Robert Bringhurst, winner of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence and former Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, trained initially in the sciences at MIT but has made his career in the humanities. He is also an officer of the Order of Canada and the recipient of two honourary doctorates.
In the Fall of 1900, a young American anthropologist named John Swanton arrived in the Haida country, on the Northwest Coast of North America, intending to learn everything he could about Haida mythology. He spent the next ten months phonetically transcribing several thousand pages of myths, stories, histories and songs in the Haida language. Swanton met a number of fine mythtellers during his year in the Haida country. Each had his own style and his own repertoire. Two of them—a blind man in his fifties by the name of Ghandl, and a septuagenarian named Skaay—were artists of extraordinary stature, revered in their own communities and admired ever since by the few specialists aware of their great legacy.
Nine Visits to the Mythworld includes all the finest works of one of these master mythtellers. In November 1900, when Ghandl dictated these nine stories, the Haida world lay in near ruins. Wave upon wave of smallpox and other diseases, rapacious commercial exploitation by fur traders, whalers and miners, and relentless missionization by the church had taken a huge toll on Haida culture. Yet in the blind poet’s mind, the great tradition lived, and in his voice it comes alive. Robert Bringhurst’s eloquent and vivid translations of these works are supplemented by explanatory notes that supply the needed background information. Halftones, black and white.