The Ircinrraaq (Little People) of the Arctic

Ircinrraaq (pronounced Irr-chin-hhak) is an Inuit word used when describing any of the “Little People” who live in the Arctic in caves, mountains or underground. According to the stories of the Inuit and the occasional report to the police by non-Inuit through the years, there are several different Ircinrraaq, but most have been described as having pointed ears, darkish coloured skin and very dark eyes. They’re strong, fast and intelligent beings, extremely skilled at hunting with bow and arrow and wear clothes made of animal skins. They live their lives according to the “old ways”.

Some Ircinrraaq are considered helpful, they may direct a lost hunter or child toward home or help get one’s truck out of the mud, but other are considered mean or even evil. They can disorient and confuse and are suspected in several disappearances of both children and adults. The Ircinrraaq have reportedly taken people into their homes to spend the night and let them go the next day, while others never return.

One such incident took place in 2008. A hunter from Marshall, Alaska found a small boy alone in the middle of a Marsh (about three hours from Marshall), the hunter asked the boy where his parents were and how he got there, but the boy was scared and confused and only answered: “I don’t know”.

The hunter thought the whole thing was strange, there were no footprints in the snow or any clues to how the boy could have got there. The hunter recognized the boy from his village and took the boy back to his home. It wasn’t until the following day that the story began to emerge that the boy had been taken into Pilcher Mountain by Ircinrraaq where they questioned him. The boy says that while he was captive he met a woman who said she had been abducted forty years earlier and wanted to help the boy. Apparently, the Ircinrraaq people had let him go only moments before the hunter found him, but is any of the stories actually true?

Another event took place in Palmer, Alaska in 2005. A woman described seeing a child like a figure running through woods near her home just moments before her daughter disappeared, unfortunately, the girl has never been found. It is known the Ircinrraaq live in places such as Pilcher Mountain and Nelson Island where small toy like sleds and tools are said to be found in the hills.

One story tells us that long ago, before the whaling companies arrived, Ircinrraaq lived alongside the Inuit people in Port Hope, Alaska. They lived side by side until one day while an Ircinrraaq family was visiting neighbours and their tiny boy (said to be so tiny that he used a caribou ear for a parka) wandered close to a husky and was mauled and killed. According to the stories, the boy’s father killed the dog with his bare hands. Soon after this incident all of the Ircinraaq people moved away from the Inuit village to the caves they now call home.

It is said that if you can catch one of these little people they will give you a gift as in the case with the smallest of Ircinrraaq which is called a Cingssiigat. They are told to be a fairy-like being, five to twelve inches tall (no wings are ever mentioned) with pointed heads. They are said to come out at night and sound like chirping birds and hide in cracks in walls when humans get too close.

One story tells of a man who wanted to catch one and hid with his son in a room. He and the boy kept very still and when a Cingssiigat appeared he had the boy turn on a lamp and the man grabbed the tiny man. It seemed to lose almost all its energy to fight due to the light from the lamp. The man began to tease the Cingssiigat by holding it close to a flame, the son knew his father shouldn’t be doing this and begged him to stop. Though the man did let the poor creature go, for the rest of his days he found he had nothing but bad luck while hunting, but his son became the village’s best hunter.

Another story tells of a hunter who wanted to catch a Cingssiigat to make him a great hunter, better than the others in his village of whom he was jealous. The man sat silently for 3 days waiting for the tiny fellow to appear and when he did, the man grabbed. The Cingssiigat put up a fierce fight throwing the man around the room, but the man was too strong for the Cingssiigat. The Cigessiigat begged and pleaded to be let go as dawn was approaching, but the man told him he would not release him. The tiny man offered the hunter the only thing he had, a belt, and told him to never to take it off. The hunter freed the Cingssiigat and wore the belt every day. With the Cingssiigat’s belt, the man became the greatest hunter in the village.

The Egassuayaq are by far the strangest looking of all the Ircinrraaq. They are only about a foot tall (though one story about them indicates that they are as tall as an average person), their eyelids are vertical and they’re always told to have long sleeves that almost touch the ground. They steal food from villagers and especially love to steal blackfish from traps. Unlike receiving a good luck charm from a Cingssiigat, anything you receive from the Egassuayaq is sure to give bad luck.

A man once caught an Egassuayaq stealing from his traps, he yelled “So you’re the Egassuayak that’s been stealing from my traps!”, this seemed to enrage the Egassuayak and he ran off. However, for some reason, it seems the Egassuayak took great offense at being called an Egassuayak, as it later went to the man’s house where and fought with him. Though the man fought as hard as he could, he only won the fight by putting the Egassuayak under a pot and which cause the Egassuayak to become very weak. The Egassuayak offered the man every possible thing it thought could be of use to the man, but the man refused to accept anything from it because he knew anything he took would give him bad luck. The man instead released the Egassuayak on its word that it would not steal from his fish traps again.

The Enukins are only a couple feet tall and are told to live in the Port Hope area of Alaska. While the Enukins are known to be mischevious they can also be extremely helpful if they choose. These little people may help you if you’re lost in the woods or tundra, and even give you gifts for no absolute reason at all. The gifts they offer must be accepted or the Enukins will be greatly offended. If a Enukin gives you a berry basket you are sure to find the best berry bushes with which to fill it. If you are given a knife you will always find the game to hunt. However, they too have been known to steal and cause trouble in villages, especially at night. Some towns have strict evening curfews and everyone who lives in one of these towns will always be home with their doors and windows locked at the appointed time.

Paalraayak lives in the mountain regions and moves about in underground tunnels and in my opinion, most resemble the general description of the Ircinrraaq. They have all the characteristics, from being three feet tall to the colour of their skin, the pointed ears and of course, they are ill-tempered if not just plain old mean. If a person walks alone in the mountains the Paalraayak will throw rocks at them sometimes causing great injury. In areas where Ircinrraaq are known to live, there are places in the mountains where people are simply not supposed to go, at least not if they value their safety.

A hunter while on his way home heard a strange noise and followed it. He found an open window in the base of the mountain, he peeked in and observed two Ircinrraaq dancing about a room. He watched them for only a short time, but when he looked back at his sled and clothes they were weathered and his game was rotten. When he returned home he found that he had been gone for a whole year.

Experienced hunters sometimes talk about how game they had shot and killed, disappear with no blood or tracks and knew their game had been taken by the Ircinrraaq. While it may take a couple grown humans to put a large animal like a Caribou onto a sled, according to stories a single Ircinrraaq can simply pick it up and run off with it. It is also told that some Ircinrraaq can look like animals to fool humans.

It doesn’t matter if you believe these stories to be true or simply allegories which try to teach us not to be cruel or peek in people’s windows. They are all true facts to the Inuit people who pass the stories down from generation to generation, changing as they are passed, so others know how to deal with the Ircinrraaq. They are also very real to the Inuit who live in fear of the Ircinrraaq who come out at night to spirit them away, perhaps even to be eaten as some Ircinrraaq are said to eat humans, so the stories say.

Fossil evidence of “Little People” was found on the Island of Flores in 2003, called Homo Flores (also called “The Hobbit”) which stood 3 three feet six inches tall, about the same size as the Ircinrraaq.

Check back for the next installment of this series about the mysterious “Little People” around the world.

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