Historical Events

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Alualuk, he said, had unfortunately embraced Christianity and had since then ceased to fly, but Kublualuk, he thought, had not yet been converted and would still have his old powers. There were others who could do it too, some of them right in the village beside us; but he thought that perhaps none of them would fly even if I asked them to, because they now understood that to employ familiar spirits is wicked and that a man cannot employ them without endangering his prospects of salvation.

April 5, 1912

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 25

Biblical Fundamentalism
Christianization
Religion
Eskimo

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

I was especially interested in meeting Mr. Fry, because I wanted to learn from him his attitude with reference to certain matters which I had often discussed with various Eskimo, most often with our own employees, notably the form which certain Christian doctrines have taken in their minds, as described by me in Chapter XXVII of this book headed “ On the Conversion of the Heathen .” I found, as I had expected, that although Mr. Fry's ideas of Christianity were more those which one might have expected forty years ago than those in vogue in our enlightened churches of today, still he is in no way intentionally responsible for most of the curious ideas which the Eskimo hold of his teachings and those of his senior, Mr. Whittaker.


In the village near Captain Anderson's ship was, among others, a young boy who had been for several months in Mr. Fry's house for the purpose of learning English as well as mastering the elements of Christianity. Mr. Fry and I had various talks while he was with us about whether the Eskimo still retained the doctrines of their old system, my point of view being that they believed now everything which they had ever believed , and all the doctrines and facts of Christianity on top of that. Mr. Fry felt certain that this young man at least had quite relinquished all the old beliefs. The day before I left Captain Anderson's place Mr. Fry left for the Baillie Islands. It was unfortunately not until after he had gone that Captain Anderson and I got into a talk with the young man who had so long lived with Mr. Fry in his house and who was therefore considered by the rest of the Eskimo to be an authority on the doctrines of the Church . I asked him whether he believed his countrymen were able to fly to the moon, or from one village to another, magically. He said, and there were half a dozen other people in the house at the time who agreed with him, that the fact of many people being able to fly to the moon was a matter of common knowledge, just as their ability to walk on snow -shoes or to snare ptarmigan was a matter of common knowledge. We asked the boy to specify some of the people who could do this, and he named among others Alualuk, at whose house I would sleep on my way west the first day after leaving Captain Anderson's place. He also specified a young man whom I knew well, named Kublualuk, who had long been in the employ of the mounted police at Herschel Island. Alualuk, he said , had unfortunately embraced Christianity and had since then ceased to fly, but Kublualuk, he thought, had not yet been converted and would still have his old powers. There were others who could do it too, some of them right in the village beside us ; but he thought that perhaps none of them would fly even if I asked them to, because they now understood that to employ familiar spirits is wicked and that a man cannot employ them without endangering his prospects of salvation.


After he had given us all the information he had with regard to flying, the boy asked me what I would give anyone who would perform the magic flight for me, and I suggested my rifle and field glasses, both of which were of a kind and quality much coveted by the Eskimo. The young man thought he would very likely be able to find someone who would fly for me in order to get these articles, although he said that the risk of offending God was considerable and the pay small in proportion to the risk. Upon hearing this, Captain Anderson volunteered to give any of them the schooner North Star with her entire cargo , suggesting at the same time that the risk of damnation was not very great, especially if some young man did the flying, for he would no doubt have ample time in which to repent of his wickedness before he died . Of course nothing came of the conversation, for the boy canvassed the village without finding any one who would weigh the prospect of gaining a schooner against the prospect of losing his soul. Captain Anderson said , however, he would be sure when Mr. Fry returned to inform him in exactly how far his favorite disciple and housemate had renounced the beliefs of his Eskimo forefathers.