Borrowed Black

Written by Ellen Bryan Obed
Illustrated by Jan Mogensen
Breakwater Books

“Noone who belongs to the Labrador
Knows where Borrowed Black lived before
He came to stay on the tall, dark shore,
On the wildest tickle of Labrador.”

So begins the tale of a mythical creature, composed of things he has borrowed from sea and shore but has not given back. Thin shells of goose eggs for a face, seal flippers for feet, seaweed for hair, driftwood for bones. But when Borrowed Black borrows the moon, plunging the Labrador into darkness, something must be done. “Then one night from the north in a gale, came the boat that was built in the back of a whale.” A dramatic and rather comical rescue ensues…

Where did the idea for Borrowed Black come from?

The name, Borrowed Black, came when I was a teenager, telling stories to my younger cousins in our cabin in the Maine woods.

In 1965, I spent the first of four summers in Cartwright, Labrador. I realized that the children had no books that were set in their land. The library bookshelves were lined with British, American, and Canadian classics but none that took place in Labrador. No published stories, it seemed, that were truly their own.

This bothered me. “Dear God,” I prayed, “please give me a story for the children of Labrador.” He answered my prayer and gave me Borrowed Black. I was twenty years old.
Click here to read the full story behind Borrowed Black

BORROWED BLACK (First Edition)
Written by Ellen Bryan Obed
Illustrated by Hope Yandell (1979)

“How does a story become a folk tale? By long years of telling and long years of listening. To be present, then, at the birth of a folk tale would be a wonderful thing. It doesn’t happen often.

This rare event may well be what occurred when Borrowed Black was released by Breakwater Books. It is a brand new story by a brand new and very promising author, Ellen Bryan Obed, but it has the haunting qualities, the staying power, the catch of the imagination that folk tales have possessed through the ages.”
~ Mary Lou Colbath, The Puckerbrush Review, Vol. II No. 2 Fall/Winter, 1979

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