The Blind Boy & the Loon retold by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, illustrated by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Daniel Gies
“This is the story of a cruel mother, her daughter, and her blind son.” That ‘cruel’ is fair warning that this is not a happily-ever-after fairy tale. It is, however, “one of the most ancient and commonly told [stories] in Inuit history,” filmmaker/creator Alethea Arnaquq-Baril writes in her “Preface.” Before this book, Arnaquq-Baril created an animated short, “Lumaajuuq“– which bears the legend’s original Inuit name. Her film, and hence the book, are “a version of the story that is my own, based on a combination of versions I’ve heard over the years from different elders, ethnographers, and researchers,” she explains. “I say ‘my own,’ not to take ownership of it but to take responsibility for any mistakes or omissions, which our elders would never have committed.”
In Mommy-dearest fashion, the cruel mother has only “hate” for her son, feeding him dog meat and forcing him to live on the cold porch. Once “a great hunter,” the son “was made to feel pathetic and worthless.” When spring comes, he asks his sister to lead him to the lake where he encounters a “red-throated loon” – just as he hoped. The loon reveals the brutal cause of the boy’s blindness, and then helps the boy regain his sight. Although he can see once more, his humanity has been forever damaged by a need for revenge …
Part morality tale, part cultural history, part mythic testimony, Arnaquq-Baril’s epic rendering is both preservation and celebration of Native traditions. Thanks to the internet, a full sensory experience awaits: as you read the book, click here to see and hear the story at the same time. The book’s text and the film’s narration are ever so slightly different, but the visuals are stupendous in both. Talk about instant (albeit, haunting and frightening) gratification indeed.