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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Spirit of the Sea, written by Rebecca Hainnu and illustrated by Hwei Lim. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2014. $16.95 ages 6 and up

"When spring arrived, and the sea ice broke up, Arnaq and her father moved their camp to the shore. There they lived a peaceful and solitary life. One day, a fulmar that was disguised as a handsome young man arrived at the camp. He was Qaqulluk, and he was a powerful shaman."

In another cautionary tale from the Inuit tradition readers meet Arnaq and her father. The two are inseparable; she has been spoiled badly by her father as a result of her mother's death when Arnaq was just a little girl. She grows more beautiful with every year and is pursued by many young hunters. She does not have any interest in marriage.

When the shaman Qaqulluk arrives to woo her, he makes her a promise that is hard to resist:

"Your quilliq will always be filled with oil, and your pot with food. You will have the best pelts for clothes, and the softest caribou hides for blankets. My tent is made of the best skins. Come with me and be my wife."

Nothing is as he promised, and Arnaq lives a life that quickly leads her to a deep depression. Alone and miserable, she sings for her father to come and save her. Ataata is uncomfortable with not seeing his daughter and travels to find her hopelessly unhappy. As they leave, her husband is summoned by other fulmars. They swarm the boat. Ataata will not back down, until his boat and his life are threatened by swirling waters. To save himself, he throws his daughter into the roiling sea, and then refuses to let her back in the boat.

Arnaq disappears, sinking deeper and deeper into the sea. Protected by the animals that surround her, she is changed to become a spirit. Today she is known as Nuliajuq.

"Since the day that she was taken by the sea, the only way for humans to appease the fearsome Nuliajuq is to send a shaman down into her lair to soothe her. Only then will the waters become calm and the sea mammals return to their hunting grounds."

In back matter, the author includes an afterword and a pronunciation guide for the Inuktitut words and their meanings. Beautifully illustrated and compelling, this is a wonderful addition to any folktale collection.                                                                              

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