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 earlier than the Europeans got here, a very good 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 incredible large housepoles. Classical Haida literature is every piece as numerous and tremendous. It extends from tiny jewels crafted by means of grasp songmakers to intricate 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 time of 1901. His Haida hosts and co-workers have been raised in a totally 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 formerly for the vast popularity they deserve.
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Extra info for A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World
Beyond the pillar to the sky are two more figures – or two and a half. The first is half a man ; the second is a pair of fat old guys who act as one. The pair create the coho out of salmon-colored woodchips, while the half-man downstream spears them and puts them in his creel. The structure created by these characters alone is a kind of complex narrative crystal, or a piece of conceptual music. But other structures are linked to it. On the terrestrial side there are the benefactors : the old man who lives at the edge of the village, and the Mouse Woman, whose large house is hidden in a clump of ferns.
A reference to cedar-limb line and spruce-root cord is enough. That allusion brings the spike to mind. The first pair of objects – oil and comb – goes to the holy fool : a talented clairvoyant who cannot find his own lice. ) When a louse bites the back of his head, he turns around and looks for it behind him. This seer who is busy accomplishing nothing is followed by a woman who tries to do everything exactly as she is told. She is holding up the country : Xhaaydla Gwaayaay tldaghawaay, the mountains of the Islands on the Boundary between Worlds.
He asked. The loon said, «I will put him under my tail and dive right in front here. » 280 They thought he was too weak to do it, they say. His father-in-law asked the question again. A grebe gave the same reply. They thought she was also too weak. And a raven said he would carry him back. » «I will put him under my wing and fly with him from the edge of the village. »12 290 They were pleased with his answer, they say, and they all came down to the edge of the village to watch. He did as he said.