The Inuit Circumpolar Documentary

Better than a Knife

First time I noticed the ulu I was wondering what it was. Soon I observed it in use. It’s a multipurpose knife. It is one of the three important items to survive in Arctic: Ulu, needles and dogs.

Ulu is traditionally used by the Inuit woman. It can be used for cutting meet, hair, fur, thread and even trimming block of snow when building an igloo. The ulu date back to as early as 2500 BCE.

An ulu consist of an handle of bone and a half moon shaped knife of iron. There are local variants all over Arctic, but the basic form is the same.

The shape of the ulu ensures that the force is centered more over the middle of the blade than with an ordinary knife. This makes the ulu easier to use when cutting hard objects such as bone. Because the rocking motion used when cutting on a plate or a board with an ulu pins down the food being cut, it is also easier to use an ulu one-handed (a typical steak knife, in contrast, requires a fork).

On the photo Pauline Kristiansen (80) is using the ulu.

Hans Reidar Bjelke

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