Neil Christopher, illustrated by Eva Widermann,
Inhabit Media, 2010.
Arctic Giants is part anthropology, folklore, and story-telling. It tells of mythical beings – races of giants – long present in the Inuit world. Drawing from research in archives, explorer accounts, and interviews with elders, author Neil Christopher has assembled a comprehensive array of stories and accounts of various kinds of giants that inhabit the Arctic regions. The giants can generally be divided into two groups – the lesser giants and the greater giants. The greater giants, known as Inukpasugjuit, are of massive scale in size and strength. Giants of this size fish for whales like catfish, affect the weather, and can alter the landscape with their girth and might. The lesser giants – the Inugaruligasugjuit – are considerably smaller in size but are still larger and mightier than humans. They are sometimes cannibalistic and prey on humans.
Arctic Giants is divided into two main sections covering stories of the lesser giants and the greater giants. These fantastical and magical beings are illustrated in comic-book style by Eva Widermann. She does excellent renderings of the giants in the Arctic landscape, wearing typical Inuit clothing such as the amauti (the traditional cape) and parkas made of animal skins. It’s always fun to find the little human in some of the illustrations, either perched on a giant’s shoulder or sitting on his palm, or hiding behind a boulder. Since some of these giants are cannibals, they are often terrifyingly depicted with human skull necklaces and pupil-less eyes, or as one grisly illustration would have it, feasting on human limbs. So, a warning: this is not a book for the faint-hearted! I’m sure there’s much ink to be spilled on the psychological and spiritual implications of these beings who live side-by-side with humans in the largely inhospitable and severe terrain of the Arctic, but this book’s purpose is to introduce to the reader a certain pantheon of super-beings that have existed in the Inuit imagination for centuries. For anyone interested in Inuit folklore and ethnography, Arctic Giants makes for an informative and entertaining study. And for lovers of comic book heroes and villains, this is a new go-to book for inspiration!