"Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who lost their children immediately after every birth."

The legend of the orphan who acquired great strength

Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who lost their children immediately after every birth. Finally, one day they had a little boy who survived, and they called him Kaassassuk.

They loved their little boy very much and were happy that the same fate had not befallen him as all their previous children.

Ironically, however, both parents suddenly became ill in the midst of all this happiness and they died shortly afterwards in quick succession.

Ostracized by society

It wasn't long before the orphan began creating problems at the settlement. He was therefore pushed out of the community and slept amongst the dogs or in a cramped entrance to a house.

On the rare occasions in which he was invited inside, people gave him tough walrus hide to eat. Kaassassuk was often lifted up by his nostrils as punishment for attempting to dry his boots inside or keeping himself warm at the ventilation outlet in the ceiling. Over time he therefore developed very large nostrils.

"On the rare occasions in which he was invited inside, people gave him tough walrus hide to eat."

"Life continued in this vein for a long time until one day little Kaassassuk with the large nostrils began to go on long hikes."

Strength from helpful spirits

Life continued in this vein for a long time until one day little Kaassassuk with the large nostrils began to go on long hikes.  On one of his hikes he met a giant who was flensing his catch. At this point in time the orphan already had spirits that could help him increase the size of the hunk of meat that the giant threw to him.

He ate until he couldn't eat any more and hid the rest in a dolmen. When during a later hike he tried to locate it again he couldn't find it. The giant came when he heard Kaassassuk crying and from that day on they became friends.

He kept his enormous strength secret until one day three polar bears were spotted on the ice. The giant gave Kaassassuk the strength to move the large stone and the giant soon realised that they had equal strength. Kaassassuk returned to the settlement to a life he was well used to: being castigated and living on the fringe of society.

"He kept his enormous strength secret until one day three polar bears were spotted on the ice..."

"You can read about what then happened to Kaassassuk in the literature on Greenlandic myths and legends..."

Read more in the legend literature

You can read about what then happened to Kaassassuk in the literature on Greenlandic myths and legends - or perhaps have the tale told to you next time you come to Greenland. This extract of the legend of Kaassassuk was recounted by Arnarulunnguaq, whom Knud Rasmussen met during one of his sled journeys amongst the Inuits in Canada and Greenland.

The Kaassassuk sculpture in Nuuk

In front of the Greenland Self Rule buildings in Nuuk a large sculpture of Kaassassuk can be found, and it has become a tradition for newly graduated college students to dance around the sculpture.

The figure has become symbolic of the fact that even if you are alone, you can achieve your goals but at the same time you should take care that your abilities do not go to your head.

"In front of the Greenland Self Rule buildings in Nuuk a large sculpture of Kaassassuk."