SEDNA: An Eskimo Myth by Beverly Brodsky--Adapt. & Illus. McDermott

SEDNA: An Eskimo Myth

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Beverly Brodsky McDermott adapts the Eskimo origin myth of Sedna, the sea spirit/mother figure central to Inuit mythology, by combining two incidents in this story of a hungry winter when the community's Angakok, or magic worker, calls on Sedna to send the people seals and walruses. Instead Sedna rises from the sea and tells another story: of her marriage to a deceitful bird; her attempted escape across the water in her father's boat; and the transformation of her broken fingers--which her father pries from the boat she clutches to avoid drowning--into seals, walruses and whales. The people get their food after the Angakok goes down to Sedna's underwater home to plait her parasite-infested hair, a job she is unable to do for herself without fingers. Sedna's story is a striking one and McDermott's telling is competent though without magic (and without any connection to the tacked on folk belief about the spirits of the dead). Her impressionistic two color illustrations are harder to grade: the choice of mauve to represent the spirit world doesn't disguise this artist's tendency to stylized prettiness, unfortunately most evident here in Sedna herself who should instead be awesome. However, there are instances of strong and pleasing design (sometimes reminiscent of Northwest Indian, though not Eskimo, styles) and the icy blue groupings of human figures have a rounded solidity more evocative than all those fancy swirls and smudges. A mixed catch then, but worth keeping, especially in view of the hitherto limited picture book representation of Inuit lore.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1975
Publisher: Viking