The Allegory of The Eskimo: Illusion Is Beauty

“Merle Crowell tells a story about a Greenland Eskimo who joined an Arctic expedition. For his faithful guide service he was rewarded with a visit to New York City. Dazzled by the wonders, he couldn’t wait to tell the folks back home in Greenland. He described “stacks of igloos that reached the clouds” and “crowded igloos moving along the trail,” and “lamps that burned without seal oil.”

But the village people did not share his excitement. Instead, they listened with fish-eyed stares, tagged him “Sagdluk” (that is “The Liar”), and shunned him. By the time of his death, his original name had long been forgotten, and he carried the name “Liar” to his grave.

Later, Knud Rasmussen made his trip to the frozen North, guided by another Greenland Eskimo named Mitek. Mitek, too, was rewarded with a trip to New York. Although he too was dazzled by the city, Mitek, remembering Sagdluk’s fate, covered his backside by cooking up stories that his villagers could swallow. He and Rasmussen had only “paddled a big kayak on a wide river called Hudson, among plentiful flocks of geese and large herds of seals.”

Thus, Mitek, who was the real liar, gained a place of extraordinary respect among his home villagers. The man who had told the real truth was called “Liar” and died in ignominy.”


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