Reading Comprehension: Exploring Symbolism through Mythology and Literature

The Shaman's Nephew, by Simon Tookoome

Mr. Steel


Being Born


1. What does Simon say that he remembers? Why is this weird?




2. What special importance do names have among the Inuit?





The Edge of the World


1. What does the word "Inuit" mean?



2. How did traditional Inuit people learn differently than us?





3. How did the Inuit tell the time?



4. How did the Inuit know what direction they were facing?



5. How did the Inuit keep warm?




6. Why is it safe to eat raw meat in the far north?



The Seasons


1. Where did the Inuit live during the winter?



2. Where did they live during the summer?



3. Who rode on the dog sleds when the Inuit hunted?





1. Why do the Inuit often name their children after an elder?



2. What strikes us as strange about Simon Tookoome's relation with his grand daughter?




3. How are names used symbolically to shape the character of Inuit children?





4. What bad thing can happen if a child is given the wrong name?




5. Where did Tookoome get the name "Simon"?




6. What are the Kabloonaq?


Living on the Ocean Side


1. What does Simon like to eat?



2. How did the Inuit hunt before they got kayaks?



3. What did the Inuit do with many of the animal skins they acquired through hunting?



4. What bad habit did the Inuit acquire from the Kabloonaq?



5. How did trading with the Kabloonaq change the way that the Inuit lived?




How We Were Raised


1. What sort of things do the Inuit celebrate when they eat together?



2. What lesson did Simon learn when he and his friends killed the baby geese?



3. Why do the Inuit never get angry or impatient? (3 Reasons)








4. Why did the Inuit never ask questions?




6. Did the Inuit ever boss each other around? How did they make decisions?


Adventures With My Friend


1. Describe three games that Simon Tookoome liked to play with his best friend Siquaq.












The Whip


1. Describe how whips are used to run dog sleds.



2. How old was Tookoome when he got his first whip?



3. What had he learned to do by the time he was twelve?



4. How did Simon use his whip to hunt?



Watching Animals


1. Name two things that Tookoome learns about animals by watching them.






My Adopted Animals


1. What did Tookoome do with animals besides hunt them?


2. Why can't Tookoome do this any longer?


3. What did Tookoome learn from Amaruq?


4. What happened to Amaruq, and how did Tookoome deal with it?




1. Describe two methods that the Inuit had for hunting.
















1. What are some of the rituals that Inuit perform when they kill an animal. What is the symbolic meaning of these rituals? Write a full paragraph.




1. What is an inukshuk?



2. What symbolic meaning might an inukshuk have?






Old Things


1. What do the Inuit do when they pass by a grave? Why?





2. How did the Inuit attitude toward death change when they encountered Christianity?







Spirits in the World


1. What is a shaman?



2. What are some of the powers that shamans have?



3. What is a "spirit helper"? What do they enable a shaman to do?



4. What did Tookoome see the shaman Teenaq doing when he was just a boy?


My Uncle Was a Shaman


1. Oohuluaq, Tookoome's uncle, was a blind shaman, but he could still see. How is this possible?


2. How did Oohuluaq save Tookoome's life?


The Fight Between Shamans


1. Why did the shaman Alikumiq become angry with Tookoome's father?




2. Describe what was weird about how Tookoome's dad was almost killed by Alikumiq.





3. Who saved Tookoome's dad? How did he do it? Where was he when he did it?






4. How did Alikumiq survive?




Death Far Away


1. Name two reasons why Simon wasn't allowed to be trained as a shaman.






2. What advice did Tookoome's uncle give him before he died?





3. What kind of sight did Tookoome share with his uncle?

Blizzard -- The Unexpected


1. Explain how igloos can be warm, and what dangers there are in building igloos.








Northern Lights


1. What do some Inuit believe about the northern lights?



2. Why does Tookoome say the lights are dangerous?




3. What symbolic actions does Simon take to protect himself against them?



Danger Came Back to Me


1. How did Tookoome survive falling through the ice?






First Seeing the Kabloonaq Homes


1. What worried Simon about entering a white man's house for the first time at Baker Lake? (Name 4 things)












1. What is a qaggiq?




2. What happened in a quaggiq?




3. What did Simon's mother know that the missionaries forbid her to transmit to her son?



Group Decision Making


1. How did the Inuit decide what to do?




2. Why were the old people so well respected among the Inuit?




The Starvations


1. Why did thousands of Inuit starve to death in 1957-58?




2. What was strange about the caribou that appeared to Simon during the starvations?





3. What symbolic action did Simon take when he killed the caribou? Why?





4. Why does Simon say some dreams keep coming back to people?
Leaving the Land


1. How did the Canadian government try to force Inuit to move off the land and live in white settlements?



2. What happened to Tookoome's son? What was his son forced to do?





3. Why did Simon eventually move to a white settlement?






1. After being forbidden from living in an igloo, why did Simon not like living in a house? (2 reasons)






When I Draw


1. Why does Tookoome draw?



2. Why is drawing like dreaming for Simon?





3. What is the symbolic meaning of Simon's drawings? Why does Simon draw animals and human beings all mixed together?







4. Choose one of Simon's drawings and write a full paragraph about its symbolic significance. What story or action does the picture portray? Discuss the different parts of the picture, and what each part contributes to the symbolic meaning of the whole.