Once upon a time, all Inuit people made igloos the same way. They made them out of snow because snow didn’t cost anything, it was there, they had a lot of it, and there would always be more tomorrowThey pressed snow into block shapes and laid them one by one in a spiral that became smaller and smaller until it made a dome.
They made a little entrance to keep the wind out. It always faced away from the wind. And they made a little hole in the wall to let the light in. It always faced the sun. It was as perfect as it could be. For a very long time, everyone made their igloos like this.
Every now and then there was a small change that made igloos even better. Putting a piece of plastic over the hole let the light in and kept the wind out. It was better than a sealskin curtain.
Apart from these small changes, igloos remained much the same. Nobody could really make them that much better.
* * *
Inuit people still tell stories of a man called Biisaiyowaq. He is famous. He is part of the history of igloos. This is what happened.
* * *
One day, when Biisaiyowaq was out hunting, he came across a dead polar bear. He took two bowls of its blood, mixed it with about a cubic metre of snow, and used it to make a red igloo for himself.
They all looked at his red igloo and thought the same thing. The first person to say it out loud was a child. The child said, “It’s red! Everything else is white. It looks DIFFERENT!” Everyone was quiet for a while.
* * *
Then one of the adults suddenly said, “It’s NEW!”
Almost at the same time, another said, “It’s MODERN!”
Another said, “It’s BEAUTIFUL!”
People were now all saying things at the same time. “You’re a GENIUS!” “It’s so ORIGINAL!” “You’re so CREATIVE!”
One person holding a pencil and paper said, “A truly bold and original artistic statement!”
* * *
One old woman said, “I remember a story my grandmother once told me about a red igloo. You have brought this story alive, made it real for me. I feel RECONNECTED WITH WHO I AM!”
Another person said, “People, we all know it’s not all snow white out there. There’s polar bear blood, whale blood, walrus blood and seal blood splattered everywhere. White is just what we have to live with. Red is WHO WE ARE! Red is HOW WE LIVE.”
While everyone was thinking this over, someone at the back said, “I don’t like it.”
Another said, “Me neither. That IS NOT an igloo!”
The man with the pencil and paper said, “Don’t you see? This red igloo opens up a new world of possibilities for igloos! It redefines IGLOOS FOR OUR TIMES! It makes us think again about EVERYTHING an igloo can be.”
* * *
Biisaiyowaq went inside his igloo and sat down.
He remembered how much EASIER it had been to shape the snow when it had polar bear blood mixed in. It had saved him a lot of time. He thought about all the time everyone else could save. They could spend that time hunting for more food, or inside their igloos eating ice cream and sharing stories with their friends and families.
He remembered how much STRONGER the red snow had been. He hadn’t needed to use as much of the pure white snow. He had been able to leave more of it where it was, looking pretty.
He remembered how polar bears stayed away from his red igloo and how much SAFER he felt because of that. He thought about how much safer everyone else could be too.
He remembered how the red snow made the inside of the igloo WARMER. He didn’t know why, but he knew he didn’t have to use as much whale oil to keep it warm. He thought about all the whale oil the others would save. He thought about all the whales that would not have to be killed.
He remembered all these things but, most of all, he remembered how simple it had been. All he had to do was tell everyone to mix two bowls of polar bear blood into about a cubic metre of snow. He stood up and went outside.
* * *
There was a big crowd now. They all rushed towards Biisaiyowaq. “I want a red igloo!” “I want one too!” “We all want one!” “Please show us all how to make them!”
* * *
They stopped talking when they saw Biisaiyowaq was about to speak. Biisaiyowaq said, “I’m sorry, I can’t teach you. This is something only I can do. You have to know how to choose the right polar bear and kill it in a certain way and at a certain time. I can’t explain how I know this, but I do. It’s an art. Trust me.”
* * *
Everyone was disappointed. One big person suddenly shouted, “It doesn’t matter! I’ll pay you to make a red igloo for me.” Another, bigger one, said, “I will pay you more!” The man with the pencil and paper (who was actually bigger than them all) said, “Once I tell everyone else, you will be FAMOUS. You will never have to hunt again!” And he rushed off to tell everyone else.
* * *
And so it came to be that, apart from killing the occasional seal for blood to make his red igloos, Biisaiyowaq never had to hunt again.