“The hunter braves drew nigh”

It’s really interesting to me to look at the creation and spread of myth and story. It’s pretty much my topic of choice. And the Huron Carol, an actual Canadian carol (and an old one, too) is an intriguing case study in that.

It takes the traditional nativity story and translates it into terms for the natives of Canada — invoking their god, putting Jesus in a lodge of broken bark, with hunter braves gathering and chiefs from afar bringing him gifts of pelt.

The lyrics were written originally in the Huron/Wendat language, to the tune of a familiar French song of the time, thus being explicitly intended to spread the Christian message to the natives. Without getting into the politics of Europeans spreading Christianity to the First Nations people, it’s a really interesting look at how myth is spread from one people to another.

I think it’s also really interesting that Jean de Brébeuf, the missionary who wrote it, would translate it into terms more familiar to the people he was trying to convert — and it’s neat to see how none of the important parts of the story are actually affected by those changes. (A suggestion, perhaps, that not everything in the Bible need be taken literally?)


This is part of a series of posts I’m writing every day of December until Christmas, musing on my 25 favourite Christmas songs. The first one is here.

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