Story in Sand:Owl and Goose by Caroline Leaf

Here is another stop motion animation, this time created by drawing pictures in sand on glass. Caroline Leaf based “Owl and Goose” on an ancient Inuit story about an Owl’s unrequited love for a goose.  As told in this interview she worked with Agnes Nanogak, an Inuit artist who created the animal silhouettes necessary for sand animation.


I found no information on Anges Nagonak, but did find this image by her from the Montreal Museum’s website:


During her stay at Holman Island, she met some old Inuit women who still remembered hunting with their fathers.  They used to mimic animal sounds to attract prey – and these became the sound track of the story.

This is what she has to say about the process:

Six old women sat around a microphone and made the sounds and laughed a lot. I got what I wanted, but it was puzzling, uncomfortable work. For example, after I screened the film, which is nine minutes long and involves the eggs of the owl and the goose hatching, one old lady got up and walked out, saying that what the film showed was not true, eggs take two weeks to hatch.

That’s quite interesting.  The verbal story of the hatching eggs did not last longer than the animated version does.  Is it the illusion of life that makes the distorted time  in the animation so upsetting?



This little story probably means something very different to me than it did to its original audience. I empathise with the silly Owl, and the Goose seems self centred and unfeeling.  I guess that this was not the way the story was told to an Inuit audience, where the owl might have been a figure of fun, or a lesson in not straying from the role intended for you.  Caroline Leaf speaks about her feelings in having to adapt the story for animation:

I was never sure that I wasn’t using the Inuit people. I knew that their stories were truth and history for them, and they didn’t tamper with the storytelling or make personal changes. That is why the stories were remarkably the same across thousands of miles of the Arctic. And I had had to change the story, to personalize the animals, to make it mine in order to be able to tell it.

But in any case – I will let you decide for yourself.  Here is “Owl and Goose”:

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Germaine Arnaktauyok – Inuit Artist « Masha
  2. GeraniumCat
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 18:55:47

    This is probably one of my all-time favourite animations, it’s so beautiful. I saw it in the National Gallery in Ottawa and I kept going back to watch it again!

  3. mashadutoit
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 19:05:06

    I would love to have the chance to see it at a bigger size – I’ve only seen the on-line version.

  4. Trackback: Improvisation in Sand – Cesar Diaz « Masha
  5. Trackback: Sand owl | Manaartstudio

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