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Takkorngartaub ArvertarningaPilgrim’s Progress translated into Inuktitut

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was first printed in England in 1678.  It was the work of a former itinerant mender of pots and pans turned preacher, and was probably completed during a period of imprisonment:  Bunyan spent the better part of twelve years in jail for illegal preaching.

Since Bunyan’s time, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which recounts the allegorical journey of its hero “Christian” away from the “City of Destruction” on his way to the “Celestial City,” has become one of the most reprinted books ever.  Among Protestant missionaries, it was the text most often translated after the Bible.  In 1956, the Reverend Maurice S. Flint prepared a translation of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress into Inuktitut.  This was not the first version made for the aboriginal peoples of northern Canada:  in 1901, a Moravian missionary, Christian Schmitt, published a translation also titled Takkorngartaub Arvertarninga for the people of northern Labrador.  Flint, a former Anglican missionary on Baffin Island who was, by the 1950s, serving in a parish church in Toronto, put an abridged version of Bunyan’s allegory into the syllabic characters that had been adapted from the Cree writing system for use by the Inuit of the eastern Arctic.  Flint’s edition was published by Diocese of the Arctic in 1956.  Unlike the earlier 1901 translation, which borrowed generic “European” illustrations from other missionary translations, Flint’s version was supplied with original illustrations in which Bunyan’s characters appear in furs and sun goggles - all except Christian, who dons medieval armour at the point of his conversion.

The current Bishop of the Arctic, the Right Reverend Andrew P. Atagotaaluk, recalls that Takkorngartaub Arvertarninga  “was one of the most popular reading materials for Inuit in Maurice Flint’s day when not much reading material was available in Inuktitut” and notes that, although the book is no longer being produced, the Diocese of the Arctic still receives requests for copies (letter of 5 July 2004).

- Sylvia Brown