Katrine Rasmussen Kielsen
Qivittuissuit akornanniinnikuuvunga (“I have lived among true mountain walkers”, not published in English) is a genuine Greenlandic story, based on the Greenlandic folk belief that there are people who live out in the wild, hidden from town and village society. According to the author it is a true story, told by the main character, who now lives in a Nordic country under a different identity.
At first, the story is one of pure idyllic family life. The youngest daughter of the family, Paneeraq, the apple of her father’s eye, has, in accordance with an old Greenlandic custom, been assigned a boy chosen by her father to be her boyfriend. The father teases her that she will marry him when she grows up. The custom of being assigned a spouse while you are still a child is a legacy from pre-Christian times, when it was designed to secure the continuation of the family, but in the modern age that Greenlanders now live in, it’s just an old and fun custom that ends when the children grow up. However, the longer you read the novel, the more the family idyll begins to splinter. The loving father’s true self emerges when his daughters turn into young women. The father’s word is law in the family. He terrorises his daughters’ boyfriends and secretly chases them away from the urban community. They disappear in accidents when they have been out sailing with him. As a young girl, Paneeraq falls in love with a young man, Larsi, who is not the young man, Kaali, that her father had chosen for her. Paneeraq chooses to defy her father, who apparently accepts her daughter’s choice. Some time later, Larsi disappears while out hunting with Paneeraq’s father. Searches for him yield no results. After a while, rumours begin to circulate in the town that Larsi has been seen. He has become a “qivittoq” – a mountain walker. A mountain walker is a person who lives alone in the wild. Mountain walkers can also gain supernatural powers when they commune with the spirits and forces of nature. And then there is the Devil, always trying to tempt us with the promise of immortality. Paneeraq goes looking for her boyfriend out in the wilderness. Suddenly, a giant raven with a human face swoops down and carries her off in its giant claws. The bird carries her up and away to the high mountains, where a qivittoq community is living in hiding. And this is where the story, which the author says is based on real events, begins to take shape in earnest. The novel is a tale of love between young people in Greenland and their struggle to free themselves from the father’s tyranny.
The story is written as one long, uninterrupted oral tale. There are some linguistic and grammatical errors in the translation, but the story and plot in isolation are intriguing and provide a special insight into the narrator’s experiences of life in the wild (whether you believe them or not), and contribute to some interesting debates in relation to Greenlandic culture. There are some fine elements in the book, and at the same time it touches on a number of different themes. The book has exciting passages, colourful descriptions and a deep story. The Greenlandic version has sold more than 8,000 copies and the Greenlandic-language audiobook has been number one on the top 10 bestseller list in Denmark for more than two months.