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

By Robert Bringhurst

The Haida international 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 superb tradition flourished in those islands. The masterworks of classical Haida sculpture, now enshrined in lots of of the world's nice museums, diversity from beautiful tiny amulets to very good large housepoles. Classical Haida literature is every piece as a number of and advantageous. It extends from tiny jewels crafted through grasp songmakers to tricky 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 in the course of the summer time of 1901. His Haida hosts and co-workers have been raised in a totally oral international the place the mythic and the private 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 beforehand for the huge popularity they deserve.

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

Sample text

Ll xhitiit ttsinhlghwaanggwang qawdi llanagaay diitsi qahlagaagang wansuuga. Ttsalaay waghii gwatxhaawasi 5 suughii lla qaagyaganggandi xhan ll gyuugha hlgitghun kyingaangas. Gyaanhaw gha la qaagasi. Ga jaada sting suugha ghaadangdyas. Tlaagi giina sqqagidaasi gu 10 hlgitghun qqaal ttlsting xhaxiiwas. Kkit qqul ghaada qqaghattiisgasi. Lla qindi qawdihaw lla dawghattlxhasi.... 8 T here was a child of good family, they say. He wore two marten-skin blankets. After he took up the shooting of birds, he went inland, uphill from the village, they say.

It did not slip off. And she said to him, «Sir, you have helped me. » Then he went on. A fter a time, he came to a hump in the muskeg. Something slender and red grew from the top of it. He went up close to it. All around the bottom of the tall, thin thing lay human bones. indd 41 01/12/2010 2:54:50 PM a sto ry a s s ha rp a s a k ni f e He saw no way of going up. Then he entered the mouse skin. Pushing the salmon roe ahead of him, he climbed. He went up after it. When he came to the top, he pulled himself onto the sky.

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.

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