A Land of Legendary Monsters

Shape-shifters. Child-snatchers. Tickle monsters.

Shape-shifters. Child-snatchers. Tickle monsters.

Legends abound in Inuit mythology with a cast of frightening characters that prey on those who exhibit mischievous, careless, reckless or selfish behaviour on the land. Victims are often cautionary tales, as lessons of how not to behave. Elders and storytellers across our territory are well versed on these legends. They may even be able to recount their own harrowing encounters with these cunning and chilling creatures.

Qallupilluk

The most famous creature of Inuit mythology, Qallupilluk lurks in the cracks between ice or near the water’s edge to kidnap misbehaving children. This grotesque creature, often described as having humanlike features but also with scaly skin and reeking of sulphur, likes to wait until an unsuspecting child is alone before snatching and stuffing it into her giant eider bag. Elders caution children not to play by themselves on thin ice or near choppy water.

Warning signs: A knocking or tapping sound coming from under the ice or waves that suddenly appear upon a calm water body.

Protect yourself: Some say it is possible to attack Qallupilluk, but the best medicine is

Prevention: Stay off unstable ice and away from unsafe water.

 

Ijirait

Iqalugaarjuup Nunanga Territorial Park is a gorgeous expanse of pristine tundra and lakes, north of Rankin Inlet. But it said that near a rocky outcrop here, there lives the Ijirait, shape-shifting beings that can easily take the form of any creature—raven, human, bear, caribou—to disorient and deceive those with whom they come into contact. The Ijirait can be found in many places in Nunavut, causing even the most skilled hunter to lose their way on the land.

Warning signs: The Ijirait often appear in mirages, elders say, like when landmarks seem closer than they are. Should you notice your memory starting to fail you, you may be in the presence of the Ijirait.

Protect yourself: The Ijirait can take any form, but they are betrayed by their red eyes. Although some note that the Ijirait are not necessarily evil, exercise extreme caution if you encounter them.

An artist's rendering of Quallupilluk
Artist rendering of Quallupilluk via inuitmyths.com/

Mahaha

The tickle monster, Mahaha is slender but surprisingly strong, roaming the Arctic in search of victims to torment. Barefoot and barely dressed even in the bitter cold, Mahaha appears unbothered by frigid temperatures. Always smiling and giggling, Mahaha loves tickling people to death with its long fingers and sharp nails. A dead giveaway from those unlucky enough to encounter Mahaha? Their face is frozen into a grotesque smile.

Warning signs: You begin to hear giggling or laughing from off in the near-distance.

Protect yourself: Mahaha can be outsmarted. Ask it for one last drink of water and when you both approach the sea, push it in and watch it get swept away.

 

Inukpasugjuit

True giants of the Arctic, very little is known about the mysterious Inupasugjuit. These huge beings look at humans with curiosity, and will even use them as toys to play with. Female Inupasugjuk, who are more numerous than males, are even said to clutch Inuit and walk away with them in their amoutii.

Warning signs: Just look up. Look waaaaaay up.

Protect yourself: Get low and don’t move. Being so big, the Inupasugjuk may not see you.

An artist's rendering of Ijrait from inuitmyths.com
Artist rendering of Quallupilluk via inuitmyths.com/

Akhlut

Akhlut is a vicious and indiscriminate hunter that lives in the sea as a killer whale but can transform into a wolf-like creature when it gets hungry to roam the land for prey. Very little is known about this monster spirit, other than it’s extremely dangerous.

Warning signs: When you see wolf tracks in snow that lead to the water’s edge and then abruptly end.

Protect yourself: If you see such tracks, go the other way.

Inuarugligat

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. That would be the motto of Inuarugligat—pint-sized people that really pack a punch. When challenged to a fight, Inuarugligat will grow to the size of their opponent and the fight will rage on to the death.

Warning signs: Keep an eye out for small, intricate tools and items, because Inuarugligat may be in the area.

Protect yourself: Do anything to avoid starting a fight.