“Kiss of the Fur Queen” by Tomson Highway Review
In the novel “Kiss of the Fur Queen,” Tomson Highway heavily relies on mythology in order to depict the adverse transformation of characters throughout the narrative. One of the forces, which is deemed responsible for these occasions, is the Weetigo, and its inclusion in the story is not accidental. This evil spirit’s functions in the examined literary work are numerous since it is mentioned in all parts where the collision of indigenous people and the western civilization happens. This technique is used to depict the negative aspect of similar occasions on individuals’ perceptions which are inadequately distorted in the end. Therefore, the Weetigo is used by Highway to underpin the symbolic meaning of challenges of American Native citizens caused by colonization, physical and sexual abuse, and, as a result, loss of cultural identity.
The Symbolic Importance of the Weetigo
The Cree mythological creatures, such as the Weetigo, are incorporated in the narrative for reflecting the problems which these people face under the influence of the Catholic church and the western mentality as a whole. In the novel, it is occasionally mentioned when describing specific events and their characteristics. Thus, when writing about the beauty pageant, Highway views it as “the dreaded Weetigo look-alike contest” (16). In the continuation, he writes that “a near-death encounter with the cannibal spirit Weetigo” is the most dreaded event among his peers (Highway 21). These scenes are intended to form the perception of negativity attributed to the culture of colonizers comparable to that of indigenous people. By contrasting these two worlds, the author uses symbolism behind the mythical creature as the most undesirable encounter to precisely transmit his ideas concerning the inappropriateness of western culture for them.
Colonization as a Cultural Problem
The ongoing colonization as one of the main themes of the novel is also depicted through the lens of the Weetigo, which is believed to cause trouble. Hence, for example, when Abraham and Mariesis speak about their concerns related to the requirement to send Champion to the boarding school, this spirit is mentioned (Highway 40). Interestingly, in this part, the question “Could the dreaded Weetigo have snuck up on them?” is attributed mainly to the caribou running from the forest when the parents fear for their children playing nearby (Highway 40). However, the combination of these two events is also not accidental since the worries about the need to adhere to western traditions are intertwined with the hazards of their lifestyle. Meanwhile, the latter is less significant than a threat of losing their offspring to a culture which is so different from indigenous values and beliefs. Thus, the inclusion of the Weetigo in this scene correlates with the overall negativity accompanying the described conflict.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Another aspect of the novel, which reflects the adversities of the western people, is the presence of physical and sexual abuse seen as the manifestation of evil. In this regard, referring to the Weetigo as a violent spirit correlates with these occasions. For instance, when they are first mentioned by Champion-Jeremiah in relation to Father Lafleur, he compares the man with “a bear devouring a honeycomb” (Highway 65). Consequently, he thinks this sight was similar to “the Weetigo feasting on human flesh” (Highway 65-66). These statements confirm the standpoint that the spirit’s power is attributed to all negative phenomena. Moreover, by speaking about one’s body affected by it, the author supports the idea of physical influence alongside the caused mental harm. In other words, any type of abuse, which was experienced by the children, is viewed by them as the Weetigo.
Loss of Identity in the Westernized World
The final consideration, which is linked to the role of the Weetigo in the narrative, is the loss of identity of the brothers in the westernized world, occurring at the end of the book. During the time they tried to survive in Winnipeg, inhabited predominantly by the white population, Jeremiah and Gabriel are involved in art to compensate for the abandoned Cree language and native customs (Highway 77; 89). In this case, the Weetigo represents the absence of one’s self while the only reference to the memories is the fact that “he ate people” (Highway 94). By demonstrating the lack of knowledge of the Cree mythology, the brothers admit that their connection with the tribe is lost, and the adversities are inevitable. From this moment on, they are viewed as sinners, similar to those who educated them in this manner.
To summarize, the functions of the Weetigo in the novel are numerous and connected to the negative transformation of the main characters under the influence of the western world. In other words, the shift from the Cree Weetigo tradition to the acceptance of sin is performed gradually while providing a link between this spirit and adverse outcomes. In the beginning, its symbolic meaning was presented by the author for forming readers’ perceptions. In the continuation of the narrative, it was attributed to sexual and physical abuse, which led to the loss of aboriginal identity and, consequently, the irreversible change. Considering these facts, one can conclude on the Weetigo’s importance for depicting the views of indigenous people on their western counterparts and their habits while serving for explaining the events from the former’s perspective.
Highway, Tomson. Kiss of the Fur Queen. Anchor Canada, 2005.