CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 25. . . .March 2, 2012
Inuit author Marion Lewis provides young readers with an adapted retelling of a traditional Inuit tale. Her account of this ancient story of Kaugjagjuk differs from other versions. As a storyteller, Lewis focuses on Kaugjagjuk, who, as Lewis states in her "Author's Note," "chooses mercy and forgiveness over cruelty and vindictiveness" rather than revenge through violence as is depicted in most other interpretations of this story. This approach illustrates the role of the storyteller and how traditional tales lend themselves to a variety of interpretations.
As young children, Kaugjagjuk and his sister are separated from their parents when an ice floe breaks and they drift to a distant shore. Kaugjagjuk's mother calls to him to listen to the Man in the Moon, Taqqiq, who will watch over him. Once ashore, Kaugjagjuk spends the seasons looking for food for himself and his sister. When she wanders off and becomes lost, he comes across a village where he hopes to find help. Instead, the villagers are heartless. He is ignored, forced to sleep with the dogs, and given repugnant chores. As Kaugjagjuk grows up, he asks Taqqiq for help, and slowly a friendship evolves. Taqqiq presents Kaugjagjuk with painful challenges that he endures, and he emerges as a large, strong man. The Man in the Moon then sends three large bears into the village as a final trial. The villagers do not recognize the large man as the orphan Kaugjagjuk, but rather call out to have Kaugjagjuk sacrificed to the bears. In spite of the villagers' cruelty, Kaugjagjuk saves the villagers and kills the bears. He then leaves with his only friends, his dogs. The selfish, cruel villagers never recover from their loss, and their abusive, callous treatment of Kaugjagjuk haunts them.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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