February 28, 2019

Takannaaluk

Written by Herve Paniaq
Illustrated by Germaine Arnaktauyok
Inhabit Media
978–1-77227-181-2
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
November 2018

In another outstanding Inuit origin story picture book from Inhabit Media, Igloolik elder Herve Paniaq tells the haunting tale of the mythological mother of the sea mammals, Takannaaluk, also known as Nuliajuk and Kannaaluk.
From Takannaaluk by Herve Paniaq, illus. by Germaine Arnaktauyok
Though her parents wish her to marry so there would be another man around to help out, their only daughter refuses all those who ask her and so she is called Uinigumasuittuq, the one who never wanted to marry. Men appear, though they are animals such as the caribou and the bearded seal transformed into persons, and she refuses them all. When a very tall and handsome man, seated in his qajaq and wearing snow goggles, calls to her, she goes with him. It's not until much later in their journey that she sees he has been sitting on a stool and his legs are very, very short and he has scary red eyes. She realizes she has been tricked as he is a fulmar, a type of seabird, transformed into a man but he refuses to let her go back to her parents. Uinigumasuittuq has no choice but to go with the man and learn how to be his wife.
From Takannaaluk by Herve Paniaq, illus. by Germaine Arnaktauyok
But then her father, who'd been so adamant about marrying his daughter off, decides to bring her back home and away from her horrible husband. When the husband pursues them, Uinigumasuittu's father ridicules his son-in-law who transforms into a fulmar, flying in such a way to cause the winds to pick up. Her angry father throws Uinigumasuittuq into the water and, as she clings to the side of his boat, he chops at her fingers with his knife. Where her fingers fall, seals appear.
From Takannaaluk by Herve Paniaq, illus. by Germaine Arnaktauyok
Her father, guilt-ridden at his actions, kills himself by drowning in the encroaching tides and Uinigumasuittuq, lost to the water, becomes known as Takannaaluk which means "the one down there" and becomes feared and revered as the legendary mother of the sea animals.

Herve Paniaq's retelling of this Inuit myth has the richness of great storytelling. There are villains and victims, choices and consequences, conflict and resolution. But this origin story becomes extraordinary with the illustrations by Germaine Arnaktauyok. I have always believed picture book illustrations are works of art but Germaine Arnaktauyok's images should be in art galleries. They are gorgeous, rich in colour and shape, culturally relevant and wholly appropriate for a story from the Arctic, making Takannaaluk bewitching as well as edifying.

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