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Magic Words

From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the

Illustration by Mike Blanc


A word spoken by chance Might have strange consequences.

It would suddenly come alive And what people wanted to happen could happen

All you had to do was say it.

DS WOR Magic WORDS MAGIC of the Inuit From the Ancient Oral Tradition


The Inuit people, whom I had previously thought of as Eskimos, became a reality to me in the 1960s when I was asked to create a book of poems out of the notebooks of the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen’s 1920s expeditions to this remarkable people living north of the Arctic Circle. From his observations and jottings, much of it transcribed verbatim from Inuit people themselves, I selected passages that had the mark of traditional retellings of Inuit history and cosmology – and when I spotted the lines in Rasmussen’s rough translation that became Magic Words, I knew that this poem came from the soul of the Inuit people. In fact, Magic Words became my most successful Inuit translation, one that has met with a wide response for the lost and extraordinary truth it reveals. The artist Mike Blanc has here beautifully captured in his illustrations the pure spirit, the essence of Inuit art to illuminate this gem of Inuit wisdom for our children, who more than anyone are responsive to the magical power of words and images. I can only congratulate book publisher Vanita Oelschlager for bringing this beautiful edition of the ancient Inuit poem I had the honor to discover and translate to the children and to their parents who will read it to them.




Magic Words

Edward Field author of Songs and Stories of the Eskimos



Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit  

Describes a world where humans and animals share bodies and languages, where the world of the imagination mixes easily with the physical.

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