Date of Discovery
While the actual date of discovery is unknown, due to the historically oral tradition that it originated from. It is said that these creatures have existed in story-form since before the Bering Land Bridge, which dates back at least 20,000 years.
The Tornit is likened to the Bigfoot or Sasquatch of the contiguous United States, as well as parts of Canada. It is the Alaskan counterpart, known well in the Inuit culture, that goes by the names of Tornit, Alaska Bushman, or simply Bushman.
More suited for an arctic climate, it resembles the Bigfoot quite a bit in its visage, like giants who are ape-like in demeanor with longer arms and a body covered in a thick dark brown hair, or fur. It stands an intimidating seven feet tall and possessed a strength that was infamous amongst the Inuit people.
The Tornit stems from the Inuit culture, an indigenous culture of the arctic circle, but since there is no written history of this culture before the late 1800s, only the cultural anthropological studies done on the Inuit tribes during that time can be relied upon for information on their origin. We see that most of the accounts of these stories coming from Newfoundland and Labrador, which reference the modern-day Baffin Bay in Greenland.
Mythology and Lore
They were feared as brutish thieves and killers, although there is some folklore where they were painted as being shy, making themselves scarce, and doing their utmost to avoid encounters with the Inuit people. In the most popular versions of the oral tales, storytellers would talk of these hairy giants that would stalk their villages until nighttime, to steal their food and kayaks—the most important things that these communities possessed. They also spoke of how these creatures would murder villagers who may have gotten in their way.
There are stories that depict the Tornit species as being these murderous villains that they were known widely to be, but there were also stories that spoke the opposite of their character. Alternate versions of the tale suggest that the Tornit would get away with their thievery, but would be tracked back to their own villages where all of the Tornit present, male, female, and any children would be slaughtered by the individual native who had the most stolen from him.
Never to be confused with being an overly intelligent species of humanoid, the overall idea of them can be considered oafish in nature, but not necessarily murderous so much as protective, defensive, or vengeful creatures—possessing only the baser instincts of survival. In certain regions where the Inuit tribes thrived, there were still less popular stories where Tornit and native women intermarried and lived peacefully with those who came and went within their territory.
Modern Pop-Culture References
While not necessarily modern in nature, these books convey the stories of the Inuit people that these creatures originated from.
- Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology by J.W. Powell (1884-1885)
- The Central Eskimo by Dr. Franz Boas
- The Journal of American Folk-lore: Tales of the Smith Sound Eskimo by A.L. Kroeber
Author. Artist. A little bit Alaskan. Mary lives with her dog in a rural cabin outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. They explore the bounty of the Alaskan wilderness during the summer and cozy up in their log cabin during the winter.