Qalupalik: The Monstrous Inuit Mermaid
Among the Inuit people of Alaska and northern Canada, there is a legend which tells of humanoid creatures that live in the water and hunt along the shorelines. These are the Qalupalik, who dwell in the cold Arctic waters, and their bodies reflect their environment. They are said to have a generally human-like shape but express many features of the aquatic life found in the area. The Qalupalik are described as having long hair that resembles seaweed, fins on their heads or backs and limbs, and webbed hands and feet. On their webbed hands are long and sharp claws that help it to capture and eviscerate its prey. This creature’s description mirrors that of most humanoid-aquatic cryptids or beings from folklore and mythology across the world, notably that of mermaids.
Aside from the generalization that these vicious Inuit mermaids live along the shoreline, little is said about their daily habits or personal dwellings. The true concern for the people however is in what the Qalupalik does when it is on the shore, so perhaps their personal lives have never been of much import. According to the tales, the Qalupalik lets out an ethereal humming sound unlike that of any other creature that lives along the shore. This humming sound serves as a warning to everyone that they must move away from the ocean and back to safety. Those who disregard the hair-raising hunting call of this creature will be snatched by its deadly claws and dragged into the water.
The Qalupalik wears upon its back a large pouch called an amautik. This is a traditional accessory for Inuit parents, which allows them to carry their children on their backs while they are out and about. This creature wears this backpack for similar but far more nefarious reasons, as one may have already guessed. It is said that of all potential prey along the beaches and rocky water’s edge, the Qalupalik prefers to hunt children — especially those children who have failed to heed the words of caution from their parents and have found themselves alone.
Most stories say that these abducted children are promptly eaten by the Qalupalik. Other tales describe a hidden lair or cave below the oceans’ surface where the creature will bring its victims. It keeps them in a docile, trance-like state and drains the children’s energy or life force until it is spent. As time passes and the creature consumes more and more of the youthful energy, the Qalupalik grows younger, stronger, and more beautiful. Through this ritual, it can continuously regenerate and in doing so maintain a state of immortality or eternal youth.
A Legend Forgotten, or Just Simple?
There is little information to be found about the Qalupalik across the internet, which could be due to a few factors. Inuit stories were primarily passed on orally until the forced integration into European-American culture and Christianity, at which point much of the old traditions and legends were left behind or forgotten. It is also possible that the Qalupalik never received a fully fleshed out background because the general description and the short tales served their purpose well enough among the people. This purpose was likely a simple one of explaining the dangers of children wandering off alone in the frozen north or being careless while near the ocean. There are indeed many dangers presented by the Arctic ocean including but not limited to hungry creatures, sharp rocks, and sudden waves. Describing these dangers as a more fantastical and otherworldly creature likely helped to drive home the importance of caution when talking with children.