The Curse of the Shaman: A Marble Island Story.
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
Well-known for his picture books focused on aspects of Inuit culture, Kusugak turns to a longer tale, one set in the days before the Inuit came into contact with Europeans. While telling a very engaging story, Kusugak also unobtrusively imparts a lot of information about numerous aspects of the Inuit’s traditional ways of life. Two families are at the story’s core, with one consisting of The-man-with-no-eyebrows and his wife, Can’t-see, who have just had their first child, a son named Qavvik, or Wolverine. Also new parents are Paaliaq, a shaman, and his wife, Auk, whose daughter is Anirniq, or Breath. When the two families meet, The-man-with-no-eyebrows, according to Inuit custom, intends to arrange the infants’ future marriage but accidentally angers the short-tempered Paaliaq who rejects the proposed union and utters the title’s curse: “when your son is of age to marry, he will never set foot on this land again!” Though Paaliaq verbalizes the curse, it is his tuurnngaq, a spirit represented by an animal, which actualizes Paaliaq’s magic. In Paaliaq’s case, his tuurnngaq has assumed the form of an Arctic ground squirrel, the grumpy Mr. Siksik, who especially relishes carrying out bad curses. Some 14 years later, Paaliaq, recognizing his error, lifts the curse while agreeing to Breath’s eventual marriage to Wolverine, but the now aged and even more grumpy Mr. Siksik pretends not to hear Paaliaq and eventually maroons Wolverine on Marble Island, which sits some 45 kilometres offshore in Hudson Bay. Nonetheless, all ends well, with Mr. Siksik even receiving his comeuppance. Highly recommended.