Ahiahia the Orphan by Levi Illuitok
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release Date: April 11, 2023
This is a brief and action-packed graphic novelization of a traditional story of the Inuit people of Kugaaruk. That said, it’s probably too brief and action-packed for its own good. The story revolves around a man, Ahiahia, who is orphaned when members of the tribe kill his parents, and then when he comes of age the same contingent have it out for him. While one can imagine any number of internecine conflicts that could lead to the murder of his parents, the fact that we have no clue of the attackers’ motivation makes the whole thing feel gratuitous.
Ahiahia’s grandmother takes the boy in and goes to great lengths to see that he will be safe in the face of whatever familial rivalry led to his parent’s murder. Her actions blend the magical with the practical (e.g. chanting incantations over the bow and arrows she makes for him.) For me, the moral of the story can be seen in this blending. We don’t know how much of Ahiahia’s successes are due to the practical versus the magical, but one feels they worked together and that one without the other would probably not have fared as well.
At the end, there’s a scene that may be disturbing for those who have strong feelings about patriarchal subjugation of women, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not authentic.
This is a very quick read and has sufficient action to keep it engaging. However, it can also feel a bit purposeless.
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