just like this
one," he said.
Koko tried next. His block was almost right the
first time. But then, as I have told you before, Koko was six.
 Monnie tried the next one. I am sorry to say hers wouldn't do at
all. It was dreadfully crooked. They took turns. Menie cut a new
block while Koko placed the last one on the snow wall.
Kesshoo had to put on the top blocks to make the roof. Neither
Koko nor Menie could do it right, though they tried and tried. It
is a very hard thing to do.
When the blocks were all laid up and
the dome finished, Kesshoo said, "Now, Monnie can help pack it
 Monnie got the snow shovel. The snow shovel was made of three
flat pieces of wood sewed together with leather thongs. It had an
edge of horn sewed on with thongs, too.
Monnie threw loose snow on the snow house and spatted it down
with the back of the shovel.
While she was doing this, Menie and Koko built a tunnel entrance
for the dogs just like the big one on the stone house.
They worked so hard they were warm as toast, though it was as
cold as our coldest winter weather; and when it was all finished
Menie ran clear over it just to show how strong and well built it
When the snow house was all ready, Menie called the three big
dogs. Tooky was the leader, and the three dogs together were
Kesshoo's sledge team. Tooky was a hunting dog too.
When Menie called the dogs, the dogs thought they were going to
be harnessed, so they hid behind the igloo arid pretended
didn't hear. Koko and Menie followed them, but the moment they
got near, the dogs bounded away. They went round to the front of
the igloo and ran into the tunnel.
Koolee was just turning the meat in the pan with a pointed stick.
There was a piece of bear's meat lying on the bench.
The dogs smelled the meat. They stuck their heads into the room,
and when Koolee's back was turned, Tooky stole the meat!
Just then Koolee turned around. She saw Tooky. She shrieked, "Oh,
my meat, my meat!" and whacked Tooky across the nose with the
But Tooky was bound to have the meat. She ran out of the tunnel
with it in her mouth, just as Menie and Koko got round to the
front of the igloo once more.
"I-yi! I-yii" they screamed, "Tooky's got the meat!" Kesshoo
caught up his dog-whip and came running from the storehouse.
The other two dogs wanted the meat too. They flew at Tooky and
snarled and fought with her to get it.
 Then Koolee's head appeared in the tunnel hole! Tooky was
crouching in the snow in front of the tunnel, trying to fight off
the other two dogs and guard the meat at the same time.
She wasn't doing a thing with her tail, but she was very busy
with all the rest of her. Her tail was pointed right toward the
The moment she saw it Koolee seized the tail with both hands and
jerked it like everything! Tooky was so surprised she yelped. And
when she opened her mouth to yelp, of course she dropped the
Just at that instant Kesshoo's whip lash came singing about the
ears of all three dogs.
"Snap, snap," it went. They jumped to get out of the way of the
Then Koolee leaped forward and snatched the meat from under their
noses, and scuttled back with it into the tunnel before you could
say Jack Robinson.
It is dangerous to snatch meat away from hungry dogs. If Kesshoo
 slashing at them with his whip, and if Menie and Koko
hadn't been screaming at them with all their might, so the dogs
were nearly distracted, Koolee might have been badly bitten.
Just then Monnie came up with some dried fish. She threw one of
the fish over in front of the snow house.
The dogs saw it and leaped for it. Then she threw another into
the snow hut itself. They went after that. She fed them all with
dried fish until they were so full they curled up in the snow
house and went to sleep.
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