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The Adlet: A Mysterious Creature of Inuit Mythology

Have you ever heard of the Adlet, a creature that is half human and half wolf? If not, you are not alone. The Adlet is one of the lesser-known monsters in Canadian folklore, but it has a fascinating origin story and cultural significance.

The Adlet (or Erqigdlet) are a race of creatures in the Inuit mythology of Greenland, as well as the Labrador and Hudson Bay coasts. While the word refers to inland native American tribes, it also denotes a humanoid dog-legged tribe. The lower part of the body of the canine Adlet is like that of a dog and their upper part is like a man’s. All Adlet run quickly, and their encounters with men usually end with man as the victor. In Inuit lore, they are often portrayed as in conflict with humans, and are supposed to be taller than Inuit and white people. In some stories they are cannibals.

The origin of the Adlet is traced back to a legend that was recorded by Franz Boas, an ethnologist who collected many Inuit stories. He had heard the story in Baffin Land, specifically in Cumberland Sound from an Inuit named Pakaq. His transcription, a translation by H. Rink, and an explanation (by Boas) were published in The Journal of American Folklore in 1889.

The Story

The story goes like this: A woman, Niviarsiang ("the girl"), lives with her father, Savirqong, but will not marry, and hence is also called Uinigumissuitung ("she who wouldn’t take a husband"). After rejecting all her suitors, she marries a dog, Ijirqang, with white and red spots. Of their ten children, five are dogs and the others are Adlet, with dog’s bodies for their lower half and man’s bodies for their upper half. Since Ijirqang does not go hunting and the children are very hungry, it falls to Savirqong to provide for the noisy household. At last he puts them into a boat and carries them off to a small island, telling Ijirqang to come and get meat daily. Niviarsiang hangs a pair of boots around his neck and he swims ashore, but Savirqong, instead of giving him meat, puts stones in the boots and Ijirqang drowns. In revenge, Niviarsiang sends the young dogs over to gnaw off her father’s feet and hands. He, in return kicks her overboard when she happens to be in his boat, and when she hangs on the gunwale he cuts off her fingers, which, when they fall in the ocean, turn into whales and seals. Since Niviarsiang is scared her father might kill the Adlet, she sends them inland, and from them a numerous people springs. The young dogs she sends across the ocean in a makeshift boat, and arriving beyond the sea they became the Europeans’ ancestors.

This story is often referred to as "The Girl and the Dogs" on the west coast of Greenland; on the east coast of Greenland it is known as "The Origin of the Qavdlunait and Irqigdlit" (that is, Europeans and Indians)

The Adlet legend is a fascinating example of how the Inuit people explained the origin of different races and cultures, as well as the diversity of animals in their environment. It also reflects their values and beliefs, such as the importance of marriage, hunting, and family. The Adlet are a symbol of the unknown and the dangerous, but also of the connection and the similarity between humans and animals.

The Adlet may not be as famous as other mythical Canadian monsters, such as the Wendigo, the Ogopogo, or the Sasquatch, but they are certainly worth learning more about. They are a part of the rich and diverse folklore of Canada, and a testament to the creativity and imagination of the Inuit people.

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