Look out! Don’t stray too close to the water, children, lest a qalupaliit snatch you. But be careful on the tundra too: that’s where a giant may be waiting to feed you to his family. Or you may simply be drawn into the world of Inuit shamanism.
Any of these things are possible this Halloween: Nunavut is exporting its monsters and ghostly stories, and they have taken up residence in the window of Bakka Phoenix, Toronto’s premier science-fiction and fantasy bookstore.
The window display is the joint brainchild of the bookstore and the owners of Inhabit Media, a publisher of Inuit tales that are written solely by Nunavummiuq authors, told by the elders.
“Traditionally Inuit stories were told for entertainment, but today their re-telling is crucial to sustaining Inuit traditions and culture,” said Inhabit Media co-founder Louise Flaherty in a statement. “As part of our 2011 Canadian Monsters promotion, Inhabit Media is launching three new titles that will bring traditional Inuit knowledge to the world in a spectacularly spooky way.”
Keeping these stories alive is especially urgent nowadays: They are under threat of disappearing as Nunavut’s last generation of elders passes on. To ensure this doesn’t happen, Inhabit Media publishes textbooks, children’s picture books, art books, mythology, wildlife books, and magazines aimed at sharing the remote region’s culture with the rest of the country.
Monster tales are a natural fit with Halloween, and the Inuit have no shortage of scary stories, though they revel in them year-round. Neil Christopher, the imprint’s publisher, told Quill & Quire magazine that he hopes the monster rollout becomes annual. The tales are based on monster myths told by Inuit elders and are illustrated by the world’s top fantasy artists.
Inhabit Media released three new titles to coincide with the Canadian Monsters promotion: The Shadows that Rush Past: A Collection of Frightening Inuit Folktales; Ajiit: Dark Dreams of the Ancient Arctic, and The Legend of the Fog. There’s also a compilation of “terrifying Arctic giants,” the media release said, plus a recasting of Inuit legends for modern audiences. There are six goose-bump-inducing titles in all, divided into children’s, academic and adult categories, the bookstore said.
“It’s a fun way to introduce people to the fact that the North is full of unique folklore,” Christopher said. “We have a whole set of stories to tell that, basically, the world outside the Arctic has never heard before.”