Qiviuq Spits on the Evil Woman
‘Qiviuq Spits on the Evil Woman’ by Janet Kigusiuq – Inuit Art – Baker Lake 1979 print collection presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.
Condition: No condition noted.
Description by Artist: No description by artist found.
Notes from DaVic Gallery: Qiviuq or Kiviuq, one of the greatest and most important characters in Inuit mythology, is said to have travelled over land and sea, overcoming obstacles and successfully defeating formidable foes. In Qiviuq and the Bee Woman, Qiviuq faces one of his most frightening opponents yet: Iguttaqjuaq, a bee in human form. Known as the Bee Woman, she is a fearsome figure who is said to cook and eat humans. Trapped in her tent, Qiviuq uses all his powers to get his kayak and escape the Bee Woman! This story is told by many elders. The bee is a frightening insect to Inuit, perhaps because you can never be sure how much spiritual power such a tiny creature can contain.
Qiviuq has been travelling for a long time. He is exhausted and many terrible things happened to him. He finally arrives at a shore where there is an igloo. Some storytellers say it’s a sod house because Qiviuq arrives in his kayak, it could not be winter and thus not an Igloo, but here in Kigusiuq’s story it is clear it is an igloo indicating this is a place water remains unfrozen even during winter. Qiviuq hears the sound of someone scraping skins, and didn’t notice at first that all around him were human remains. When he gets to the igloo and peeks over he sees the Bee Woman scraping a skin. He had been told that if you are not sure if someone is a spirit, you should try to look at their eyes, so he spits at her head to get her to look up.
Bee Woman says, “What is that? I didn’t know it was raining.”
Qiviuq spits again and this time she tries to look up but her heavy eyelids close every time she tilts her head upward. Frustrated, she pulls her terrible eyelid out and cuts it off with her ulu and throws it in the stew pot! She does the same with the other eyelid. Now she can see, so she looks up and Qiviuq faints in shock at the sight of her grotesque face. As Qiviuq lies on the ground, Bee Woman creeps over to him and says in a kind voice, “Just come to my house and lie down on the nice bed and rest. Let me take off your kamiik (boots) and hang them to dry.” Hanging up Qiviuq’s kamiik, Bee Woman tells him, “Just rest here. I’ll pick some kindling to make a nice soup for you to eat.” — That’s the soup she threw her eyelids into and where she plans to throw Qiviuq into after she kills him! And so she leaves to collect heather brush from outside.
Though he felt uneasy, Qiviuq managed to fall sleep until he was woken up by meat skewers made of caribou bone poking at him from below the bed. That is when he noticed the walls of the room lined with human heads that warned him “If you don’t want to end up like us, get out of here fast!” These skulls were of his previous companions that he tried to save in another story so they were returning the favour. With this warning, Qiviuq tries to escape but the drying rack where his boots are is enchanted and he cannot reach them so in desperation, Qiviuq calls to his guiding spirit, nanuq (polar bear). He calls to nanuq three times. Finally, nanuq appears, rescuing Qiviuq and frightening Bee Woman. She gives Qiviuq back his boots in a panic, but then chases after him. When Qiviuq manages to make way to his kayak she yells at him, “I’ll throw my ulu at you!” She then throws it, but it hits the water and causes the water to freeze.
Qiviuq, in his boat, is now stuck in the ice, so he picks up his harpoon and yells to Bee Woman, “I’ll throw this harpoon right at you!” His harpoon hits Bee Woman. The harpoon also hits the ice, causing it to crack and allowing Qiviuq to paddle away from this awful place.