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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Arctic Giants, written by Neil Christopher and illustrated by Eva Wildermann. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011. $24.95 ages 8 and up

"The Inugaruligasugjuit were huge and powerful men and women who were several times larger than the average Inuit. Many of these lumbering beings were opportunistic and took advantage of the smaller human inhabitants. Some even saw humans as easy prey and hunted them down for food and sport."

In the author's note at the front of this collection, Neil Christopher says:

"This book is the product of more than a decade of research. I have used obscure texts, archives, explorer accounts, and elder interviews to create the most comprehensive collection of Arctic giant stories ever assembled...all the giants described in this book come directly from Inuit folklore."

I cannot imagine the delight felt, and the endless hours of work the author has undertaken to bring this fine collection to an appreciative audience. Reading through the tales told hearkens back to a much earlier time of danger, of long and brutal battles, of animals and humans that could change shape and of dark and mysterious magic. They have been passed orally from one generation to the next:

"I believe that these beings we call giants lived on our land long before our time here. Stories and fables passed down from our ancestors tell of creatures called ijirait, giants who snatched people and stole them away, and amautaliit, giant women wearing amauti who stole human souls.  - Mark Kalluak:"

A pronunciation guide is helpful and daunting; the list is long. As with all stories from the oral tradition, there is grave concern that, with the passing of the elders, the stories will cease being told and thus, disappear. So much has already been lost. Thankfully, this book will help to keep some of the old stories for a future time.

It  broadens the folklore of Canada and offers a rich history of Inuit oral culture. The detailed image-rich artwork brings these powerful men and women to glorious life.

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