Literature Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Why did the twins via their umbilicus erase Helen's memory of the twin's cosmic birth in Split Tooth? Provide examples.

The twins via their umbilicus erase Helen's memory of their cosmic birth in Split Tooth to replace it with a more plausible birthing memory. Helen has been troubled by the cosmic birth of Savik and Naja, screaming at the sight of these three-foot-long newborn babies. The babies' umbilical cords suck out the memory of their birth in an effort to erase all trauma.

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,844 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

The birth of the narrator's twins, Savik and Naja, is an extraordinary event. In keeping with the numerous manifestations of Inuit mysticism that regularly crop out throughout the book, the twins' birth is as much a supernatural as a natural occurrence.

As soon as Savik and Naja have emerged from their mother's womb, they present a truly remarkable sight. Both these newborn babies are nearly three feet in length—though Savik is much larger than Naja—and are much thicker than their umbilicus. Covered in green slime and pulsating, Savik and Naja cause the narrator's friend, an old lady called Helen, to scream out loud in what we can only presume is absolute horror at such a grotesque sight.

This is the kind of experience from which lifetime trauma is made. Though the narrator is entirely relaxed about this highly unusual cosmic birth, it's clear that her estimation of her newborns as beautiful isn't shared by Helen, and no wonder. As well as their remarkable size, the twins emit a sound that cracks the sky wide open and sounds just like electricity. For good measure, a flash of lightning comes out of their mouths and joins the Northern Lights dazzling overhead in a loud crack that makes Helen stop screaming.

That's all very well, but Helen is still liable to be deeply traumatized by what she's seen. The cosmic forces presiding over the birth of Savik and Naja seem to understand this. This probably explains why the twins' umbilical cords break free from their bodies and shoot into each of Helen's eyes. As Helen sits there completely frozen and motionless, with her stupefied mouth hanging wide open, the bloodied umbilical cords search her mind until they suck the memory of the cosmic birth right out of her consciousness and replace it with something more plausible.

After a few minutes of this Helen is perfectly still and silent. The narrator's newborns are no longer three feet long; the Northern Lights are no longer dancing in the sky. All is normal and quiet. The umbilical cords return from their mind-probing adventures to go back to the twins' bellybuttons, as nature intended.

By the time Helen finally opens her eyes, it's as if nothing has happened. The old lady's a bit dazed perhaps, but she'll be fine. Had it not been for the umbilical cords entering her mind and erasing all memory of Savik and Naja's cosmic birth, then it's fair to say that Helen wouldn't be in quite such a tranquil state.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial