The Qalupalik is a mystical Inuit tale that offers a unique reworking of a well-known narrative. In the classic tradition of vulnerable children outsmarting foes that are bigger, older, and stronger than they are, an orphan outwits a monster and lives to see another day. But while the plot may sound familiar, this is a monster like no other.
Beneath the icy surface of the Arctic Ocean dwell strange, magical beings called qalupaliit. Children fear qalupaliit, and rightly so, for they kidnap children and take them out to sea. When a young orphan encounters a qalupalik, he tricks it into thinking the bare toes poking through his worn kamik will eat it. Frightened, the qalupalik slinks beneath the ice while the orphan stands triumphantly at the edge, cheered on by his friends.
The Qalupalik is the first book in Inhabit Media’s Unikkakuluit Series, which features traditional stories retold by renowned storytellers. In paying homage to the tradition of oral storytelling, Iqaluit-born performer Elisha Kilabuk wastes not a single word here. Short, simple sentences deliver maximum impact and make it an ideal read-aloud.
Edmonton illustrator Joy Ang brings the beasts masterfully to life. Younger children may find the qalupalik’s appearance too frightening, but many will delight in poring over each and every detail, flipping through the pages to look at the illustrations long after the story is over. All children will find reassurance in the message that even the scariest of opponents has a weakness that can be exploited.
While the orphan is the hero of the story, the qalupalik is the star. With slimy skin, webbed feet, and long, mournful faces, the qalupaliit are wonderfully hideous and a refreshing take on the monster figure in picture books. Their hollow eyes betray no emotion and their distorted facial features contain just the right amount of grotesqueness to elicit squeals of revulsion from readers. The otherworldliness of their slick, grey-brown skin exists in stark contrast to the ruddy pink of the human characters.
From the rich tradition of Inuit storytelling, a monster for a new generation has emerged.