A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers by Robert Bringhurst

By Robert Bringhurst

The Haida global is a misty archipelago 100 stormy miles off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. For 1000 years and extra prior to the Europeans got here, an exceptional tradition flourished in those islands. The masterworks of classical Haida sculpture, now enshrined in lots of of the world's nice museums, variety from beautiful tiny amulets to fabulous large housepoles. Classical Haida literature is every piece as numerous and positive. It extends from tiny jewels crafted through grasp songmakers to problematic mythic cycles lasting many hours.

The linguist and ethnographer John Swanton took dictation from the final nice Haida-speaking storytellers, poets and historians from the autumn of 1900 throughout the summer season of 1901. His Haida hosts and co-workers have been raised in a unconditionally oral global the place the mythic and the non-public interpenetrate thoroughly. They joined forces with their customer, consciously making a nice treasury of Haida oral literature in written shape. Poet and linguist Robert Bringhurst has labored for a few years with those century-old manuscripts, that have waited previously for the extensive attractiveness they deserve.

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Additional resources for A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World

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She found the tree and the one-sided skin, and now she believed him. Then she caught him in her arms and covered him with kisses. After that they lived happier than ever. * * * Ghandl’s poem about the hunter who married his prey has been spared the indignities visited on many works of indigenous oral literature. It was transcribed in the language in which it was spoken, and it has quietly been travelling the world since 1905 in Swanton’s admirably faithful prose translation. 5 It is nonetheless a literary work that we have only just begun to understand.

He took her to his house. It was the usual house, made of wood, with a wooden fireplace. He proved to be a good hunter, able to catch any kind of game. Still he had only one side, and with every breath his heart would jump out. They lived together for a while, and the woman brought forth a son. The young woman nursed the infant. But One-Side did not want to stay at home. He would wander about all the time and bring back reindeer and elk. They had so much meat that the storehouses would no longer hold it.

It vanished. And then they began to feed her this only, they say. After a time, as he was sleeping, his wife lay down beside him, and her skin was cold. When it happened again, he decided to watch her, they say. He lay still in the bed, and he felt her moving away from him slowly, they say. Then she went out. He followed behind her. 60 She walked along the beach in front of the village. She went where the skin was kept. From there, she flew. She landed beyond the point at the edge of town. indd 36 01/12/2010 2:54:50 PM c ha p t e r o n e : Goose Food He started toward her.

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