The White Archer by James Houston

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Book Reviews, Nunavut | 0 comments

The White ArcherSummary: An attack by Indians leaves Kungo with no parents and a sister who has been abducted. Rage and a need for revenge burns under his skin, but first he must become a warrior who can live off the land and care for himself. Adopted by an elderly couple with no children, Kungo receives skilled instruction and love, forming bonds with the old man and the old woman as well as the animals of the land. When he is ready, he seeks his revenge as the white archer – until a familiar face helps him take the old woman’s words about the danger of hate to heart.

Number of Pages: 95

Age Range: 12-14

Review: It’s amazing what James Houston can do with a pencil in his writing and his drawings. I loved the story of The White Archer, but I also loved how Houston brought his pictures to life, even though they were simple sketches.

Though hunting is a bloody activity and eating the raw flesh of animals is something I’m not personally used to doing, Houston manages to make it poetic as greater spirits guide animals to giving up their lives for the nourishment of others. It feels like respect exists between the hunters and the animals that are killed, a sharp contrast to the way we treat our food today.

But the best part was how Kungo was bent on revenge, yet was still changed by love. The care of the old man and the old woman when he needed it most, accepting him as he was in his pain was exactly what helped him to be open to what happened when he did seek his revenge. I also loved the loyalty of his dogs, and the appearance of the wolf/dog cubs.

Reading The White Archer taught me a lot about Inuit ways of life, especially when contrasted with those who live among the short sticks, and it opened up new ideas for me that I hadn’t previously considered. Once again, it was a brief yet powerful read.

Memorable Quotes:

“After they had eaten their fill, Kungo lay down on a high piece of dry tundra with the snow around him and watched the stars come out and grow bright as the sky darkened, and he thought again, as he often did, that there would be no real peace or joy for him till he had avenged the death of his parents.” – Kungo from The White Archer by James Houston, page 57

“‘Yes,’ she said, looking at her sleeping husband. ‘He told me four years ago that you would remain until the ice bridge formed this winter and that you would then go forth, driven by your desire to avenge your family. That time has now come, but I must say to you that hatred and revenge follow each other like two strong men piling heavy stones one upon the other until the stones fall, killing both men and perhaps many others.'” – The Old Woman from The White Archer by James Houston, page 68

“Then the sharp sting of cold struck him, and he laughed aloud with pleasure. He was returning to his own land. He would travel to the island of Tugjak and talk with the old man again. Ittok was a great teacher and had taught him many things about archery and about life. The old woman had tempered his feelings for revenge and had helped him to understand himself. They were his people.” – Kungo from The White Archer by James Houston, page 93

The White Archer by James Houston, is published by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., (1967).

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