There was once an Inuit woman named Tayune who had a cruel husband. Every day he would beat her and every night she nursed the wounds he inflicted. One day after she had enough of his abuse, she left home and started walking across the tundra, determined to die in the snow rather than continue to endure his abuse. After many hours of walking, she found some caribou meat stashed by hunters and ate enough to continue her journey.
She then came upon a foot-shaped hill with five toe-mounds. Here she decided to rest for the night, unknowingly sleeping on the foot of the giant Kinak.When Kinak woke up from his slumber and found the poor battered woman shivering in her sleep, he took pity on her and invited her to come dwell inside his huge nostril. There she made a little hut built from the giant’s plucked beard hairs. Kept warm by the giant’s breath, she recovered her strength. After dwelling inside of the giant’s nostril for some time, she became homesick and longed for human company. Encouraged by the giant’s promise of continued protection and the wealth she had accumulated from the many furs the giant had given her, Tayune decided to return to her village. Seeing her luxurious furs, Tayune’s husband eagerly welcomed her back into their home and was respectful to her for a short time. However, he quickly returned to his old ways as all abusive husbands do.
As he beat Tayune in a fit of rage, she cried for help. The giant Kinak sent down a blizzard along with a powerful whirlwind that swept the cruel husband away. Being a compassionate giant, Kinak did not wish to kill Tayune’s husband and so gave him shelter in his nostrils as he had done for Tayune. All that Kinak asked in return was that the cruel husband not try to enter his giant mouth. However, the man refused to respect the giant’s simple wish, and so Kinak spit him all the way to the stars. The giant disappeared from view, although he can sometimes be sensed when his warm breath melts the snow in the middle of winter.
This little-known legend of Tayune is both an inspirational as well as a cautionary tale for women who have abusive romantic partners. The sheer determination of Tayune is what drew me into the story when I first read it from Patricia Monaghan’s book “Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines”. Coming from personal experience, I know that it takes a lot of strength to leave an abusive relationship, and Tayune was facing almost sure death by going out on her own in the Arctic. By a series of lucky circumstances she survived, but soon became lonely and missed human companionship. This is also a common experience that many abused women have, and they continue to return to their abusive relationships over and over again. When Tayune’s husband tried to beat her again however, she called for help. Sometimes it takes intervention from the outside to break abuse patterns, and this is true in legend as well as in real life.