Methodology CM1-CM2-6ème - Annex workshop 2
Sealskin’s story, simplified version (Inuit)
In a time that was, that is now and forever gone and soon will be back, days of white sky, days of white snow succeed one another… And the little black dots that we see in the distance are human beings, bears or dogs. Here, nothing grows for nothing and the wind blows violently. And here, on this ground, lived a man… A man so alone that over the years tears had dug two abysses on his cheeks.
He tried to smile, to be happy. He hunted, set traps, and slept well. But he felt the need for human companionship. One evening he hunted after dark, but he was still empty-handed. The moon went up into the sky and illuminated the pack ice when he came in sight of a rock that stood on the sea.
He approached gently while paddling, and there, on this majestic rock, danced a group of women, naked as on the day of their birth. The women seemed to be made of milk from the moon and on their skin shone small silver spots similar to those of salmon in the spring. Their feet and hands were long and very graceful. They were so beautiful that the man remained stunned in his boat, while the water came to beat the hull and brought him closer to the rock. The man, dazzled, did not know what to think. But the loneliness that weighed on his chest as wet corpse suddenly disappeared and, almost without knowing what he was doing, he jumped on the rock and stole one of the seal skins that was there before hiding behind an outcrop.
Soon he heard one of the women shouting something in a voice that was the most beautiful he had ever heard. The women then put on their seal skin and one by one slipped into the sea with little cries of joy. All but one of them were looking everywhere for his seal skin. In vain. The man then left his shelter and threw:
Woman, be my wife. I am a man alone, so alone.
I cannot be your wife, she replied, for I am one of those who live below.
The man insisted:
Be my wife, he repeated. In seven summers I will give you back your seal skin, and there you can go or stay, as you wish.
the girl reluctantly says:
I’m coming with you, and in seven summers, it will be decided.
They had a child. In winter, his mother told him stories about the creatures that live under the sea, while with his long knife, his father cut a bear or wolf into small pieces. When her mother carried the child to bed, she showed him the clouds that were seen through the smoke pipe. She described to him the forms they took, except that instead of comparing them to the raven, the bear and the wolf, she spoke to him about walruses, whales, seals and salmon, because she knew no other animals.
But as time passed, his skin dried out, peeled, then cracked. His eyelids peeled, his hair began to fall out. She became deathly pale and began to limp. She began to reach out her hands before her to find her way, for her sight was darkened.
So he went on until one evening the child was awakened by shouts and stood on his bed. He heard a roar of a bear. It was his father who rebuked his mother. He heard tears like a silver ring on stone. It was his mother.
You hid my seal skin seven long years ago and now the eighth winter is coming. I want what I am made of back, the female seal groaned.
And you, woman, if I give it back to you, you will leave me! scolded her husband.
I do not know what I will do. What I do know is that I must have what I belong to.
Then you will leave me without a wife and the child will be without a mother. You are bad!
With these words, the husband came out suddenly and disappeared in the night.
The child loved his mother dearly. He was afraid to lose her and wept for a long time. He eventually fell asleep before being awakened by the wind. A strange wind that seemed to call it…
He left his bed and rushed into the starry night. He followed the call of his name. He was running so fast that he fell down the cliff and hit a rock. No! He was a bundle! He unrolled the bundle and shook it: it was his mother’s seal skin. He could smell it. He brought the skin to his face and breathed his smell. And while he was doing this, his mother’s soul passed through him like a sudden summer wind.
The little boy climbed the cliff and ran home, the sealskin flying behind him. He dropped to the ground. His mother lifted him and the seal skin, closing her eyes with gratitude, for both were safe. She took the child, put it under her arm and rushed to the roaring sea.
Mom, no, don’t leave me! cried the child
And it was visible that she wanted to stay with her child, yes, she wanted it, but something older than him, older than her, older than time called her.
No, no, no, mom! begged the little boy.
She turned to him and his eyes were filled with terrible love. She took the child’s face between her hands and breathed her gentle breath into his lungs once, twice, three times. Then, holding him in her arms, she plunged under the sea, and sank deeper and deeper. And the seal woman and her child were breathing perfectly underwater.
They swam like this until they reached the underwater harbour of seals, where they dined and sang, danced and talked all out of animals. There she met her family and friends. So the days and nights passed, seven to be exact, during which the woman regained her luster, her beautiful dark color. She had good eyesight again. She was swimming without being disabled. And the time came to bring the child back to the ground. That night, his mother took him and swam towards the world above.
There she gently laid her son on the rocks of the shore, in the moonlight.
His mother promised, “I will always be with you. All you have to do is touch what I have touched, the little wood to light the fire, my knife, my sculptures of seals and sea lions in stone and I will blow into your lungs a wind so that you can sing your songs.”
After having kissed the child many times, his mother snapped at him and let herself slide into the sea, then, after a last look, plunged under the surface. And because his time had not yet come, the child remained.
Time passed. He grew up and became a superb drummer, a wonderful singer and storyteller. It was said that this was so because as a child he was taken into the sea by the great spirits of the seals and survived. Now you can still see it in the morning haze. After tying his kayak, he kneels on a certain rock on the sea and seems to talk to a certain seal, a female who often comes near the shore.