Friday, January 19, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Monsters of the Last Frontier

With the cold weather leaving us for a while (at least where I live), I still wanted to blog about monsters connected to a cold section of the country—Alaska.

The first are tornits. In the beginning, the Inuit and the tornits lived peacefully in villages near each other, sharing common hunting grounds.
The Inuit people often built and used kayaks for hunting. While the tornits were unable to master the building of kayaks, they became aware of the advantages of having and using one. One tale says a young tornit borrowed a young Inuit's kayak without permission and damaged the bottom of it. The young Inuit grew angry and stabbed the tornit in the the neck while he slept and killed him. The rest of the tornits fearing they would be killed by the Inuit fled the country. Since that time, stories of hunters disappearing, later found dead and mangled or never seen again. Apparently, hunters and the tornits no longer peacefully shared common hunting grounds. One thing about these tornits, they sound like Bigfoot.

The next monster of Alaskan myth is the Tizheruk, large, snake-like sea creatures believed to roam Alaska's waters. They are described as having head 7 feet long, a body with a tail ending in a flipper, making them about 12 to 15 feet long. These creatures are claimed to snatch people from docks and piers.

The Tizheruk have some similarities to the Haietlik, or "Lightning Snakes," occasionally associated with the Thunderbird of Southeast Alaska and Pacific Northwest native cultures. Once the Thunderbird spotted a killer whale, it would launch Haietlik as living weapons by throwing them from the skies like lightning.

The Qalupalik is a creature of Inuit legend described as being human-like and having green skin with long hair and very long fingernails. She lives in the sea, hums to entice children to come closer to the water and wears an amautik -- a parka worn by Inuit women to hold a child against the back in a built-in baby pouch just below the hood.

Like the boogeyman legends, parents and elders tell children that if they are disobedient or wander too close to the sea shore, the Qalupalik will come onshore, snatch and stow them in her amautik, before taking them back to the sea with her to raise them as her own children. Some tales say she eats the children, but most I read say she keeps them in a secret place, putting them to sleep so they don’t try to escape. These tales say she feeds off their “energy” to stay young, to keep her shiny green skin lovely, and her wild hair lustrous. As the children age, the Qalupalik grows younger.

Then there’s the bloodthirsty Adlet, bearing resemblance to the werewolf. The Inuit legend tells that the Adlet are a race of people said to have the lower body of dogs and the upper body of humans. Typically, they're believed to be the offspring of an Inuit woman and a dog, thanks to an unnatural mating.

The woman gave birth to 10 children, half of whom were dogs and the other half, Adlet. The family was sent to a remote island because they were so voracious, and their grandfather would hunt for them and provide them with meat. Every day, the dog-husband was supposed to swim from the island to the mainland, where the grandfather was supposed to fill a pair of boots wrapped around the dog's neck with meat. Eventually, the grandfather filled the boots with rocks, drowning the husband.

Fearing for her children's lives, the mother sent them inland, where they spawned more Adlet. The Adlet are typically portrayed as aggressive savages who will attack men when they cross paths.

Although the Adlet legend is based in far north mythology -- a version of the story appears in Greenland too. There the Adlet are called Erqigdlit -- a few researchers have linked it to the European tales of the werewolf.

The last Alaskan beastie is The Keelut is described as an evil earth spirit that takes the form of a black, hairless dog with only hair on its feet. It's not unlike the Black Dogs that haunt Great Britain and other parts of the United States (like in my book, Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales). It tracks travelers at night, attacking, and then killing them. If a trail of dog paw prints are found in the earth and they vanish, the story goes that it is considered a Keelut is nearby.

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