Jo-Anne Elder Reviews Le Géant du nord by Réjean Roy
In ancient legends, beings of enormous size and power roamed the earth. Giants appear in the Bible (Goliath and Og), Roman (Cyclopes, Atlas) and Celtic mythology (Idris ap Gwyddno), and Indigenous stories of chijuudiee (which can mean “giant spirit animals” or “monsters that live in the water”).
Some are benevolent, ridding the world of monsters; others are fearsome. Many Indigenous giants are shape shifters.
Stories about giants explained geographical formations as well as mysterious events. According to the Dene, giant beavers kicked away the trees as they were being chased by Yamoria, leaving sand dunes and bare land.
One Ojibwe story explains the Sleeping Giant mesas near Thunder Bay. Nanabozho was turned to rock when he revealed a secret. In the Ojibwe creation cycle, Nanabozho was responsible for naming all the plants and animals. A trickster figure, he could appear as a human or a mythical giant animal.
Le Géant du Nord canadien also explains the formation of a mountain in the shape of a sleeping giant, as well as that of the many lakes in the Canadian North. In this story, a giant has an insatiable appetite for loons’ eggs. One spring, before the annual tragedy occurs, the loons conspire to save their young by tripping the giant.
As he falls into the huge lake, splashes of water form smaller lakes around the mountain of his sleeping body. The origin of the story is not given, and it has a fairy-tale quality.
Réjean Roy’s text and illustrations portray the tranquillity of the expansive lake and the mournful loons lamenting their young. The giant, whose legs go higher than the tallest trees, will not be the stuff of nightmares: he is brightly coloured and rather comical when he topples. Nonetheless, the resourcefulness of the loons is inspiring! Adults and children will appreciate reading this book aloud and admiring the gorgeous watercolours.