Love of Life and Other Stories HTML version

The Story Of Keesh
KEESH lived long ago on the rim of the polar sea, was head man of his village through
many and prosperous years, and died full of honors with his name on the lips of men. So
long ago did he live that only the old men remember his name, his name and the tale,
which they got from the old men before them, and which the old men to come will tell to
their children and their children's children down to the end of time. And the winter
darkness, when the north gales make their long sweep across the ice-pack, and the air is
filled with flying white, and no man may venture forth, is the chosen time for the telling
of how Keesh, from the poorest IGLOO in the village, rose to power and place over them
He was a bright boy, so the tale runs, healthy and strong, and he had seen thirteen suns, in
their way of reckoning time. For each winter the sun leaves the land in darkness, and the
next year a new sun returns so that they may be warm again and look upon one another's
faces. The father of Keesh had been a very brave man, but he had met his death in a time
of famine, when he sought to save the lives of his people by taking the life of a great
polar bear. In his eagerness he came to close grapples with the bear, and his bones were
crushed; but the bear had much meat on him and the people were saved. Keesh was his
only son, and after that Keesh lived alone with his mother. But the people are prone to
forget, and they forgot the deed of his father; and he being but a boy, and his mother only
a woman, they, too, were swiftly forgotten, and ere long came to live in the meanest of all
It was at a council, one night, in the big IGLOO of Klosh-Kwan, the chief, that Keesh
showed the blood that ran in his veins and the manhood that stiffened his back. With the
dignity of an elder, he rose to his feet, and waited for silence amid the babble of voices.
"It is true that meat be apportioned me and mine," he said. "But it is ofttimes old and
tough, this meat, and, moreover, it has an unusual quantity of bones."
The hunters, grizzled and gray, and lusty and young, were aghast. The like had never
been known before. A child, that talked like a grown man, and said harsh things to their
very faces!
But steadily and with seriousness, Keesh went on. "For that I know my father, Bok, was a
great hunter, I speak these words. It is said that Bok brought home more meat than any of
the two best hunters, that with his own hands he attended to the division of it, that with
his own eyes he saw to it that the least old woman and the last old man received fair
"Na! Na!" the men cried. "Put the child out!" "Send him off to bed!" "He is no man that
he should talk to men and graybeards!"
He waited calmly till the uproar died down.