Sunday 17 February 2008


KAKUARSHUK'S TALE speaks of a time long ago when women got their children by digging in the earth. The would pry children loose from the very ground itself. They did not have to go far to unearth little girls, but boys were harder to find, and often buried deep underground. Thus strong women had many children and weaker women very few or none at all.

Kakuarshuk was one of these barren women, and despite overturning half the earth she could find no child. She was at last told to go to a certain place and dig there... which she did, until she came to the other side of the earth. On the other side everything seemed to be in reverse, there was no snow or ice and babies were much bigger than adults.

She was adopted by two of these, a girl baby and a boy baby who carried her around in an amaut sack and suckled her. They cared for her very much. One day her baby mother said to her "Is there anything you want Dear Little One?" and her baby-mother replied "I would like to have a baby of my own".

So the girl baby then tells Kakuarshuk to go to a certain place and dig... and there follows much tunneling and strange adventures and meetings with Scourge Trolls and little foxes until she finds her self home holding a boy baby in her arms.

This story is an Inuit tale and can be read in full in Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales, which I heartily recommend to anyone who likes fairy tales that weren't meant for children; it is "a celebration of strong minds, low cunning, black arts and dirty tricks".

A while before I read this story, I saw the lovely film Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner, an Inuit tale written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit. It is set in ancient Igloolik and unfolds as a life-threatening struggle between powerful natural and supernatural characters.

In this film I saw that Inuit women have enormous hoods in which they carry their babies...

Kakuarshuk's tale and these Inuit women's hoods inspired my latest painting, below, in watercolour and pencil.

Prints for sale here


Lady Em said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, and I have to say, I am fascinated!! Your work is beautiful, and I love the stories too!! So from little ol' me in Savannah, Georgia to you halfway across the world, I have to say it is a pleasure to meet you!!

Unknown said...

Such a beautiful painting! I love this composition, absolutely stunning, Rima. There is a second film by the makers of Atanarjuat, I can't recall the name but it's about Europeans coming to the Inuit village.

Annie Patterson said...

Oh this is a cool painting! Thanks for sharing the story and the photos. The Inupiaq women here in Barrow, Alaska still carry their babies on their backs like in these photos. But the parkas are usually made of cloth fabric instead of fur. I loved The Fast Runner, too.

Rima Staines said...

Thanks folks... That's interesting about the sequel Eric, and thanks for your nice words :) this painting is one I'm actually in two minds about :)
Annie - that's fascinating... I bet its amazing up there in Alaska :)

Anonymous said...

hi, I love your blog! I love fairytales and the picture here is beautiful. Keep it up!

Rima Staines said...

Thank you cliodhna's wave! :) wonder if you have a blog too?

Anonymous said...
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miltonita said...

Dear Rima,I'm following your blog and you are simply wonderful, I just bought this fairy tales book and I can't wait to read it! Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

You just renewed the print of this work and it showed up in my Etsy Activity Feed.
What a cool story! I'm going to have to look up the book you mention!