The story begins with background about the strange, magical being called the Qalupalik.
Are you acquainted? Readers learn that they have an amauti made of eider duck skins, which they use to kidnap children, and they live in the water, so their skin is like fish scales.
Readers — and not only young ones — will wish that they could scratch and sniff the patches of skin and amauti that are included with the explanatory text.
But the full-colour illustrations (by Joy Ang) ensure that no closer contact be desired.
The storyteller is Elisha Kilabuk, who was born and raised in Iqaluit and learned traditional tales from his mother, Muckpaloo.
These are stories that are meant to be told, to be read aloud.
The creature appears to be alarming and frightening even before readers hear the tale of “The Qalupalik and the Orphan”.
But Qualupaliit (plural) are not very smart, so this is not a tale with an unhappy ending, for the orphan is as smart as he needs to be.
This tale is written for young audiences (the publisher, Inhabit Media, recommends ages 6 to 8).
But timid children raised on Disney villains might find this story frightening, regardless of its happy ending.
(I, for one, am glad that I read The Qalupalik during the daytime.)
Nor is The Shadows that Race Past: A Collection of Frightening Inuit Folktales intended for the faint-hearted reader.
The four tales (Amautalik, Akhla, Nanorluk, and Mahaha) are “fun, brimming with unique monsters, clever escapes, and strange forces that thrive in the Land”.
But they are also truly, if delightfully, chilling.
Illustrators Emily Fiegenschuh and Larry MacDougall bring the creatures off the page stirringly.
Traditional terms are defined or translated in brackets by the storyteller, Rachel A. Qitsualik, beginning with the close of the introduction, which ends, as does each tale, with Pijariiqpunga (all I have to say).
Other terms include an angakkuq (a shaman, which appears in two tales, one female and one male), an ulu (a crescent knife, yes, sometimes things get bloody), and an igluvigaq (a snow house).
But the most memorable aspects of the stories are the frightening beings, though they are not, as the introduction states, simply entertaining; they are reminders of a group of people who, in defying death, are telling survival tales which remain inspiring today.
I was inspired by the Once Upon a Time event to read these, but you needn’t wait until next year to explore. If you are tired of pixies and brownies, shake up your reading landscape a little.
(You can even do this online; the publisher is working cooperatively with other groups to bring information about Inuit mythology and folklore directly to readers and students. Follow the link here.)
Are you nervous?