A Sámi language researcher living in Norway came up with a brilliant suggestion recently. He said that Donald Duck comic books ought to be translated into the Sámi language, as they once were in the 1980s.
We hope that Nils Øyvind Helander, a Sámi language researcher, succeeds in putting the noble comic book back into the hands of Sámi-speaking children — and their parents.
“The simple texts are the first door to the world of the written word,” journalist Aslak Mikal Mienna of Norway’s Sámi radio network said in support of Helander’s idea, on the grounds that Donald Duck would be more useful for people to read than government documents.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. We hope that someone, preferably someone with talent and some access to grant money, does the same thing in Inuktitut.
Why not? Some of the brightest people in Nunavut are interpreter-translators. But many are obliged to waste their God-given brilliance on the translation of garbage written in English into garbage written in Inuktitut. To get a taste of what we mean by this, view any issue of the Nunavut Hansard or a copy of the Bathurst Mandate.
Wouldn’t it be more socially useful, though, to have Nunavut’s talented language workers expend at least part of their energies on producing stuff that people actually want to read? Besides, you’re likely to find more wisdom and common sense within the pages of a single comic book than in a hundred government reports.
Comic books, comic strips and animated cartoons may use the techniques of modern technology and mass reproduction, but they perform an ancient function: the telling of mythical tales. They give modern people a chance to revel in the kinds of stories their distant ancestors once told each other while sitting around the fire at night — stories where animals talk to each other like human beings and magic happens.
Kids understand this instinctively — adults too.
Surely, the narrative content of Inuit legend could be fitted easily into media like the comic book and the animated cartoon. Some creative people in Nunavut have already recognized this.
For example, Igloolik Isuma Productions is looking into the production of plastic action-figure toys based on characters in Atanarjuat, an idea borrowed from the comic book industry. Alootook Ipellie, the Iqaluit artist and writer who now lives in Ottawa, was heavily influenced by comic books he read as a child, and created some comic-strip characters of his own, such as “Nuna” and “Vut.” Yet another example was the famous “Super Shamou,” who many of us remember fondly as the Inuit Superman created by the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation in the 1980s.
So should Donald Duck be translated into Inuktitut? You bet. So should Spiderman, Wonder Woman and Batman.
As well, the rich world of Inuit legend contains enough material to create an entire library’s worth of comic books — an ideal resource for all those educators who are wringing their hands over the lack of Inuktitut teaching materials.