"Magic Words" is a contemporary translation (1965) by poet Edward Field of an ancient Inuit creation myth. The original text comes from expedition notes recorded by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in 1921. Visit our Inuit Art collection to purchase art that embodies the magic described in this poem.
Edward Field (after Nalungiaq)
In the very earliest time,
When both people and animals lived on earth,
A person could become an animal if he wanted to
And an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
And sometimes animals
And there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
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.
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.