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“A Gift for Qulqulil” Comb

by

  • Medium: red cedar
  • Size: 82 × 31 × 4 inches
  • Reference Code: W30901

SOLD

This is the story of Qulqulil. She was a woman of unusually large size, a freak of nature, who was shunned by the villagers and ultimately cast out by them. As is so often the case in human affairs, the ordinary could not suffer the extra-ordinary. So Qulqulil, who had no relatives, was condemned to live the life of a hermit, deep in the forest far away from human contact. Nobody knew where. Her only friends were the birds and animals of the forest.

Qulqulil would roam along the beach to escape the gloom of the forest to behold the glory of the ocean and commune with the spirit of the wind. Walking along the beach one day, her large body awkwardly plodding through the coarse sand, she came across some village children who had been swimming, but were now basking their bodies in the brilliant sunlight. One of the older boys sat on a rock by the water and was shaving with a clamshell. Qulqulil, out of sight, watched them for some time. As she stood silently observing the children, an intense longing for human company swelled up in her heart. She moved closer with the caution and intensity of a predatory animal stalking its prey. Suddenly, like a bolt of lightening from a clear sky, she swooped down upon her unsuspecting victims. This fearful apparition paralyzed the children — and before they knew what happened, Qulqulil had caught them all and put them in a large snake basket, which she carried on her back.

Quickly leaving the beach, she sought the cover of the dense forest to start the long way home. As she walked along the trail, the older boy who had been shaving with the clamshell began to cut a hole in the bottom of the basket. He finally had a hole big enough to allow some of the children to drop out of the basket and escape. As they did, they could not but help making some noise, and Qulqulil, whose senses were acute from her solitude, stopped. Taking the basket from her shoulders, she opened the lid to make sure the children were still there. As the lid of the basket opened and Qulqulil’s large face appeared, she brought terror in the hearts of the children. But, as the remaining children covered the hole in the basket with their bodies, Qulqulil thought all was in order, closed the lid and continued the journey home.

On arriving home, Qulqulil did not wish her young captives to escape, so she immediately proceeded to smear pitch from the wild cherry tree over the eyes of the children. By robbing them of their eyesight, she hoped she would discourage any attempt by the children to make a run for it. However, the eldest girl pressed her eyelids so tightly together that when Qulqulil applied the pitch her eyes were not completely sealed and she was able to see.

Several days later, at that time past twilight when the night has firmly drawn the earth to its bosom, Qulqulil and the children sat around the fire. But for the sharp crackling of the fire, the forest was completely silent and the stars stood prominently overhead. The silence was only broken when one of the young children asked Qulqulil to dance around the fire. The other children joined in and they all urged her to dance. Qulqulil rose and began to dance in a cumbersome, rhythmic motion around the fire, her large body casting a ghostly shadow on the surrounding forest. Suddenly, without warning, the children rose and pushed her into the fire and made their escape. Falling into the fire, Qulqulil screamed, “Please help me, my young brothers and sisters, I was only trying to help you.” She desperately struggled to get away from the fire - but her hair had been set alight, and as the flames consumed her long black hair, the lice jumped from her scalp and were miraculously transformed into tiny birds that flew into the gloom of the night… a wondrous sight to behold.

Qulqulil survived and managed to keep two of the boys captive. One day she told the boys to accompany her on a duck hunt. The boys, determined to escape, quickly devised a clever scheme: Before leaving on the hunt, they placed extra bulrush mats on the seat of the canoe on which Qulqulil would sit, thus raising the centre of gravity and making the canoe very unstable. As they reached the hunting ground at Point Grey, Qulqulil, by a stroke of luck, dozed off. The boys began to rock the boat with all their might, and while the violent motion roused Qulqulil from her sleep, in her bewilderment she was not able to steady the canoe - and with a piercing scream she fell overboard.

Qulqulil could not swim. With her arms flailing in a pathetic attempt to stay afloat, in her panic she cried out, “please have pity on me, please have pity on me!” But the lure of freedom stifled any pity the boys might have felt, and grabbing their paddles the boys turned the canoe to the direction of the shore. Yet in a curious way, perhaps because their conscience was unsettled by their violent act, the boys shouted: “We are trying — but the strength of the current will not allow us to get to where you are and save you.” But they had no intention of returning, and left Qulqulil to die.

It is still said that the reason why the waters at Point Grey are so rough is because the spirit of Qulqulil still restlessly roams the water in which she was drowned.

Other available artwork you might like by Susan Point:

Susan Point

Susan Point

OC, RCA

Coast Salish (Musqueam)

(1952- )

Susan began making limited edition prints on her kitchen table in 1981 while working as a legal secretary. She received several early commissions, which established her reputation for innovative proposals and for completing projects on time, on budget and at the highest level. She took courses in silver, casting and carving, all of which led to monumental sculptures in mixed media, and she was the first Northwest Coast artist to work in glass. She continues to release a number of print editions each year, but her focus has been on commissioned sculpture.

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