University of Nebraska Press



Craig Mishler

Date of this Version

Spring 2013


© 2013 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska,675649.aspx


The story of the Blind Man and the Loon is a living Native folktale about a blind man who is betrayed by his mother or wife but whose vision is magically restored by a kind loon. Variations of this tale are told by Native storytellers all across Alaska, arctic Canada, Greenland, the Northwest Coast, and even into the Great Basin and the Great Plains. As the story has traveled through cultures and ecosystems over many centuries, individual storytellers have added cultural and local ecological details to the tale, creating countless variations.

In The Blind Man and the Loon: The Story of a Tale, folklorist Craig Mishler goes back to 1827, tracing the story’s emergence across Greenland and North America in manuscripts, books, and in the visual arts and other media such as film, music, and dance theater. Examining and comparing the story’s variants and permutations across cultures in detail, Mishler brings the individual storyteller into his analysis of how the tale changed over time, considering how storytellers and the oral tradition function within various societies. Two maps unequivocally demonstrate the routes the story has traveled. The result is a masterful compilation and analysis of Native oral traditions that sheds light on how folktales spread and are adapted by widely diverse cultures.