Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Two Inuit Folktales


Walrus has beautiful spiraled tusks and can catch and eat clams with ease.  Raven must search through the mud to find clams not being willing to try becoming a walrus for fear of embarrassing herself.  But her envy turns to rage when Walrus notices her efforts one day and makes fun of her.  Calling out to the Strength of the Land, Raven turns the surface of the ocean to ice trapping Walrus inside.  Raven encourages other creatures to join her in tormenting Walrus who can no longer search for clams.  When Walrus can't take the torment any more he in turn calls on the Strength of the Land to aide him in making his escape.  This Inuit folktale not only highlights the beauty of the Arctic environment but the power of the land.  This is also a pourquoit tale that highlights how walrus's tusks turned out the way they did.  Like most folktales this story has a clear theme: the dangers of misusing power as well as the dangers of envy and rage.  The transformation of walrus is a rather drastic one which the illustrations clearly show.  I'm always looking for folktales to share with my students and this one is definitely going on the list.  My favorite part of this book though is the beautiful illustrations which I fell in love with immediately.


Arnaq, a beautiful young Inuit woman loves her life and doesn't think that any of those who seek her hand in marriage can offer her what she wants, which is to avoid a life of hard work.  When a fulmar (bird) shaman named Qaqulluk shows up and promises her the world she agrees to marry him.  But when she accompanies him home she discovers that nothing he told her is true.  She is left to live in a hut of holey fish skins, eating fish for every meal.  Eventually, her ataata (father) comes to check on her and is enraged when he discovers her unhappiness.  The two leave together, followed by Qaqulluk and his fulmars.  At first Arnaq's father defends her but when the fulmars raise a big storm he tosses her over the side to save himself.  When he cuts off her fingers to force her to release the side of the boat, her fingers turn into whales and seals.  She ends up at the bottom of the sea where she becomes Nuliajuq, the spirit of the sea.  Sea mammals are said to obey her because they were once a part of her.  As the spirit of the sea, she avenges mistreatment of the sea mammals and punished the fulmars for their deception.  This Inuit folktale tells a story of pride, deception, and cowardice and the tragic consequences.  The beautiful blues, whites, and browns highlight the Arctic world in gorgeous spreads.  I appreciated the pronunciation guide at the end and the explanation of the names used in the story.

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