By Robert Bringhurst
The Haida international is a misty archipelago 100 stormy miles off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. For one thousand years and extra prior to the Europeans got here, a very good 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 superb large housepoles. Classical Haida literature is each piece as numerous and effective. It extends from tiny jewels crafted by way of 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 throughout the summer season of 1901. His Haida hosts and co-workers have been raised in a unconditionally oral international the place the mythic and the non-public 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 earlier for the extensive popularity they deserve.
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Extra resources for A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World
13 And people who can read and write still find them in fairytale books and venues like the National Enquirer. But unless you know the work of this particular Haida poet, you cannot have heard the story told in quite this form before. 1618. Oil on canvas, 55 × 118 cm. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. and when you see their similarity, you’ve taken one large step into the rich and densely layered world of the European imagination. They’re the same, and that’s an essential part of the truth.
In fact, like every place where birds sing and people pause to listen and a storyteller speaks, it is the center of the world. * * * The verb to be brave in Haida is sqaatsi. A number of names, titles and nicknames have grown from this root. There are elaborate forms like Sqaatsidaahlging (Belly Full of Bravery) and simple ones like Sqaatsigins (Always Brave), Nang Sqaatsis (One Who Is Brave) and Sqaatsigaay (Bravery Itself). The latter name, used by a headman of the Qayahl Llaanas family of Qaysun, caught the ears of the early British traders who anchored near the town and was transmuted into Scots Guy.
The result (never trimmed or overpainted) now hangs in the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. Rembrandt’s serving maid occupies the spot Velázquez gave to the disciples. She is far off in the background to the left, perhaps suspecting nothing. Both she and Christ, who looms up large and ghostlike on the right, are potent silhouettes. In the foreground, also faceless, is a nearly invisible figure : a pilgrim crouching down in sudden recognition. But at the center of it all, as in a mirror, there is a face.
A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World by Robert Bringhurst