Note: Originally published on Facebook on June 17
Not all legends are old. Some are recent too, for heroism and love might not be in fashion today, but they are far from dead. This is such a legend, from the northernmost city in the world, Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
Norwegian wildlife conservation authorities say that less than a decade ago, only a few pairs of Eider Ducks remained nesting in Longyearbyen. At one time, there were thousands, but they were all killed by Arctic Foxes and Polar Bears. Then, ten years ago, something happened that changed everything. This is that story, of what could have happened.
How the Eider Ducks Found a New Life
There were only five families left now. There were six till yesterday, but Sguran, the wily arctic fox, had found the hidden nest of the Nurdag’s somehow, and now there were just five left. They’d taken shelter near a family of huskies, but they were not really welcoming to those they saw as outsiders.
“I don’t know why you are allowing these foreign birds to stay here Hurtin,” said his wife Gruten. “They are dirty, keep lying down in the marsh the entire day, and most importantly, their enemies are strong, and our children could become collateral damage of their fighting.” But Hurtin was a simple soul, who believed that everyone deserved an equal chance to live, to survive, so he just said, “They are harmless creatures Gruten, and made by the same God who made us, so who are we to take away their right to live? And who knows, tomorrow, they could end up helping us!” Gruten laughed a sarcastic laugh at this, and got busy preparing her sausages.
The five families of Eider Ducks, as can be expected, lived in constant fear of their lives. Their enemies were many, the fox, the bear, the human. And they did not have any friends to support them, to stand by them. But they were grateful that Hurtin had allowed them to live near his home, for he was a fearsome husky, and no animal or man dared to take him on.
Butball this changed one day. Hurtin was out hunting in the forest when the wily fox Sguran tried to steal a hare that he had killed. Hurtin caught him in the act, and gave him the beating of his life, to teach him a lesson that he would never forget.
Unfortunately for Hurtin and his family, it was indeed a lesson that Sguran didn’t forget.
Two weeks had passed, when Hurtin got a message one night that his pack had been attacked by a polar bear. He immediately rushed to the other side of the town.
And Sguran, who had sent this hoax message to lead Hurtin away, took that opportunity to attack Hurtin’s family. He had with him four of his equally villainous friends.
The five duck families were having their dinner together when they suddenly heard desperate howling from Hurtin’s home. The eldest male duck, Brom, immediately rushed to their benefactor’s home, and saw a horrifying sight.
Five foxes had surrounded Hurtin’s home, and were trying to enter it from various sides. Gruten was trying her best to defend her two little pups, but was fighting a losing battle.
Brom flew back quickly and told everyone about the situation. Not doing anything was not an option. This family had given them shelter when everyone else had given up on them. But they also knew that they were weak, and could not take on five foxes on their own.
So they thought, they discussed, they fought, they cried, and arrived upon a terrible decision. The five male ducks first hid their wives and children in the marsh nearby. Brom then flew to Gruten, and told her of their plan. She protested, said she would not allow them to do it, but Brom just said, “Tell me where Hurtin has gone.”
He then sent his wife Maria to call Hurtin for help, and went and joined his four male duck friends in their nest.
Sguran and his friends had almost broken through the defeces of Hurtin’s home when they heard a sound, or rather a din so loud that they immediately stopped doing what they were doing, and stood back to listen. Could it be… Could it really be…
And there it was again, the loud quacking of Eider Ducks, many many of them. Their faces lit up, and they left Gruten and her family alone, and ran towards the sound. But the location of the sound kept on shifting as they came near it.
However, it was not for nothing that Sguran was known as the wily fox. He tracked the movement of the sound, and calculated the direction that the birds were traveling in. And lo and behold, the five foxes had cornered the five ducks.
Brom and his friends fought bravely, their objective was simple, nit to defeat the foxes, but to buy time for Hurtin’s family. So they fought, and one by one, they were slaughtered. But they died in peace, for they knew that Hurtin would be on his way by now to protect his family.
The foxes finished the massacre, and now started searching for the wives and children of the ducks. They found them after much effort, and were about to attack them when there was a loud roar, and something slammed into Sguran. Before he realized what was happening, Hurtin had broken his neck into two. The other foxes quickly tried to make a run for it, but Hurtin was brutal, and merciless, and none survived his wrath.
And from that night onwards, the legend spread, among huskies, among foxes, and among polar bears. That you attack an Eider Duck at your own peril, for they are under the protection of the huskies. A husky will attack a polar bear three times his size if need be to protect an Eider Duck, for a group of brave Eider Ducks had sacrificed their lives to protect a husky’s wife and pups.
Fact: Today, more than 300 nesting pairs of Eider Ducks can be found living freely, and safely, in Longyearbyen. They nest near the kennels of huskies, and none dare attack them. Just a few pairs were alive ten years ago.