Creatures of folklore from indigenous cultures around thew world is one of my many fascinations. From the Rougarou of Cajun folklore to the Selkies of Irish folklore and many in-between. However I must say my absolute favorite has to be the Akhlut of Inuit folklore and for two specific reasons which its makeup of being a hybrid of a Wolf and Orca. I briefly touched on the Akhlut in my Orca blog post but today I wanted to go into more detail on this fierce creature who hunts the Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland.
In 1900, the American naturalist Edward William Nelson described the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk among a number of other mythical and composite animals:
“It is described as being similar in form to the killer whale and is credited with the power of changing at will to a wolf; after roaming about over the land it may return to the sea and again become a whale. While in the wolf form it is known by the above name, and the Eskimo say they know that this change takes place as they have seen wolf tracks leading to the edge of the sea ice and ending at the water, or beginning at the edge of the water and leading to the shore. … These animals are said to be very fierce and to kill men.”– Edward William Nelson
Nelson attributed stories of the creature to the orca (akh’lut), and explained wolf tracks appearing to lead into the sea as the result of ice breaking away from the edge. He identifies other composite animals among Inuit folklore, including a white whale that can transform into a reindeer, and says that belief in the kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is prevalent among Inuit along the shore of the Bering Sea. SOURCE
The Akhlut is from Inuit mythology and is considered a rather vicious beast. As you can see, it has orca traits as well as four legs. This is because this aggressive spirit takes the form of an orca, but transforms into a wolf in order to hunt on land. You can tell one has been around when you find wolf tracks leading to or from the icy water. This is pretty much it as far as physical traits since it is fairly elusive. There are times where it is described as a hybrid of a wolf and orca like above.
There are many origin myths for the Akhlut, but this is the one I found most often. A man became obsessed with the sea and wanted to stay there. It reached the point where the people of his village could not recognize him, so they made him leave. He ‘hungered for revenge’ and joined a pack of wolves to survive. He may have worked with the wolves to attack villagers, but that wasn’t consistent. Anyway, his love of the ocean returned after he fed and he dove in to transform into an orca. Now, he remains in that form, but returns to land and becomes a wolf whenever he is ‘hungry for revenge’. It does appear that this eventually evolved into hungry for food over time. SOURCE
What Always comes back into these stories though, is that there are footprints of a wolf to be found going to, or from the ocean, without any signs of the wolf leaving, or going to the ocean. There are, however, some simple explanations for this. First of all, the chunk of ice the arctic wolf was coming from/ going to, simply broke off. Either with the wolf still on it, or with the wolf already having left, but a few meters away. The second solution is somewhat more mysterious, and still some kind of myth. It says that sometimes, when alder arctic wolves are being rejected by a pack, they would commit suicide by jumping in the cold, icy water and drown themselves. This is rather odd, however, because survival instinct should prevent them from doing that, because it’s very strong with animals. The third explanation is that the wolf jumped into the water, swam a little bit, and came onto shore a few meters away. However, this would mean that the wolf would need a reason to swim, because it’s not really nice to swim at the north pole, and it can be rather dangerous, so this theory also has his flaws. SOURCE
So as you can see there is little known about this fearsome creature of the Arctic but even with what is known the Akhlut is not only my favorite creature of folklore but actually one that really resonates me on a personal and spiritual level especially due to the origin story of the Akhlut. In the future I do plan on featuring other creatures of Inuit folklore along with creatures of folklore from around the world.