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Fiction Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology

A Story as Sharp as a Knife

The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World

by (author) Robert Bringhurst

Publisher
Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Jan 2011
Category
Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Folklore & Mythology, Native American
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781553658399
    Publish Date
    Jan 2011
    List Price
    $28.95

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 14
  • Grade: 9

Description

A seminal collection of Haida myths and legends; now in a gorgeous new package.

The linguist and ethnographer John Swanton took dictation from the last great Haida-speaking storytellers, poets and historians from the fall of 1900 through the summer of 1901. Together they created a great treasury of Haida oral literature in written form.

 

Having worked for many years with these century-old manuscripts, linguist and poet Robert Bringhurst brings both rigorous scholarship and a literary voice to the English translation of John Swanton's careful work. He sets the stories in a rich context that reaches out to dozens of native oral literatures and to myth-telling traditions around the globe.

 

Attractively redesigned, this collection of First Nations oral literature is an important cultural record for future generations of Haida, scholars and other interested readers. It won the Edward Sapir Prize, awarded by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, and it was chosen as the Literary Editor's Book of the Year by the Times of London.

 

Bringhurst brings these works to life in the English language and sets them in a context just as rich as the stories themselves one that reaches out to dozens of Native American oral literatures, and to mythtelling traditions around the world.

About the author

Robert Bringhurst is a poet, typographer and linguist, well known for his award-winning translations of the Haida storytellers Skaay and Ghandl, and for his translations of the early Greek philosopher-poet Parmenides. His manual The Elements of Typographic Style has itself been translated into ten languages and is now one of the world’s most influential texts on typographic design. Among his most recent publications is a pair of essay collections, The Tree of Meaning (GP, 2006) and Everywhere Being is Dancing (GP, 2007). Bringhurst lives on Quadra Island, off the British Columbia coast.

Robert Bringhurst's profile page

Awards

  • Winner, Edward Sapir Prize

Editorial Reviews

"Bringhurst's accomplishment is beyond praise... A Story as Sharp as a Knife merits a wide readership and a passionate response. It also deserves to win every literary award in sight."

Montreal Gazette

"One of the most important books to grace Canadian literature in many years."

Maclean's

"Once in a while a book appears that changes the way we see things. This is such a book. Bringhurst reclaims an extraordinary body of literature and teaches us to hear its sinewy, haunting music. In the process, he rewrites North American literary history and lays a depth charge in the assumptions of cultural anthropology. Rigorous and enchanting, a Story as Sharp as a Knife is a superb adventure of the mind and imagination. I couldn't put it down."

Dennis Lee

"Bringhurst's achievement is gigantic, as well as heroic. It's one of those works that rearranges the inside of your head -- a profound meditation on the nature of oral poetry and myth, and on the habits of thought and feeling that inform them."

Margaret Atwood

"The brilliant analysis of myth and culture will find its place alongside such popular investigations as Radin's The Trickster... A Story as Sharp as a Knife will make academics tremble with jealousy and students of myth-telling shiver with excitement."

Books in Canada

Librarian Reviews

A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World

Haida poet/storytellers, Ghandl and Skaay, took stories known to many language groups in the region and made them into singular masterpieces. This second edition of poet and cultural historian Bringhurst’s controversial masterwork makes use of access to the original transcriber, John Swanton’s, letters; a recent Haida dictionary; and a grammar of Haida. It is persuasively argued that we are not all immigrants but are all natives and that these stories/poems are an important legacy for all peoples. The author shows how the complexities of language, rhythm, repetition and suites of stories are particular to the two featured storytellers and should be regarded as contributions to world literature.

This first of three volumes was nominated for a Governor General’s Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2011-2012.

A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World

Haida poet/storytellers, Ghandl and Skaay, took stories known to many language groups in the region and made them into singular masterpieces. This second edition of poet and cultural historian Bringhurst’s controversial masterwork makes use of access to the original transcriber, John Swanton’s, letters; a recent Haida dictionary; and a grammar of Haida. It is persuasively argued that we are not all immigrants but are all natives and that these stories/poems are an important legacy for all peoples. The author shows how the complexities of language, rhythm, repetition and suites of stories are particular to the two featured storytellers and should be regarded as contributions to world literature.

This first of three volumes was nominated for a Governor General’s Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2011-2012.

Other titles by Robert Bringhurst

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