Telling Tales 61
The Best Hunter in the World
I’m a hunter. Fish, yes, of course. Seal, terns, caribou. I’ve caught bear a couple of times, but not often. You really have to cook the meat of a predator, that’s the only thing.
No, they no longer have much to do with me anymore, and me with them. We all have our reasons.
If you insist.
My parents died when I was young, and it fell to my two grandmothers to care for me. One was kind and one was not. The first beat me, but the other dried my boots and she dried my clothes. She cared for me when no one else would. The oldest man in our village allowed me to sleep in the corner of his hut, but if I dared creep closer to the fire, he would take me by the nose and throw me out of the door. Other children would not play with me. I do not say this for you to take pity on me. Take pity on my cruel grandmother, who grew up under much the same circumstances as I did, but without a kindly grandmother of her own. She grew twisted and angry and stayed twisted and angry. My kind grandmother taught me wonder, and so it was that when others were cruel to me, I wondered at their motives, as much as I wondered about the sun and the moon and the stars. When I threw my bola and knocked a bird out of the sky and drew my knife to kill it, it spoke to me and I did not think it was a spirit. I wondered how a bird could speak. It said to me that it had seen me alone and seen me shunned and it knew how difficult my life would be. If I did not kill it, it said, it could take me to one who would teach me how to be a great hunter. I untangled my bola and set it free and wondered if it was telling the truth. The bird did not fly away. It hopped forward and waited for me to follow and brought me to a giant in a part of the land I had never seen nor imagined. I grew strong under the giant and he taught me to weave a net and fashion a bow and sharpen a knife and I have become the best hunter the world has ever seen. If you can name a thing in the sky, under the water, or on the land, I can strike it with one of my tools. When I returned to my village, I wondered if they would be happy to see me. I was now a young man, and perhaps, I thought, I could find a wife. They remembered me as I had been, though, and in their eyes I had not grown at all. I was still an orphan. My cruel grandmother still rejected me. The village big man still tried to throw me out on my nose. But I was stronger than him and it was he who fell outside of the hut. I tore his hut apart with my hands and put out his fire. I hunted for my kind grandmother and left her food for years and gave none to the cruel one, and I set out on my own to see the world. That was years ago and I have had many adventures, but I have met no one who would be my wife.