The Blind Man and the Loon


The Blind Man and the Loon

The Story of a Tale

Craig Mishler
Foreword by Robin Ridington

288 pages
14 color illustrations, 14 b&w illustrations, 2 maps, 1 chart, 4 appendixes


May 2013


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eBook (EPUB)
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February 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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May 2013


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About the Book

The story of the Blind Man and the Loon is a living Native folktale about a blind man who is betrayed by his mother or wife but whose vision is magically restored by a kind loon. Variations of this tale are told by Native storytellers all across Alaska, arctic Canada, Greenland, the Northwest Coast, and even into the Great Basin and the Great Plains. As the story has traveled through cultures and ecosystems over many centuries, individual storytellers have added cultural and local ecological details to the tale, creating countless variations.

In The Blind Man and the Loon: The Story of a Tale, folklorist Craig Mishler goes back to 1827, tracing the story’s emergence across Greenland and North America in manuscripts, books, and in the visual arts and other media such as film, music, and dance theater. Examining and comparing the story’s variants and permutations across cultures in detail, Mishler brings the individual storyteller into his analysis of how the tale changed over time, considering how storytellers and the oral tradition function within various societies. Two maps unequivocally demonstrate the routes the story has traveled. The result is a masterful compilation and analysis of Native oral traditions that sheds light on how folktales spread and are adapted by widely diverse cultures.

Author Bio

Craig Mishler is an affiliate research professor with the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He is the editor of Neerihiinjìk: We Traveled from Place to Place: The Gwich’in Stories of Johnny and Sarah Frank and the author of The Crooked Stovepipe: Athapaskan Fiddle Music and Square Dancing in Northeast Alaska and Northwest Canada.


"This is a fascinating read. . . . an excellent adventure for all."—Libbie Martin, News-Miner

"[The Blind Man and the Loon is] the definitive study on this folktale and a model for similar studies."—Richard Dauenhauer, Alaska History

"Craig Mishler’s The Blind Man and the Loon makes a fine classroom text and provides a model for scholars writing on traditional narrative."—Margaret R. Yocom, Journal of Folklore Research

"The Blind Man and the Loon will be of interest to both folklorists and non-specialists, and particularly to anyone who finds circumpolar cultures to be a source of fascination."—Diane E. Bockrath, Folklore

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Story of a Tale
1. The History and Geography of the Tale
2. The Writing of the Tale
3. The Tale Behind the Tale
4. The Telling of the Tale
5. The Art of the Tale
6. The Mediated and Theatrical Tale
7. The Power of the Tale
Conclusion and Afterword
Appendix A: Paradigm of Tale Traits
Appendix B: Annotated Bibliography of Variants
Appendix C: Knud Rasmussen's Greenlandic Variants
Appendix D: The Steenholdt Text and Additional Variants from Hinrich Rink's Collection

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