George Best – Frobisher’s Voyages to the Arctic (the end)

Since the ground is slippery with snow, the two Inuit manage to break free and run away to the place where they left their bows and arrows. From this place they start a volley of arrows, hurting Frobisher in the buttock and forcing the English to a rather undignified retreat. Other soldiers hearing the cries of their fellows run from their boats to help. One of them, a Cornishman and an expert wrestler (something Cornishmen apparently were known for) manages to catch one of the poor Inuit and wrestle him to the ground. After that they return to their boats and sail to another smaller island, where they eat some of their provisions, but not too much, because they can’t be sure when they are going to reach their ships or if at all, so they want to make their food last as long as possible.

In the next passage Best describes the dwellings of the Inuit. Contrary to the stereotype from the books I’ve read as a child, these are not igloos but a kind of dugouts. They are situated at the foot of a hill which shelters them from the wind, with their entrances to the south. Around them they dig gutters to keep them dry. Over the dugouts they construct tents from whalebones and sealskins. Inside one half of the floor is raised with broad stones which is where they sleep. “They defile these dens most filthily with their beastly feeding”, and when they are dirty to live in, they move elsewhere.

The kidnapped Eskimo stays behind and makes a kind of pattern on the ground with five sticks in a circle and one whalebone in the middle. The English think at the beginning that it’s a some kind of charm, but then conclude it must be a sign to his fellows that for the five Englishmen kidnapped by the Inuit last year they kidnapped him. They show him the pictures of the Inuit man who was kidnapped last year and taken to London and the man acts as if he thought the picture were alive – he tries to talk to him, then takes offence when the picture does not speak back. The man then communicates by signs that he knows of five Englishmen who were captured, and when the Englishmen mimic to him that they think the Inuit killed and ate them, he denies it. I don’t know what happened to him next, but I’m sorry for him.


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