The Seal Oil Lamp: An Adaptation of an Eskimo Folktale

Overview

Poor Allugua! Because he is blind and will not grow up to be self-sufficient, Eskimo law decrees that he cannot be allowed to live. So when it comes time for the village people to go to their annual fishing camp, Allugua's parents must leave the boy behind, sealed in their dugout house, to die of cold and hunger.

All alone with his songs, his games, and his own thoughts, Allugua bravely prepares to die. But the kindly little mouse people that ...

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San Francisco, California, U.S.A. 1996 Soft Cover New 8 x 9 1/2. Beautifully illustrated in black and white wood engravings, a retelling of a traditional Eskimo tale of how a ... seven-year-old blind boy is saved from death by the kindly little mouse people. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Poor Allugua! Because he is blind and will not grow up to be self-sufficient, Eskimo law decrees that he cannot be allowed to live. So when it comes time for the village people to go to their annual fishing camp, Allugua's parents must leave the boy behind, sealed in their dugout house, to die of cold and hunger.

All alone with his songs, his games, and his own thoughts, Allugua bravely prepares to die. But the kindly little mouse people that creep into his house have other plans for him--and events take a magical turn.

A retelling of a traditional Eskimo tale of how a seven-year-old blind boy is saved from death by the kindly little mouse people.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Firmly grounded in Eskimo custom, ritual and lore, DeArmond's story tells of a couple who must leave their blind son to die, because custom dictates that fate for those who will not, as adults, be able to take care of themselves. The boy, Alugua, is seven when his parents leave him with little food and seal oil, but because of a former kindness paid by the boy to her family, Mouse Woman brings him new supplies. Through the long season, she teaches Alugua stories, and a little song that will bring animals to him so that he will be able to ``hunt'' them. He promises to honor the animals who offer themselves to him, and when he is accepted back into his family, he becomes a great man of the village for his hunting skill. Some passages of this very poignant story are so wrenchingly sad that readers will be tempted to hurry ahead, but both the telling and the impressive wood engravings are worth lingering over. As with all the best folktales, this will resonate with listeners and readers, and offers insights into a less-than-familiar aspect of American culture. Ages 5-9. (September)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
An adaptation of an Eskimo folk tale. Allugua, a young blind boy, is born to parents who have longed for a child. Full of stories, fun, and kindness to animals and people, Allugua is well loved, but deemed unlikely to survive. In accordance with tradition, he is left to die when villagers move to their spring fishing camp. Brave Allugua is kept warm, fed and entertained by Mouse Woman. Because of Allugua's kindness to her kin, she teaches him a magical chant that will call the animals to his spear. Allowed to live, Allugua becomes known as a master hunter and storyteller as well as a man who is careful to honor the animals who give their lives for him.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
De Armond adapts an Eskimo folktale in The Seal Oil Lamp. Allugua is a boy born blind in a time when imperfect children were left to die when their peoples migrated to winter fishing grounds. Heart-broken, Alluga's parents leave their seven year-old son sealed in their dugout with little food and oil. The brave and kind Alluga survives that winter with aid from a magical mouse who keeps his body and spirit alive and promises that he will grow to be a great man in his culture. True to Mouse Woman's words he nurtures his people with wonderful tales, brave hunting and great wisdom. The woodcut illustrations represent both the Eskimo culture and emotive levels of the story.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6While basically a legend to re inforce Inuit belief in proper respect for animal life taken and the rituals that en sure its continuance, the tale is here re cast as one told by a grandmother in a present-day Eskimo village. She con trasts past and present ways of life, and tells of an Eskimo boy, born blind, who is allowed to live until the tribe feels that this limitation will threaten their survival. The boy and his parents know that the law of the people requires him to be left to die, so when the tribe moves in the spring, his mother leaves him with only a little food and a seal oil lamp for comfort. But the oil does not give outand the mouse people, kin to a mouse the boy had sheltered one harsh winter, bring him food. They in struct him in lore and teach him a secret hunting song that enables him to win a place when the tribe returns, and later to excel as a hunter. DeArmond illus trates this with wood engravings, and little verbal pictures, toosuch as the mice who dance on the boy's hands, ``so he could feel how beautiful their dances were.'' The clear writing will be welcomed by readers and listeners. Ruth M. McConnell, San Antonio Pub lic Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871568588
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books for Children
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Series: Books for Children Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: AD780L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.75 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Dale DeArmond has lived in Alaska for more than fifty years. She has worked as a librarian, illustrator, writer, and printmaker. The mythology of the native people of Alaska has been an abiding interest and a source of material for both her books and prints. Her other titles include The Boy Who Found the Light; Raven A Collecting of Woodcuts; Berry Women's Children; Dale DeArmond: a First Book Collecting of Her Prints; and Juneau: A Book of Woodcuts. She lives in Juneau
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Read an Excerpt

Come in, children. It's a cold night tonight but the old seal oil lamp will keep us warm, just like it did a long time ago when I was a girl and everyone sat around at night and told stories.

The story happened right here in our village way back when my grandma was a little girl. The village was different then. There wasn't asny school. Nobody knew how to read or write. Mothers and fathers taught their children what they needed to know. Fathers taught their sons how to hunt birds and animals and how to build sleds and oomiaks, and all the other things men need to know. They taught them to obey all the laws of the people and how to sing the songs and do the dances that honor the birds and the animals and please the inuas.

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