Download A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers by Robert Bringhurst PDF

By Robert Bringhurst

The Haida global is a misty archipelago 100 stormy miles off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. For one thousand years and extra ahead of 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 terrific large housepoles. Classical Haida literature is every piece as numerous and effective. It extends from tiny jewels crafted by means of grasp songmakers to difficult 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 were raised in a totally 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 previously for the extensive acceptance they deserve.

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But for those who know the story, the hints that Velázquez provides are enough. For those who don’t, there is no single image or tableau, however literal or detailed, that could make the action clear. indd 47 01/12/2010 2:54:51 PM a sto ry a s s ha rp a s a k ni f e A myth is a story, and it is a story that insistently recurs : a piece of timelessness caught like an eddy in narrative time. Once the story is known, a single image or even a single word can evoke it. But only a linked sequence of images, words or gestures can tell it.

There in the summer of 1896 a Yukaghir woman told several stories to a listener willing, like Swanton, to take dictation. I do not know her Yukaghir name, but a royalist Russian missionary had given her another : Ekaterina Rumyantsev. indd 58 01/12/2010 2:54:52 PM c ha p ter t wo : Spoken Music considerable exposure to Russian colonial culture. She therefore told her stories to Bogoraz in the Russian language. And some of Bogoraz’s research in Siberia was funded, like Swanton’s work in Haida Gwaii, through the American Museum of Natural History in New York, at the instance of Franz Boas.

Indd 48 01/12/2010 2:54:51 PM c ha p t e r o n e : Goose Food gist and hunter-gatherer knows : that man is not the manager and measure of all things. The altered version of the painting differed only at the margins. That was enough to reduce the whole to a skillful character sketch or snapshot of a servant in the kitchen, and to confine the scale of value to an implied social hierarchy flattering the European viewer. If we cut the human element away, keeping only the upper left­ hand corner, the painting would become little more than a pious allusion.

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