Diving Down: Ritual Healing in the Tale of The Blind Man and the Loon

Craig Mishler

Abstract

Introduction. Some stories enjoy a very widespread distribution in the North. Anthropologists and folklorists have long collected and analyzed these stories, and scrutinized their regional variants. Craig Mishler taps into this longstanding scholarly tradition as he looks at the widespread story of “The Blind Man and the Loon.” However, he goes beyond analyzing the form of this tale to explore what gives it healing properties. He wants to know why this story has become part of virtually every Native storyteller’s repertoire throughout the Arctic and Subarctic. One answer is that the main character and events of the story evoke the undeserved suffering that shapes the human condition everywhere. Much of the story’s power stems from its depiction of a ritual for healing the handicapped, thereby becoming a medicinal oral text. Additional power comes from the wide range of local and regional forms that adapt it to local sensibilities. WHA

  • Craig Mishler, Vadzaih Unlimited and the University of Alaska, Anchorage 3910 McMahon Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska 99516

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