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Showing posts with label The Boy Who Lived With the Seals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Boy Who Lived With the Seals. Show all posts


The Boy Who Lived With The Seals (1993)

Retold by Rafe Martin

Illustrated by David Shannon


Typeset in Meridien

G.P. Putnam's Sons

I thought I'd begin this month of Native American stories with a book by two of my favorite people, Rafe Martin and David Shannon. They previously had collaborated on The Rough-Faced Girl. In that book, I remember being very surprised at how soulful Shannon's artwork could be - as I generally associate him with goofier, more playful fare. This book finds him back in full form here, adding some real gravity to a fanciful tale. In particular, I marveled at the violence with which the men of the village wrestle the boy from the island of seals to bring him home to his parents.

This is a Chinook tale, and is a tale with some familarities. The Jungle Book sprung to mind. Boy runs away from home, boy is taken in by anthropormised animals, boy returns to society... However, I have to think that it was the more spiritual elements which made Rafe want to tell this story. "These People understand well the sacredness of all life," he writes in an afterword. "They know one cannot just take without giving some gift in return - and that out of this gift new gifts of renewed life will grow."

Once the boy returns to his people, he tells of his life with the seals. It's mostly swimming and fishing, as you might imagine, but also...

He said that they build fires at night under the sea and tell stories. Only the stories the seals tell, he said, are of the things that happened long ago when the world was new, and of the things that are yet to happen far in the future.

A strange, cosmic detail, indeed.

I couldn't help but be glad to see the boy escape and rejoin his underwater family, yet the tale was bittersweet, as we end with the parents who must now go on living without their son.
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