The Legend of the Woman Who Became a Narwhal

by Peter Morgan, 1975, Stonecut Kangiqsualujjaq, George River.

The Inuit oral tradition is rich in legends about transformation. This particular image could have been inspired by a legend about a woman with luxuriant long hair who was married to an abusive and violent husband. One day, she was standing beside the water with her hair out loose when her husband came after her:

...when he was about to reach her, she fell backwards into the water below and sank out of sight. When she came up out of the water at the mouth of the river, she had already turned into a narwhal with a long tusk. Rapids were forming in the river and, because her hair was spread out in all its length, it began to twist around and around in corkscrew fashion. This is the reason why narwhal tusks are formed with a corkscrew twist.*

Transformations such as this were believed to have happened frequently in the past, especially during rituals where the shaman could turn into an animal or bird.

*Thomas Kusugaq in Eight Inuit Myths, p. 81.