Old Woman Who Was Kind to Insects

Grade Level: 
9, 10, 11, 12
Act of Kindness
Generosity of Spirit
Old Woman Who Was Kind to Insects (The)
Serial Reciprocity
An Inuit Tale: An old woman is left behind when her family leaves the village where they live. She chooses not to eat the insects, which are her only source of food. As a reward for her kindness her youth is restored.

Tell me a story...

One winter there was an old woman who was left behind. She was so old that she couldn’t even chew kamik leather anymore. Her family left her with only a few insects to eat. The woman said: “I’m not going to eat these poor creatures. I am old and perhaps they are young. Perhaps even a few are children. I’d rather die first…”

Just after her people went away, there entered a fox into her hut. It leaped up and started to bite her. The old woman thought: Well, I’m truly a dead person now. But the fox was behaving in a very strange manner. It was biting her over her whole body, just like it was taking off her clothing. Soon all her skin fell away. And lo! There was a new skin beneath that belonged to an attractive young woman. For the grateful insects had instructed their friend the fox to rid her of her old skin.

Next summer her family returned to the camp. But they found neither the woman or her bones. She had gone to live with the insects. It is said that she married a little blow-fly of whom she had grown quite fond.


“The Old Woman Who Was Kind to Insects”. Millman, Lawrence, gathered and retold by. A Kayak Full Of Ghosts: Eskimo Tales. Santa Barbara: California: Capra Press, ©1987. p. 184.
Used with the permission of Lawrence Millman.