The Origin of Fog

Kate Farrell (author of Story Power) shares this Inuit folktale- gathered by a German who honored their indigenous culture and language.

Once, a man went into the forest to get firewood. While he was working in the forest, he was attacked by a white bear who wounded him badly, so that the man fell to the ground as if dead.

The bear sniffed him to determine whether he was still alive, but the man held his breath, so that the bear believed the man to be dead and put him on his back to carry him off into his cave.

On the way there, the bear came with his load through thick bushes. Intending, if possible, to escape, the man grasped the twigs of the bushes so that it might appear to the bear that his burden had been caught by the bushes and left behind. The bear, of course, looked around, and the man quickly let go of the twigs, almost having fallen from the bear’s back.

The man could not find any convenient moment to escape and the bear happily brought the prey into his cave. The exertion had made the bear tired. He threw himself on the lair and fell asleep.

The little bears that cavorted in the cave thought that their father was still watching, and when they saw that the human, whom father bear had just deposited in the cave, opened his eyes, they called out to the sleeping bear:

“Father! Father! Look, the one you just brought us to eat is opening his eyes!”

Drowsy, the old bear replied, “Even if he now opens his eyes forever, he has already given me enough trouble today.” And he continued to sleep.

Then the man jumped to his feet, pushed the little playing bears aside and rushed out of the cave. Mother bear was standing outside cooking. The man threw her also to the ground and fled. He came to a river, which he waded across.

Now he was safe! In the meantime father bear was awakened by his family and ran angrily after the escapee. He came to the river and saw the hunted man on the other side.

“How have you been able to cross the river?” the bear asked the man.

“I drank it all up,” he answered.

The bear immediately started to do the same. He drank and drank and drank, until he burst into a mist. Then, for the first time, thick fog covered the land. 


Source: Rev. Albert Martin (1861-1934) published the text of this Labrador folk tale under the title “Inuit Folk Tale about the Origin of Fog (Labrador),” in the October 1901 issue of a Moravian magazine of missions devoted to children (German-speaking Protestants).

Note: Martin also revised the Labrador Inuktitut curriculum for schools by emphasizing teaching relevant to the children’s experiences in Labrador. In mathematics, for example, he counseled “not to have the students always count with mere numbers, but to pose lively, applied problems.” Martin recommended instead of the simple addition problem 4+5+6=15the following example drawn from real life: “Into the bay there come 3 sleds. The first is pulled by 4, the second by 5, the third by 6 dogs. How many dogs are coming?”

To enhance teacher and leadership training, Martin instituted teacher training courses in Nain, the Inuktitut lectures of which are still today preserved in Labrador. To improve communication and retain the language, Martin established in 1902 a printing press in Nain, which published a magazine with religious and secular articles in Labrador Inuttut, titled AGLAIT ILLUNAINORTUT (Leaves For All).

Story Power by Kate Farrell

Story power

Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories

Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent—it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story.

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