Qalupalik: The Child-Snatching Water Hag Of Inuit Folklore

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By: Alex Postrado

Qalupalik: Hag Of The Arctic

When talking about sea monsters and other creatures of the deep, mermaids are 一 for sure 一 going to be mentioned.

Thanks to their peculiar half-human, half-fish form, impossibly appealing looks, and entrancing personas 一 stories about these humanoid figures continue to both enchant us and send shivers down our spines, millenniums after their first tellings.

In the Arctic North, tales of a similar creature petrify parents and young children alike.

Inuits, the Indigenous people of the Arctic, call it the Qalupalik.

They are comparable to mermaids in that they are ocean-dwelling hybrids of human and fish. However, their similarities begin and end there.

Commonly depicted to possess scaly skin, dorsal fins, and webbed hands 一 said to help not only with treading water but also with snatching children 一 the Qalupalik has been the stuff of the Inuit’s nightmares for so long.

A cautionary tale for Inuit children or a real sea monster lurking in the frigid waters of the Arctic, here is the story of the Native American monster, the Qalupalik.

What is the Qalupalik?

In the Arctic regions, a fearsome sea creature is said to reside.

The Qalupalik, as the natives call it.

A water spirit or a water hag that has been spreading terror in the icy regions for as long as mermaids have been fascinating us.

However, instead of an alluring exterior, the Qalupalik is typically depicted to look like a horrendous aquatic humanoid monster.

It is said to have a nearly humanlike body while also mimicking the appearance of the aquatic life surrounding it.

With its long hair that resembles seaweed, webbed hands with long, sharp fingernails, scaly green skin, and sulfuric stench, the Qalupalik embodies a creature that looks 一 and smells 一 as if it came straight out of a nightmare.

According to the stories, the terrifying Qalupalik inhabits the frigid waters of the Arctic and prefers to hunt on the shorelines.

Its sinister motive is to lure children into the ice and drag them into the cold, harsh waters so they can’t scream for help.

Carrying her amautik 一 a parka commonly worn by Inuit women to carry children on their backs 一 the Qalupalik scours the icy shores in search of children to steal.

The tales say that the monster puts any child it snatches into the amautik.

Another haunting detail about the Qalupalik is its hunting call.

Similar to the sirens 一 yet another mythical sea creature 一 the water hag is said to emit a sound with the purpose of enticing its prey:

A distant, eerie humming 一 unlike that of any other creature.

The ethereal-sounding hum draws curious children in.

And when they reach a particularly weak part of the ice, the Qalupalik snatches them and drags them into the freezing waters, leading them away from salvation.

Wary of the sound, Inuit parents warn their children to stay away from the water 一 or the dreadful Qalupalik could abduct them!

Some stories also say that the Qalupalik taps the ice from under it, in the hopes of catching a child’s attention 一 which if successful, will lead to the child’s certain doom.

What the Qalupalik Does to Children

In the unfortunate case that a Qalupalik succeeds in its goal and is able to get their hands on an Inuit child, what they do to them is said to vary greatly depending on the version of the story being told.

Some stories say that the creature steals children to devour them 一 a simple predator-prey situation that is definitely a terrifying end for the young victims.

Other accounts claim that the Qalupalik steals children from their real parents and raises them as its own. In this theory, the sea hag takes the kidnapped children under the water which will be their new abode.

There is also one version of the lore that tells of a, perhaps, much darker reason why the Qalupalik steals little kids.

The story goes that the Qalupalik brings the children to a hidden underwater lair. There, the creature will put them under a spell that forces them into a trance-like state.

That is when the Qalupalik will exact its evil plan 一 to feed on the children’s youth and innocence until their life force is spent.

As a result, the Qalupalik remains young and strong.

This theory explains why the frightful creature is utterly hell-bent on snatching young kids.

Because it relies on them in order to remain immortal.

In any case, however, we certainly don’t want the Qalupalik preying on innocent children.

Exploring the Origins of the Qalupalik

The Qalupalik, sometimes also spelled as Qallupulluit, is a popular sea-dwelling creature with roots tied to Inuit folklore.

Inuits are the indigenous people that inhabit the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland.

And for generations, they have passed down the tale of the Qalupalik through oral retelling. However, when and how the tale was created is yet to be identified.

Some say that the Inuit’s habitat 一 an icy tundra of freezing temperatures that is undoubtedly a harsh place to live in 一 was what brought the Qalupalik alive in the minds of the natives.

The monstrous Qalupalik 一 real or not 一 serves as an important tool in keeping Inuit children from wandering too far in the dangerous Arctic.

The Qalupalik

Rich in folklore and mythology alike, their culture serves as a repository of tales that are traditionally applied in their lives 一 with the Qalupalik serving as one example.

Yet, despite the Qalupalik’s prominence in Inuit folklore, there is not much information about it on the internet.

This can be attributed to the manner in which Inuit tales were commonly told in the past: verbally.

And the forced integration of Christianity and European-American culture certainly did not help, either, because it sadly led to the erasure of most of the natives’ legends and traditions.

So, nowadays, in an effort to keep their culture and traditional teachings intact, community groups are holding movements that cause a resurgence in Inuit mythology.

Is the Qalupalik Real?

The Qalupalik is a creature that, for generations, has instilled fear in the minds of Inuit children.

But is there a grain of truth in the stories depicting the fearsome water hag?

Scholars argue that the tales of the Qalupalik sprang into existence due to the need for something that will keep children out of the freezing waters and into safety.

Storytelling, in itself, is said to be an “essential part of parenting” in Inuit culture.

And since the Qalupalik is said to snatch children that wander too far away from home, it often serves as a cautionary tale to the naturally curious children.

But who is to say that the tale did not come from an actual sighting of a green-skinned humanoid, humming from under the ice?

After all, only a small part of the ocean has been explored 一 while the rest remains uncharted.

And the icy waters of the Arctic remain too dangerously cold for a regular person to explore.

So, until we have explored every nook and cranny of the oceans, it is only best to steer children away from the edge of the icy shores, lest the dreadful Qalupalik gets their slimy hands on them.

References:

Qalupalik - Astonishing Legends
Alaska’s Qalupalik - Coffee House Writers
The Inuit Sea Monster, The Qalupalik
Qalupalik - Mythpedia
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