Sunday, November 11, 2018

Review - Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit

Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit
translated by Edward Field
illustrated by Mike Blanc
Date: 1998
Publisher: Vanita Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit is a modern translation (1965) of a very old Inuit creation story by nationally known poet Edward Field. As a poem it captures beautifully the intimate relationship this Arctic people have with their natural world.

Magic Words describes a world where humans and animals share bodies and languages, where the world of the imagination mixes easily with the physical. It began as a story that told how the Inuit people came to be and became a legend passed from generation to generation. In translation it grew from myth to poem. The text comes from expedition notes recorded by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in 1921. Edward Field got a copy from the Harvard Library and translated it into English.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a very short book. It's not so much a story as an introduction to an idea. It is, however, nicely illustrated. After reading this, I'm curious about other Inuit stories and beliefs. We get some tantalizing hints about shapeshifting and the magic of words, but since there really isn't a story here, that's about all we do get.

So it's a nice introduction to this Inuit idea; I wouldn't really call it a creation story, since the first lines are:

In the very earliest time,
When both people
and animals
lived on earth...

I'm curious to know if there's an actual creation story that happens before that (i.e., where did the earth and the people and the animals come from in the first place?).

Quotable moment:

Thank you to NetGalley and Vanita Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

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