cover image A Kayak Full of Ghosts: Eskimo Tales

A Kayak Full of Ghosts: Eskimo Tales

Lawrence Millman. Capra Press, $9.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-88496-267-0

In Greenland and Canada's northern territories, folktales center on life's bare necessities: hunting, eating, elimination, reproduction and a Hammurabian justice somewhat tempered by belief in reincarnation. Millman's collectionheard over campfires, on hunting trips, in airports and barsat first seems shockingly violent and crude but eventually reveals the simple beauty of a civilization at one with nature. Some stories are comical, like the one about two men who happily share a wife but fight over their kayak. Others are magical, like the one about the Father of Fish, who sits on a riverbank whittling a stick whose chips turn to fish as they float downstream. And the best rival Aesop's fables, such as the tale about a raven and a seagull, representing the Inuit and the white man, who fight over a piece of meat. (The seagull wins, but by the time he carries off the meat it is rancid.) This is an important work that provides a peek at an endangered civilization. (October)