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The Epic of Qayaq: The Longest Story Ever…

The Epic of Qayaq: The Longest Story Ever Told by My People

by Lela Kiana Oman

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The Epic of Qayaq is a cycle of stories told by the Inupiat American Indians of northern Alaska. Oman's version is extremely well-told, especially given that the last couple of epics I read were either mind-numbingly long and boring (Homer's) or not great translations (two West African ones, not reviewed on the blog). This epic, by contrast, was very readable. Qayaq's adventures - and the culture underlying the tales - were quite interesting. Though the details were unique, it was also fascinating to draw parallels between this epic and other hero stories from around the world. The tale never dragged, nor did it feel undetailed as do many folktales; the story was fleshed-out and flowed well. This edition did a fantastic job of bringing another culture's epic to unfamiliar readers, not falling into the flaw of certain similar works by failing to convey the unique concepts and history of the group as reflected in the tale. ( )
  SusieBookworm | Mar 7, 2013 |
a beautiful 'Eskimo' story/epic. the ending is perfectly poignant and melancholy, enough to make a man cry. ( )
  simonmagus | Oct 20, 2006 |
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The Longest Story Ever Told by My People is a splendid presentation of an ancient northern story cycle, brought to life by Lela Kiana Oman, who has been retelling and writing the legends of the Inupiat of the Kobuk Valley, Alaska, nearly all her adult life. In the mid-1940s, she heard these tales from storytellers passing through the mining town of Candle, and translated them from Inupiaq into English. Now, after fifty years, they illuminate one of the world's most vibrant mythologies. The hero is Qayaq, and the cycle traces his wanderings by kayak and on foot along four rivers - the Selawik, the Kobuk, the Noatak and the Yukon - up along the Arctic Ocean to Barrow, over to Herschel Island in Canada, and south to a Tlingit Indian village. Along the way he battles with jealous fathers-in-law and other powerful adversaries; discovers cultural implements (the copper-headed spear and the birchbark canoe); transforms himself into animals, birds and fish, and meets animals who appear to be human. Qayaq is richly illustrated from the Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks Collection of Inuit Art, housed at Carleton University Art Gallery. A scholarly preface by Ann Chandonnet explains the conventions of Native Alaskan storytelling, and there is an introduction by Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks: art collectors, friends, and conservators of Oman's story legacy for many years.… (more)

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