Christian Rex

Lars Kleemann-Andersen, 2023.
Christian Rex: Manguaraq. Comic, Ilinniusiorfik, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


In the era of climate change, Christian Rex’s comic about Manguaraq is highly relevant. What happens when people don’t follow the prescribed rules of living and taboos, but instead become arbitrary and fail to take care of nature, the climate, and the animals on which we depend? 


In Greenland’s pre-Christian mythology and legends, there are many stories that illustrate the consequences for humanity if we don’t take care of nature and the animals that live in it. One of these stories is the legend of Mánguaraq, which through numerous retellings, both orally and in writing, has become known as Manguaraq. 


Christian Rex has retold the legend of Mánguaraq in the form of a comic, adapted for children and young people. Indeed, it’s an old Greenlandic story, but it’s just as relevant today with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for the sustainable use of living and non-living resources, as well as for living in harmony with nature. 


The comic’s format, its illustrations, and the short texts make it easy and clear for the reader to understand the serious topics associated with the ancient Inuit rules of living and taboos, which today can be compared to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. With his captivating and at times slightly eerie illustrations, Rex brings an ancient Inuit worldview to life, conveyed in a way that makes the message clear to the young people of today. 


In the legend, Mánguaraq, also known as the little Rod, is the son of Mángorsuaq (the great Rod), a skilled and promising hunter, particularly adept at hunting narwhals. One day, a gigantic whale appears with a strange black spot under its arm. Even though they’ve already caught enough whales, providing sufficient food for the rest of the year, Mánguaraq is tempted to hunt this large, unusual narwhal. In doing so, he challenges his own destiny. Mánguaraq’s father warns him that this particular whale must only be caught by the Moon, who rules over the weather, wind, sea, snow, and ice. It’s crucial for the people to please the Moon Man to avoid catastrophically bad weather and the risk of starvation.  


In spite of his father’s warnings, Mánguaraq hunts the whale, which provokes the anger of the Moon Man. The Moon Man challenges Mánguaraq to a battle, and to his father’s great surprise, he defeats the Moon Man by showing greater fearlessness in the hunt for various peculiar, frightening fish and whales. They journey together to the Moon’s home in the sky, where the Moon Man reveals his magical abilities that bring peace and tranquility among the people when they become too self-willed and create unrest. His message to Mánguaraq is clear: Return home and tell your fellow humans that they must take better care of nature and the animals that live in it.