picture book with beloved Greenlandic myth
retold by Mâliârak Vebæk, illustrated by Aka Høegh
Trans. title: “A Visit to the Mother of the Sea”
A long time ago, the people of Greenland, the Inuits, believed in the Mother of the Sea. She lived at the bottom of the sea and ruled over all that lived in the ocean. She was also all-knowing. From her home on the ocean floor she sent seals, whales, fish and birds of the sea up to the surface so that hunters could hunt and catch them. This is why they called her the Mother of the Sea.
However, if the Inuits didn’t behave well, she became angry and kept the animals from the hunters. Then the Inuits would send a shaman down to visit her in order to cleanse and comb her hair which had become dirty and tangled because of what the humans had done wrong. She was so powerful that only the most gifted and clever shamans were allowed to visit her in her home on the floor of the ocean.
There is hunger in the settlement. An elderly couple, who used to be great shamans, are asked to travel once more to the land of spirits to ask the Mother of the Sea to free the animals they need to hunt. The old lady succeeds in her task by letting herself be eaten by a bear and afterwards sink to the bottom of the sea. After a long walk on the ocean floor and overcoming obstacles, she finds herself at the Mother of the Seas’s house. With great difficulty she manages to untangle the many knots which human vanity and evil deeds have created in the Mother of the Sea’s hair. The old lady is rewarded when the Mother of the Sea promises to release the animals and the settlement has food once more.
The Mother of the Sea plays a major role in the sagas of Greenland. She often appears as both generous and cruel. This book is one of series of four, all of which are retold in richly-illustrated books for children. The stories are sometime scary and bizarre, but they all have a strong moral and are interesting reminders of Greenland’s history and heritage. This book was originally published by Atuakkiorfik in 1995. This is an up-dated version, still being true to the original.
NB! This story is available in English to view if interested in international publishing rights