Send Us Your Thoughts
We’d like to hear what you think about this story and the website. Lots of questions come up. Here are some I wonder about.
What Makes a Hero?
Who is your greatest hero? Does he or she have physical strength, courage in the face of danger, devotion to friends and family or to one’s people? Are both men and women heroes in your culture? Is your hero someone you know, or someone from a story?
Do heroes speak up against injustice? Or stay silent to avoid betraying their comrades? Does a hero lead others in courageous acts?
Is a hero good to those in need? Does a hero avenge wrongs?
Is a hero clever? Able to get out of a tight spot? Does a hero ever make mistakes?
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What is Heroic about Kiviuq?
At first I didn’t see why Inuit call Kiviuq a hero and some of my listeners don’t get it either. He’s not really a leader. A lot of the time he’s alone. And can you be a hero alone?
But he is strong and courageous.
He does speak out against injustice to the orphan. He is good to those in need. He does not avenge wrongs but instead walks away from trouble.
He doesn’t kill or destroy his enemies, instead he just leaves them. And that’s the point. Giving free rein to emotions like anger can distract you from realities of weather and the land, and thus endanger your life. And if you die, what will happen to the people who depend on you?
An Arctic hero may have some special characteristics brought out by the climate. Young people told us that elders are respected simply because they survived. Survival in the arctic is an act of heroism.
Kiviuq looks at what’s on the ground—he sees detail. He tries to save his friends at sea, helps a seal-bone and a lemming, gives back the fox skin and the goose feathers when heroes in other cultures keep them hidden. He is devoted to his animal wives and follows them. he supports his goose-wife in her eating habits and is considerate of the Fishmaker. He is the supreme master of the kayak.
Kiviuq never gives up.
But what about killing his human wives? That was wrong. So was injuring the lemming. Can a person do wrong and still be a hero?
Have you ever made a mistake? Something you really regretted? Do you think Kiviuq regretted those things? Did he learn from them, or does his story offer a way for us to learn from his mistakes? Some elders told us that Kiviuq sets out paths to follow, but that we should not follow everything that we hear in the story. They want us to choose the right way.
Does a true hero know the difference? When to follow and when not to?
What are the elements of Inuit heroism in Kiviuq’s story? It seems to me they include kindness to orphans, correct treatment of animals, courage, perseverance, control of emotion, getting things right the first time, walking away from trouble, clever dodges, creativity, hunting skill, willingness to give and receive help, and strict adherance to the rules of Inuit life.
What do you think, about this or anything else?
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