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How could you how could you hear him babble. Could you talk a dick he's in trouble. How could you how could you marry double. How many wives now could you. I could you could you had a wife. I get to lead a real life like a dick. I get to travel and strive for all cross I get in. The case of the borrowed wife a program in the series ways of mankind presented under the supervision of Walter Goldschmidt anthropologist of the University of California Los Angeles by the National Association of educational broadcasters a series designed to show how human beings live together in different times and places. The case of the borrowed wife is one of a series of six programs prepared to show you how the universal problems of law and justice are met by different people throughout the world. In this case the Eskimo living on the ice cap in the far north the case of the borrowed wife.
Do you know what is going to happen to us. We have built our house on the ice. Two days journey from the old village. We are alone now. He thinks we'll manage all right. But when the long dark night starts somebody Things will. Will die. Who else will go mad and take off our clothes and run outside into the blizzard. This very often happens when people leave their village and go away from other people and go and live by themselves and all because of jealousy and stupidity. If a man can manage two wives then he has no cause to be angry if somebody offers to come and help him. That's the way some people see things. But although now we're done for you can I. There was a time when we were all quite happy. That was when we were still living among other people and my husband had me for his wife and also to Paget. Then the house was often full of people and there was laughter and games in peace. You have got to take some of our guests sitting with their knives in their hands in their stomachs and going over
the dishes to get along very well. Yet there is no more TV eating no wants him or somebody does not invite guests into his house and then let them go thirsty watered once. And we may have more to you while we play games and watch watch with me now. Julie the woman who sings I was kind of the man who says this dude is really quite insignificant but such as it is would you care. Obviously I am unworthy to make such a sumptuous banquet much since someone has been kind enough to provide it. It would be very rude not to eat some of it. We've got it we've got it. Got it. Oh let's play. But well worth seeing. Well I want to make sure we do it this time. He hasn't entertained us all evening but I have some food doing a little run out to gold. How did the president wait to drum with you and take all your clothes when you get older. He went out into the passageway. He had the drum with him. It is round and flat with the skin
stretched across it and has a handle at the edge. It looks like a frying pan and you play it by hitting it on the frame with a stick. In a minute or two ago if he came back ready to play the well we're seeing he had all his clothes off and was holding the drum. We were all sitting in a circle and he danced up to each of us in turn drumming. LOOK AT ME LOOK AT YOU. It's very you know get your way. Better to see and think I am better to look at the you you liar. I'm the same I can so easily. I can see you don't know what I should say. I'm the best better than you you can wait til Sat and drummed and danced his way all around the circle is a good game now well worth seeing again. And we had many games like that before my husband got
into trouble with his neighbors and had to come out here where some of us think we're going to die. You might say that the trouble started one day when it was soon going to be spring. There was still plenty of sea ice but there was also water and the men had been out in the kayaks hunting seals. Our husband had had bad luck. We all cocky Jake. Did you catch anything. Is my dinner ready. We only wondered if you'd got to see my dinner. What's the use of a person having to wise if they can't even get in one dinner if the budget is not food at once somebody's going to be getting out the dog whip. Which of course we knew that he had not got any seal. But luckily the other wife to badger had put aside some bird dies as a delicacy and we brought those out and he began to eat. Then there was someone outside. Oh is it going to encourage me. You know we you know roast the dogs yes I. Tell.
You what I want instead of. Any here is could see who I'm sure is hungry. No no no no no no no no no no nothing like that. I've had plenty of food. I saw you had bad luck today. Your harpoon hit that ceiling then glanced off. Did you think it hit it too. So what else there was some people who thought it had missed completely. There were also some people who saw the harpoon hit I don't think it was serious. Perhaps the spirit is angry with you. Perhaps so they want to see the Angakok sometime. You talk to some spirits for you straighten the thing out. Well that's a good suggestion thank you. I happened to have with me a little seal meat that I thought you might like. Very very insignificant piece as you might expect from such a worthy hunter myself. He really is most generous of you. People feel very grateful when they see generosity like that. When a man has had bad luck or displeased a spirit or something like that why
shouldn't his friends do something for him. Well all the same people are still very grateful and thank you too for the suggestion about seeing the Angakok and having it out with the spirits. I might do that after I finish my meal while I'm out. Why don't you borrow one of my wives and laugh with her for an hour or two. Well this is too kind of you. And people without wives of their own feel very grateful when friends lend them their wives. Which one would you prefer. I think I should prefer to project very well. You had to project somebody is listening to what goes on I hear. Well he preferred to badger rather than me who cares. I would just go to wife as she was and we'd both been barred from time to time by people who had no wives her who were out hunting trip such things were usually in the old days and perhaps saved worse things from happening such as too many killings from envy and jealousy and I must say my husband was a very generous man. He would lend his knife for either of his wives to any person who asked him. So he was not at all mean really although some
people said so since he had two wives while some had none. Quincy for example had no wife. In this way the life went on for a while. DS came up and the sea opened and the man went out. How did the polar bear in the walrus. GOD JAKE saw the Angakok. The medicine man who told him that there was indeed a special spirit who had become angry with him. He gave him a special song to sing before going on the walrus hunt. And for many hours God Jake sat in his house with the sweat running down his body twisting slowly from side to side beating on the drum and singing the song of the Walrus magic. Or the US or the US. I am a straw man a Kim. Maybe a Kim not so good. I had
wore us Steve to us Jack and to watch our US while I stab you. Growing straw his shoulders. Oh I had dice straw his tusk. Oh you are us Jack and to me. Oh. And it was a very good song and highly recommended but it was no use to Gaga cheek. He didn't get a walrus. He got him a big bowl stuck at his kayak and tore the skin covering. Luckily he was very close to the shore and he was able to get the beach before it filled with water and drowned him. Then he mended it so he could get home and finally arrived in a dreadful temper. No wonder I don't catch anything. My wives are useless to me. When I go out in the
morning my boots are all froze and my feet hurt. No wonder I can't hit the walrus. You paddle a kayak with your feet. Somebody is going to get whipped in this house. We know very well my feet are salt because somebody does not chew her husband's boat properly to make them soft. Somebody's husband is not as good a hungry as he thinks he is I don't think I should use the small whip it will be the long one the one I killed the dog wave. Which of you is going to mean the kind I get at last. Some of us are very ready to complain of overwork departure you have your sewing things out. A woman cannot sit all day and listen to her stomach complaining because her husband has not brought back meat a woman who complains all the time will find out he's been taking a strip of meat off the bone of a bank. Are those your needles and sinews. Yeah and you saw my kayak. So you do it properly. And I had to be careful. Persons have to look out for themselves among us Eskimo. We have no head men chief or anything like that. You must look out for yourself
unless you do something so that everybody makes you feel ashamed or perhaps kills you. So we sat quiet and I softened skins by chewing them and to pad she got her things ready and took off the skin and mended the tailor made by the walrus tusk. How could you sat and glared at his I was very angry. And as soon as the kayak was ready he went out again. It was nearly summer and the sun was in this guy almost all the time. Then to Paget did something very silly considering what a bad temper she knew our husband was in. Good she came to the door to Ben trying to get his revenge and that won't come into it. You know we. Hello. Hello to Podger fellow in a local with some poor women are left here alone by their husband who was away hunting the war was that he didn't catch anything last time except a hole in his kayak.
Indeed you are fortunate to be one of the wives of such a grade. Perhaps some of us do not dare attempt to land the walrus. Perhaps not. Perhaps some of us have other game to hunt. What nobody's getting out takes mice. I can see that a person must be careful not to bottle just one wife when he calls in a friend. Perhaps some wives would never wish to be lent to certain people. Perhaps so. Wonders will never cease. Although as you say I am such a poor and significant Hunter I did bring back with me a little mangy strip of some kind of wretched faded. For that you might wish to throw away in a corner. The mane of a polar bear who we see did you kill a male polar bear all by yourself. Some people have the good luck to kill a polar bear with bare steel not with a gun. What happened was I was driving my sleigh over an iceberg
when I came around a big ice house and there was a big polar bear standing on his back legs shading his eyes with his forepaws you know the way they go and I go well really yes. But as soon as he saw me he let out a great roar and dropped down to his four feet in Rana what do you want. I stepped to toggle that holds my dog trace to the sleigh and I let the Huskies loose animal and he rushed at them and they rushed at him. I was carrying my gun but I threw it over my shoulder. Then I grabbed my harpoon and gave a great yell and ran straight at. The gun bounced on the ice and went off bang so that the bullet whizzed by my ear. Then I think what they are charged straight on to my heart when I think as I ran up to him and he died there on my spear. I think it is blood and with the dogs snapping it aside I had to kill one of them before I could get them away. Here is me. And of course I brought it to you. I had hoped to Carcajou might be here so that a person could
perhaps arrange another loan. Nothing in the world could be easier. Nothing in the world could be harder. God you could not hear. Why would he mind the arrangements have been made before. To borrow is one thing to take without asking is another. Who would see as I asked before today but not this time. My husband will be proud to see me when my trousers are trimmed with the mane of the polar bear. Am I to refuse to laugh a little with the person who brings such a splendid gift. Certainly you should refuse. I should only obey her husband's wishes not do what she pleases behind his back. Oh nonsense cynic. Is this the way you behave. Do you obey our husband's wishes never think of course not. What does this will lead to trouble. Never mind if it does. I should not like to think that some people were objecting to courtesy being shown a generous guess simply because they were envious and jealous. But I was right about all life is one thing to take without asking is another and to progeny it and so did quit so I was not
resupplied surprised when after an hour or two I found the house empty. After all who would say had a wife and a man must have a wife to sew his clothes and make his tents and kayaks while he goes hunting. All the same I did not expect to return as he did it coming here. Someone is going to get hurt no one has to ponder the patch. Do you not in the house so beautiful woman I can see she not know I was going to she how did your soaking wet change your post quickly. What happened that you patched it to project one of my kayak came off and then he drowned. KMA Yes the sewing ripped away the sinews not to be rotten. Where is she. I don't know you see if I do not hit on somebody assume someone else is going to get hurt as well. If you can I can't tell you she was borrowed. Borrowed. I didn't lend it to anybody. I know I told her that. Can someone borrow without someone lending who loves this kind of a borrower. Well. I thought so. Kuwait City.
Then perhaps that patch coming off was not entirely due to careless and oh yes she's a very careless woman hold your tongue when noise and conversation is needed people will be notified. Yes when do they go. Just after you left. Where did he take it. I don't know. You sure. How should I know he didn't borrow your tongue you didn't bother to budge either you stole it. That's a bad thing. A man doesn't stand that kind of thing. I'm going to go to his house and find him and if anybody comes tell him what has happened and where I've gone. And I was frightened. How could you get a real grievance. And the only thing he could do was to go and find quits and have it out and. That's the only way we Eskimo settled things in the old days. Just man to man and face to face. Sometimes it was a killing that settled anything. Sometimes it was a wrestling match and sometimes it was another way of settling a dispute. A special way for the people who were having the trouble. In our cockpit came back he held himself very high and looked dignified
and frightening I have seen them. They encouraged his house which he says he has decided to take. He says he had no wife and I had to. Now we each have a life he says. What does she say she wants this. Now I know what I'm going to do is there going to be a fight. And he killed him already. I do not want to kill him nor do I want to wrestle him. He's younger than I am and much bigger too. I'm going to do it the other way I challenge him to a song you will. All our disputes had to be settled face to face and man to man. But besides killing and wrestling there was this other way. The song the man you were going to sing at each other would go out in front of everybody. Then one man would take the drum by its handle and sing an insulting song that the other man. Well everybody listened and laughed. Then it was the other man's Terry. And so it went on until someone became so angry and ashamed he could not go on. Then the other man won. It was the best man thinking up an insulting song no one.
But of course everybody standing around some idea of the rights and wrongs of the case and perhaps they were more willing to be sympathetic to one man than to the other. But all of the people laughed and jeered at the man who lost. That was all I could. And then took his own revenge. All dispute were between one man and another. So when everybody was outside the camp waiting for the song duel between chords and both a man came forward with their headbands on as before had grown men and both held their heads very high and dignified. Then each man took off his anorak his Skin Shirt with the pucker hood and stood there in his skin trousers. My husband had to begin so he took the drum. Wow cool with he stood with his feet apart leaning forward with his hands on his knees. He was smiling to show how little cared a man was being sung at must always smile even when the singer but some in the face whenever he makes a good point. We've been circled for a little while happening on the drum and then he leaned his face forward and
started. Everybody listening everybody. Yeah yeah me home. I'm sorry your song. Yeah I'm a drum and bring along this Robber Chih this bald old struggling Wolverine. The patch came off and the water came in and the kayak sank. The kayak sank and the paddle of drank the sea and drowned not me. I know I was able to get to shore. I could reach the stony beach you wicked woman you were borrowing men instead of borrow. I'll give you sorrow. I'm like All right my turn. Give me the drum and watch out for yourselves. God is a mighty hunter. He goes out on the briny gives a mighty hunter but he never brings anything home. Imo. He is a captain. Look at him go. Coming back
again. Why does he got wet feet. I'm sure he's a walrus Hunter was there ever such another as the Walrus. No one likes to kill his brother IMO. I mean the drama again. We shall see who is the stronger singer. Here is a man who wants to insult me. Getting his teams to try and smile Here is a man who wants to hurt me full of treachery and Guy Oh here is a man who wants to be a big man for a little while. Here is a man who thinks he's a drummer banging away to make a noise. Here is a man who thinks he's a dunce or shuffling about like an old pol point. I hear there's a man who thinks he's a singer squealing away like a bunch of boys. Here is a man who lives all alone. Can't find a woman to make him a wife. Here's a man who die a bachelor an ugly man with a single life.
I mean could you give me the drum. We shall see how you like this. Who's this little beauty fellow little wisp with a great big bellow his teeth are black and his face is yellow contradict. I little man trying to stand up if he can. I had a wife and away she ran. I mean he sees some women he wants to see them but when he comes home it's just to tease him. Don't take wives if you can't please him. I don't. I think eventually I know you all this is wasted only it makes no impression on me. Here give me that drum again I'll show you. Here I stand. Drum in the friend I sing a song and make it strong. I mean on the right and you are wrong. Why should I trouble with a man like you. Why should I sing it a fool like you. Look at your nose. It all turns up. Look at Julie is there are two big look at your
stomach sticks out too far. Look at your legs they tremble and shake and look at the people whose time you wasting here. Give me the drum. Give it over. I. Had a wife. Could you let it run I could you could you travel in straight. Poor old cross I can get it. How could you how could you hear him. He's in trouble. How many wives now. My Dick said he's going away. This is the guy. I'm going to kick kick kick kick. Kick. Kick. Poor all prosecuted. My. That was the end of a song and you could see it was quite unable to go on. I could see he
had sung him to pieces. So of course going to get his new wife and everybody settled down again except as. I went back to our house in Calcutta came along after a while. Pack up everything I pack up. Never mind. We're going. Nobody can make us go. Yes I can make us go. Well you can but no one else can. Some of us think a thing like a song you might not be worth paying attention to some of us are wrong who it says made me ashamed in front of everybody. Now I cannot stay here. Where are we going. Somewhere along the coast we're away from the camp. We may die. I expect so very well. I'll pack up. We may come back later. I may sit for a time and sing some magic songs and then I may come back and kill Quincy with the spear. Then I get to my job back again and people will stop laughing at me. Is it so important. Yes they still can't make us go. Yes they can. Who
tells us to go. I'm ashamed in front of everybody when I see people they laugh. Surely some of us can see that this means that we are made to go. Nobody tells us. Nobody says anything that I am ashamed and I feel it in my inside. So that is that. We go and here we are very likely we shall die when the winter really starts. Is a very serious thing to lose a song you know. A man cannot bear to be ashamed in front of his neighbors if he feels it badly enough he has to go away. Then he may die. Help could take decides to go back and try and kill Kuwait City. That's really better than dying out here. Some of us are really at a loss. There's no understanding what's going to happen to us.
This may well be the most primitive of our legal systems. There is no vestige of a state but there is a law. The Eskimos are sometimes called the most peaceful of our people. Perhaps because there are too few of them to make a war. They share their lives in the arctic wastes as they must in so difficult a place. A man's kayak his last morsel of food even his wife is shared with a stranger who is always friendly but even here quality rides covet what another man has in the normal harmony of the community is broken most frequently what is coveted is the other man's wife and even the free lending does not always prevent the act of seizure and seizure and borrowing are distinct among the Eskimo. As with us living together in small temporary villages each family the man his wives and children must fend for itself. It is so ordered by the very environment this independence and individuality has also been captured by the Eskimo in matters of law.
Each man must take justice in his own hands and avenge the wrong. Our law is private law. There would be no century of crackerjack had killed that would have been one regular means of bringing the matter to justice. Had he been less a man he might have given away his second wife and forgiven quitting. But neither mode is entirely satisfactory because in the first instance it would have been too much and in the second too little with the possibility of continued bad blood between the two men. The Eskimo had therefore a third means for righting the wrong institutional legal and peaceful mode of settlement the deal might have been a wrestling match but the other a song. Notice however that they do involve the whole community. They are jury and judge the songs are pertinent to the case for each expresses version an epithet the wrongs of the other and it is in the final analysis the response of their fellow man that decides who is right and who is wrong. The community has a vested interest in peace.
Yes Can those apply of course their own ethical principles. We may not like the decision but the Eskimos feel it is not strong enough now to have two wives and an adequate provider lacking in cleverness. The punishment was but ridicule and loss of status. It was only pride that made cockatoos leave his community. I think we can speak of this is the most primitive of our legal procedures. There are no officials you know clearly set regulations no specified punishments rather there is but a regularized means of establishing order. And even this is tenuous but affix a generalized law and a kind of court does exist even in the small Arctic communities. Dr. Walter Goldschmidt of the department of anthropology and sociology of the University of California Los Angeles has concluded the case of the borrowed wife a program in the series ways of mankind. The case of the bored wife one of six programs prepared
Ways of mankind II
Case of the borrowed wife
Producing Organization
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, "The Case of the Borrowed Wife," focuses on law and justice in an Eskimo/Inuit community.
Series Description
This series is an exploration into the origin and development of cultures, customs and folkways in various parts of the world. This second series of Ways Of Mankind is concerned with a specific subject area and with two specific cultures.
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Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Producer: Allan, Andrew, 1907-1974
Producing Organization: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Sarrel, Philip M., 1937-
Writer: Sinclair, Lister
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 53-36-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:22
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Chicago: “Ways of mankind II; Case of the borrowed wife,” 1964-03-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 9, 2022,
MLA: “Ways of mankind II; Case of the borrowed wife.” 1964-03-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 9, 2022. <>.
APA: Ways of mankind II; Case of the borrowed wife. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from