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Prepare for strangeness. . .,
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This review is from: A Kayak Full of Ghosts: Eskimo Folk Tales (International Folk Tales) (Paperback)The Eskimo peoples live in an extreme environment. It thus stands to reason that their tales will also be extreme, concerned with hunger, disease, cannibalism, madness. Such subjects do, of course, make good copy the world over. What is striking here, though, is the matter-of-fact way in which they are explored. A woman marries a blowfly because she's fond of him ; other people get murdered for equally dead-pan reasons.
Some of these stories are funny, in a twisted kind of way, others are magical, others are disturbing. There's quite a lot of sex and violence and excrement, so be warned
What bothers me is not the subject matter but that the author has, by his own admission, altered these tales ; he hasn't simply recorded what he heard from the Eskimo storytellers. One issue here is : does an outsider have the right to tamper with other people's stories ? If we concede that he might have such a right, the problem becomes : which elements of the tale have been altered ? Which elements have been exaggerated/trivialized/bowdlerized/edited out altogether ? And what impact does that have on how we hear the story and, by extension, perceive the culture ? There are no easy answers , and I acknowledge that Millman is not claiming to be an anthropologist, but I do think it needs to be pointed out.