November 15, 2016

The Owl and the Lemming

by Roselynn Akulukjuk
Illustrated by Amanda Sandland
Inhabit Media
32 pp.
Ages 5-7
November 2016

Like Aesop’s Fables, The Owl and the Lemming is a tale with a moral but it is more than just a morality story. Through the words of Nunavut-born filmmaker Roselynn Akulukjuk and illustrator Amanda Sandland, this fable is an Inuit legend with a lesson based on a local predator-prey relationship amidst that Arctic ambience of mossy and rocky tundra.  The Owl and the Lemming is as elegant in its story-telling and art as it is wise in its teaching.

A young lemming makes her way out of the den in the spring to partake in some much-needed feeding on tasty moss.  So engrossed in her eating, she fails to notice a snowy owl land directly in front of the entrance to the lemming’s den.   The young lemming tries to trick the snowy owl with some juvenile ploys based on distraction but, though young, the owl is wise to her intentions. Finally the lemming invites the owl to play a jumping game with the lemming’s fate as a meal the prize.  The owl is only too happy to show his prowess at jumping, sadly for him allowing the lemming to scurry back into her den.  Though his father cautions him, “Next time, don’t play with your food” (pg. 25), the little owl knows it was his pride that cost him his meal.

That old adage of pride going before a fall is ever so true in this Inuit tale, told with humour by Roselynn Akulukjuk who directed a puppet-based film of the story for Taqqut Productions, just winning Best Animation at the 41st annual American Indian Film Institute Festival.  It’s an auspicious recognition of the talent of Roselynn Akulukjuk to tell such a legend with both clarity and richness, staying true to her Nunavut roots while extending herself into her new pathways for story-telling.  Similarly, Amanda Sandland uses her artwork to combine the whimsical with the realistic, creating composite images of drawings with photographic backgrounds.  With only a few touches of comic design, like the den’s doorway and fencing, added to the true tundra landscape, Amanda Sandland puts all her efforts in creating a lemming and an owl worthy of the legend’s title.

From The Owl and the Lemming 
by Roselynn Akulukjuk, 
illus. by Amanda Sandland
Readers should look for the release of Taqqut Productions’s film of this story, but indulge in this literary version from Inhabit Media for teaching and learning an important moral about pride and survival from a very northern perspective.

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