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- 1 – An encounter with four...
- 2 – Aboriginal Legends
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ACTIVITY 2 – ABORIGINAL LEGENDS
Follow these steps to discover some animal legends.
In several Aboriginal legends, animals have important roles and sometimes have supernatural powers as well.
Here, we’ll be showing you the film Inon or the Conquest of Fire, inspired by an Algonquin legend. In this legend, animals set off to capture fire. You’ll discover why they look the way they do today.
Next, you can watch L’ours et la loutre (“The bear and the otter”). This film isn’t based on a Native legend; it’s an adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling story. To give the film a familiar feel, I replaced the exotic animals in Kipling’s story with animals indigenous to Canada. It’s an example of how stories and legends can be adapted, depending on where and by whom they’re told.
For those of you interested in reading further, we also provide links to other animal legends online.
Let the stories begin. Happy reading and viewing!
Inon or the Conquest of Fire
Inon or the Conquest of Fire
This second animated film by Frédéric Back, made in 1972, takes up a universal theme: the quest for fire. In this film inspired by an Algonquin legend, fire is kept from humankind by Inon, the God of Thunder. The animals set off to capture the god’s fire and make it available to humans. The story is set at a time when humans and animals understood each other and lived in harmony with nature. The Bear has a dream and they decide to send Hawk, Wolf and Beaver in search of the fire. All sorts of incidents ensue, with a happy ending. You’ll discover why animals look the way they do.
The Thunder God and the Algonquins
The Thunder God is common to all the tribes of North America. In Quebec, the Algonquins lived in a region equivalent to today’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue. They mainly lived off hunting, fishing, and gathering, as well as farming.
Excerpts from the film Inon or the Conquest of Fire
We invite you to watch three excerpts from this animated film. You’ll see how Frédéric’s freestyle drawings were inspired by cave paintings.
Clip 1 :
Long, long ago, my brother, men had no fire. They were cold.
Credit: Radio-Canada, colour, 00:56
Clip 2 :
"What shall we do?" ask the men and animals.
Credit: Radio-Canada, colour, 01:11
Clip 3 :
And from that day on, my brothers, men are no longer cold.
Credit: Radio-Canada, colour, 00:49
The legend behind the work
Would you like to know what legend inspired Frédéric to make the film? Here it is. It’s an Algonquin legend called “How Humans Obtained Fire.” Aboriginal legends are generally handed down from one generation to the next, often orally. The legend you’ll read here comes from the book Légendes indiennes du Canada, by Claude Mélançon. In this book, Mr. Mélançon recounts legends he heard first-hand from Native storytellers, as well as written adaptations of these stories. Here, in English, is the legend “How Humans Obtained Fire.”
L’ours et la loutre
(adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling story)
“The bear and the otter” is not an Aboriginal legend, but an adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling story. It’s a good example of how a story or legend can be modified by the people telling it.
Kipling’s original story is about a monkey who helps a crocodile. Since the film Frédéric was planning to make in 1969 aimed to teach French to Anglophone students, he replaced the exotic animals in the original story with animals indigenous to Canada (the bear and the otter). Not many people know that this was Frédéric’s first animated film.
The film tells the story of an otter who comes to the assistance of a bear.
To watch L’ours et la loutre, click this link.
Now it’s your turn to show us your works!
Why don’t you write your own animal legend or illustrate a legend and send it to us? We’d be happy to post it online in the Art Gallery section. You can also do some research on legends and share your discoveries with your classmates.
WRITING EXERCISE: Write your own legend, fable or tale.
Put your creative talent to work by writing your own legend or tale. You can also adapt a legend or tale, just like Frédéric Back did for his film L’ours et la loutre, which is based on a story by Rudyard Kipling.
DRAWING EXERCISE: Illustrate a legend, fable or tale.
You could also find an Aboriginal legend you like and illustrate it. If you want, you can make a comic strip or storyboard (as if you were making a film!).
RESEARCH EXERCISE: Do research on a legend (in class).
Do research on a legend of your choice. Which people wrote it? During which era? What inspired the legend? What does it describe? What is the moral of the story? Share your discoveries with your classmates and teacher.
If you’re interested in animal legends, you can find plenty more on the Internet.
This site has a good selection:
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