|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 |
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MENIE AND KOKO WENT HUNTING BY THEMSELVES
T was very lucky for the twins that their father was such a
brave and skillful kyak man. You will see the reason why, when I
tell you the story of the day Menie and Koko went hunting alone
on the ice.
One April morning Kesshoo was working on his kyak to make sure
that it was in perfect order for the spring walrus hunting. Koko
and Menie watched him for a long time. Monnie was with Koolee in
By and by Koko said to Menie, "Let's go out on the ice and hunt
"All right," said Menie. "You take your bow and arrows and I'll
take my spear. Maybe we shall see some little auks."
Koko had a little bow made of deer's
 horns, and some bone arrows,
and Menie had a small spear which his father had made for him out
"I'll tell you!" said Menie. "Let's go hunting just the way
father does! You do the shooting and I'll do the spearing! Won't
everybody be surprised to see us bring home a great load of game?
I shall give everything I get to my mother."
"I'm going to hunt birds and seal holes too," Koko answered.
Kesshoo was very busy fixing the fastening of his harpoon, and he
did not hear what they said.
The two boys went to their homes for their weapons, and then ran
out on the ice. Nobody knew where they were. Of course, Nip and
Tup went along.
All the way over the ice they looked for seal holes. It takes
sharp eyes to find them, for seal holes are very small.
You see, the mother seals try to find the
 safest place they can
to hide their babies, and this is the way they do it:
As soon as the ice begins to freeze in the autumn, the seals gnaw
holes in it to reach the air, and they keep these holes open all
winter. It freezes so fast in that cold country that they have to
be busy almost every minute all through the winter breaking away
the ice there. They get their sleep in snatches of a minute or so
at a time, and between their naps they clear the ice from their
There is usually a deep layer of snow over the ice. Each mother
seal hollows out a little igloo under the snow, around her
breathing hole, and leaves a tiny hole in the top of it, so her
baby can have plenty
 of fresh air and be hidden from sight at the
The mother seal leaves the baby in the snow house, and she
herself dives through the hole and swims away. Every few minutes
she comes back to breathe, and to see that her baby is safe.
It was the tiny hole in the top of the seal's snow house that
Menie and Koko hoped to find.
The days had grown quite long by this time and there was fog in
the air. Once in a while there would be a loud crackling noise.
"The ice is beginning to break," Koko said. "Don't you hear it
pop? My father says he thinks the warm weather will begin early
They had gone some distance out on the ice, when suddenly Menie
said, "Look! Look there!" He pointed toward the north. There not
far from shore was a flock of sea-birds, resting on the ice.
"Just let me get a shot at them!" cried Koko. "You stay here and
hold on to the
 dogs! Nip and Tup haven't any sense at all about
game! They'll only scare them."
Koko ran swiftly and quietly towards the birds. Menie sat on the
ice and watched him and held Nip and Tup, one under each arm.
When Koko got quite near the birds, he took careful aim and let
fly an arrow at them.
It didn't hit any of the birds, but it frightened them. They flew
up into the air and away to the north and alighted farther on.
Koko followed them.
 All at once Menie heard a queer little sound. It went "Plop-plop-
plop," and it sounded very near. Nip and Tup sniffed, and began
to growl and nose around on the ice.
Menie knew what the queer noise meant, for his father had told
him all about seal hunting. It meant that a seal hole was near,
and that a seal had come up to breathe. It was the seal that made
the "plopping" noise.
Menie tried to keep the dogs still, but they wouldn't be kept
still. They ran round with their noses on the snow, giving little
anxious whines, and short, sharp barks.
The "plop-plop" stopped. The seal had gone down under the ice,
but Menie meant to find the hole. He went out quite near the open
water in his search. At last, just beyond a hummock of ice, he
saw it! He crept carefully up to it.
He lay down on his stomach and peeped into the hole to see what
it was like. He could not see a thing!
 Then he stuck his lance down. His lance touched something soft
that wiggled! Menie stood up. He was so excited that he trembled.
He knew he had found a seal hole with a live seal in the snow
With all his strength he struck his lance down through the snow.
The snow house fell in and Menie fell with it, but he kept hold
of his lance. The end of the lance was buried in the snow, but it
was moving. Menie knew by this that he had stuck it into the
He lay still and kept fast hold of his lance, and pressed down on
it with all his might.
Nip and Tup were crazy with excitement.
 They jumped round and
barked and tried to dig a hole in the snow with their forefeet.
At last the spear stopped wiggling. Then Menie carefully dug the
snow away. There lay a little white seal! It was too young to
swim away with its mother. That was why such a small boy as Menie
had been able to kill it.
He dragged it out on the ice. He was so excited and so busy he
did not notice how near he was to the open water.
All of a sudden there was a loud cracking noise, and Menie felt
the ice moving under him! He looked back. There was a tiny strip
of blue water between him and the shore!
The strip grew wider while he looked at it! Menie knew that he
was adrift on an ice raft, and he was terribly frightened. Nip
and Tup cuddled close to him and whined with fear.
Menie understood perfectly well that he
 might be carried far out
to sea and never come back any more. He put his hands to his
mouth and yelled with all his might!
Koko was still following the birds, and did not hear Menie's
cries. Menie could see him running up the beach after the birds,
and he could see his father working over his kyak near his home.
He even saw Monnie come out of the tunnel and go to watch her
father at his work. They seemed very far away, and
 every moment
the distance between them and the raft grew greater.
Menie screamed again and again. At the third scream he saw his
father straighten up, shade his eyes with his hand, and look out
"Oh," Menie thought. "What if he shouldn't see me!" He shouted
louder than ever! He waved his arms! He even pinched the tails of
Nip and Tup and made them bark. Then he saw his father wave his
hand and dive into the tunnel.
In another instant he was out again and pulling on his skin coat.
Then he took the kyak on his shoulders and ran with it to the
beach. Monnie and Koolee came running after him.
They were doing the screaming now! Every one in the village heard
the screams and came running down to the beach, too.
When Menie saw his father coming with the kyak, he wasn't afraid
any more, for he was sure his father would save him. He wasn't
even afraid about the cakes of ice that were floating in the
water, though there
 is nothing more dangerous than to go out in a
kyak among ice floes. One bump from a floating cake of ice is
enough to upset any boat, and I don't like to think of what might
happen if a kyak should get between two big cakes of ice.
Kesshoo ran with his kyak as far as he could on the ice. Then he
got in and fitted the bottom of his skin jacket over the kyak
hole and carefully slid himself into the open water.
 Once in the water, how his paddle flew!
It seemed to Menie as if his father would never reach him! He sat
very still on the ice pan with the dead seal beside him, and Nip
and Tup huddled up against him.
At last Kesshoo came near enough so he could make Menie hear
everything he said. "Menie," he cried, "if you do exactly what I
tell you to, I can save you.
"I will throw you my harpoon. You must drive it way down into the
ice. Then by the harpoon line I will tow your ice pan back toward
shore. When we get to the big ice I will find a place for you to
"You must be ready, and when I give the word jump from your ice
raft on to the solid ice."
Then Kesshoo threw his harpoon, and Menie drove it into the ice
with all his might. Slowly Kesshoo drew the line taut, turned his
kyak round, and started for the shore. The journey out had been
dangerous, but the journey back was much more so, for Kesshoo
could not dodge the floating ice nearly so well. He had to pick
care-  fully through the clearest water he could find. Very
cautiously they moved toward shore.
They were getting quite near the place where the ice had broken
with Menie, when suddenly, right near them, they saw the head and
great, round eyes of a seal! It was the seal mother.
She had come back to find her breathing hole and her baby.
The moment Kesshoo saw her he seized. his dart, which lay in its
place on top of his
 kyak, and threw it with all his might at the
The seal dived down into the sea, but a bladder full of air was
attached to the line on the dart, and this bladder floated on the
water, so Kesshoo could tell by watching it just where the seal
Kesshoo knew he had struck the seal, and although he was already
towing the ice raft, he was determined to bring home the big
He called to Menie. "Sit still and wait until I come for you."
Then he quickly cut the harpoon line by which he was towing the
ice raft, and set it adrift again. As soon as he was free he
paddled away after the bladder, which was now bobbing along over
the water at some little distance from the boat.
Menie sat perfectly still and watched his father. Kesshoo reached
the bladder and began to pull on the line, but just at that
moment the big seal turned round and swam right under the kyak!
In a second the kyak turned bottom side
 up in the water! Menie
screamed. The people watching on the shore gave a great howl, and
Koko's father started up the beach after his own kyak.
He thought perhaps Kesshoo could not manage both the ice raft and
the seal, and he meant to go to help him.
But in one second Kesshoo was right side up again. No water could
get into the kyak because Kesshoo's skin coat was drawn tight
over the hole in the deck, and Kesshoo was in the coat!
Kesshoo often turned somersaults in the water in that way.
Sometimes he even did it for fun! He said afterward that he could
have turned the boat right side up again with just his nose,
without using either his paddle or his arms, if only his nose had
been a little bigger, and though he meant this for a joke, the
twins believed that he really could do it.
The moment he was right side up again, Kesshoo gave chase once
more to the bladder.
 The seal was very weak now, and Kesshoo knew
that it would soon come to the surface and float and that then he
could tow it in.
He had not long to wait. The bladder bobbed about for a while and
then was still. Kesshoo drew up the line, and paddled back to the
ice raft, towing the big seal after him.
"Catch this," he said to Menie. He threw him the end of the line.
"Wind the line six times round the harpoon," he said, "and hold
tight to the end of it."
Menie did as he was told. Then Kesshoo tied together the two ends
of the harpoon line, which he had cut, and began to tow the ice
raft back to share again.
Menie kept tight hold of the other line and towed the seal!
Kesshoo paddled slowly and carefully along, until at last there
was only a little strip of water between the kyak and the solid
But how in the world could Menie get across that strip of water
 The kyak was between him and the solid ice, and Menie could not
possibly get into the kyak. Neither could he swim. But Kesshoo
knew a way.
He came up closer to the solid ice. Then he gave a great sweep
with his paddle and lifted his kyak right up on to it. He sprang
out, and, seizing the harpoon line, pulled Menie's raft close up
to the edge of the firm ice.
Menie was still holding tight to the line that held the big seal.
Kesshoo threw him another line. Menie caught the end of it.
"Now tie the big seal's line fast to that," Kesshoo said. Menie
was a very small boy, but he knew how to tie knots. He did just
what his father told him to.
"Now," said his father, "pull up the harpoon." Menie did so. "Tie
the harpoon line to the little seal" Menie did that. "Now throw
the harpoon to me," commanded Kesshoo.
Menie threw it with all his might. His father caught it, and
stood on the firm ice, holding in his hands the line that the big
 seal was tied to, and the harpoon, with its line fastened to the
"Now hold on to the little seal, and I will pull you right up
against the solid ice, and when I say 'Jump,' you jump," said
Slowly and very, carefully he pulled, until the raft grated
against the solid ice.
"Jump!" shouted Kesshoo.
Menie jumped. The ice raft gave a lurch that nearly sent him into
the water, but Kesshoo caught him and pulled him to safety.
A great shout of joy went up from the shore, and Menie was glad
enough to shout too when he felt solid ice under his feet once
While he helped his father pull in the little seal, all the
people came running out on to the ice to meet them, but Kesshoo
sent back every one except Koko's father. He was afraid the ice
might break again with so many people on it. Koko's father helped
pull the big seal out of the water and over the ice to the beach.
 Menie dragged his own little seal after him by the harpoon line,
and when he came near the beach, the people all cried out, "See
the great hunter with his game!" And Koolee was so glad to see
Menie and so proud of her boy that she nearly burst with joy!
"I knew the charm would work," she cried. "Not only does he spy
bears—he kills seals! And he only five years old!"
She put her arms around him and pressed
 her flat nose to his.
That's the Eskimo way of kissing.
Menie tried to look as if he killed seals and got carried away on
an ice pan every day in the week, but inside he felt very proud,
When Kesshoo and Koko's father came up with the big seal, Koolee
and the other women dragged it to the village, where it was
skinned and cut up. Every one had a piece of raw blubber to eat
at once, and the very first piece went to Menie.
While they were eating it, Koko came back. He had gone so far up
the shore hunting little auks that he hadn't seen a thing that
had happened. And he hadn't killed any little auks either.
Koko felt that things were very unequally divided in this world.
He wanted to kill a seal and get lost on a raft and be a hero
But Koolee gave him a large piece of blubber, and that made him
feel much more cheerful again. He just said to Monnie, "If I had
been with Menie, this never
 would have happened! I should not
have let him get so near the edge of the ice! But then, you know,
I am six, and he is only five, so, of course, he didn't know any
Everybody in the village had seal meat that night, and the
Angakok had the head, which they all thought was the best part.
He said he didn't feel very well, and his Tornak had told him
nothing would cure him so quickly as a seal's head. So Koolee
gave it to him.
 The skin of the little white seal Koolee saved and dressed very
carefully. She chewed it, all over, on the wrong side, and sucked
out all the blubber, and made it soft and fine as velvet; and
when that was done, she made out of it two beautiful pairs of
white mittens for the twins.
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