The bitter winter months are meant to be spent indoors huddled near the fireplace, drinking hot chocolate and swapping wintery tales. And what better story to cast away the cold than one where man battles Jack Frost with nothing but his wit and his shit? So gather round, children, and I will tell you the legend of the frozen poop knife.
Not to be mistaken with that knife your uncle takes into the toilet to help flush his Christmas dinner yule log, the legend of the poop knife is an old Inuit story. In his book Shadows in the Sun, anthropologist Wade Davis recalls an encounter with an Inuit named Olayuk Narqitarvik. According to Narqitarvik, during the 1940s or '50s, his family had decided to abandon their nomadic Arctic lifestyle and move into a nearby settlement. But his grandfather refused to come along, clinging to ancient traditions like a piece of toilet paper clinging to the bottom of a shoe. But when the family stole his tools, hoping the old fart would run out of options, instead, the man "stepped out of their igloo, defecated, and honed the feces into a frozen blade, which he sharpened with a spray of saliva." With this fresh dung dagger, he then killed a dog and used its carcass as a makeshift toboggan -- sledding into the darkness, never to be seen again.
Since then, the saga of the shit stabber has passed between countless circles of anthropologists who debate whether the story is true or if Narqitarvik was making it up for shits and giggles. But in 2019, the theory of fashioning a fecal falchion was put to the test. Metin Eren, who runs an "experimental" archeology lab that recreates historical tools, and his colleague Michelle Bebber took on the daunting scientific task of pooping into a bag for four days while living on an Inuit-like diet rich in meat and fats. These shards of shit were then frozen in dry ice and sharpened with a metal file for maximum dookie damage.
But despite their best efforts, Erin and Bebber's BM blades weren't up to the job. Instead of cutting into animal hide (even under optimized conditions), the poop knife would only leave streaks "like a brown crayon" before eventually melting. And while the hardened wastes of the Arctic and Grandpa Narqitarvik's colon may have provided a better result, the odds that the legend of the poop knife is true are slim at best. Still, as Davis later wrote: "The entire point of the anecdote is to remind audiences and readers that the Inuit do not fear the cold; they take advantage of it." If the myth of the poop knife celebrates anything, it's the remarkable resourcefulness of the Inuit people. A proud people who aren't afraid to take matters into their own hands. Even if it's fecal matter.
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