THE SNOW PEOPLE by Marie Herbert


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Like Sheila Burnford (One Woman's Arctic, p. 537) Marie Herbert spent over a year in the Arctic living in a small community of Polar Eskimos in Northwestern Greenland. Along with her tiny daughter Karl she was accompanying her Arctic explorer husband Wally on an extended visit to film and record ""scenes of a dying culture."" Happily Marie Herbert did not look at the Inuit clad in polar-bear pants and kamiks through the eyes of an anthropologist. Encumbered with a small baby, her concerns were necessarily the familiar domestic ones -- keeping the hut warm, cooking and skinning seal and walrus, chopping ice (the only source of water in the winter) and melting it for baths or shampoos. Like everyone who has visited them, Herbert found the Eskimos a generous and kindly people though some of the village children had become sufficiently westernized to engage in petty pilferage; alcohol and drunkenness were occasionally a problem; and certain villagers kept their distance from the Kasdluna (foreigner). The awesome, spectacular Arctic scenery which she describes throughout was an obvious source of delight and Herbert grew sufficiently acclimatized to venture along on hunting expeditions -- though the ferocious, always-ravenous dog teams which drew the sledges terrified her. Her appreciation of the language and customs is genuine and contagious though occasionally she lapses into some silly rhetoric about how it was all like ""an exciting and romantic dream."" It's a warm and cheery book despite the plunging temperatures and Herbert shares her memories of Christmas celebrations (Father Christmas comes via helicopter) and small intimacies with the wives of the hunters who became her friends and companions. Nothing in-depth but all of it is genial, good-humored and unpretentious.

Pub Date: Dec. 19th, 1973
Publisher: Putnam