My Arctic Library : Men Of The Frozen North

I had a thought a couple of months ago…’I wonder if I could collect all the books ever published in English about the Arctic?’ The thought made my blood tingle and my heart get all over excited.

Within moments of having the thought, a new dream was born. I decided that, no matter how long it would take me, I WOULD, one day, own every work of Arctic literature published in my native tongue.

I own probably around 60 books about The Arctic – though the number I’ve read reaches into the hundreds. Thank fuck for libraries is all I have to say. I have no idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for libraries. When I say libraries save lives, I really mean it.

Anyway…once I’d had the idea of building up an ultimate Arctic library, I jettisoned myself over to Facebook and Instagram where I put my idea out into the open, and asked if anyone would be willing to part with their own Arctic literature to help me establish my library proper.

I wasn’t too surprised when nobody joined the conversation…I mean, not everyone is so into the Arctic that they have a collection of books dedicated to the northern most part of earth.

But then…then I received a lovely message from one FB friend, Iris, from America. She sent a photo of Men of the Frozen North by Peter Freuchen and said ‘would you like it?’ I was a bit overcome and nearly burst into tears before replying I’d love it! When I asked about the postage to Sweden she said not to worry. My heart wanted to pop out and give her a bloody, juicy hug.

Hardly a week later and there was a package for me. A heavy package. A package that definitely contained more than a book. After breaking through the dense sellotape seal and thick cardboard I found a treasury of gifts.

I pulled them out, one by one. Each was wrapped in black tissue paper and exquisite silver ribbon. There was even a tiny handmade coffin box holding two of the gifts. A handmade coffin box! For me! 

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My tattoo written in Elder Futhark reads ‘Proceed from the dream outward.’ (Carl Jung)

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The parrot feather is my book mark for this journey.

I stood there for about ten minutes, looking at this beautiful bounty. I could feel the salt water gathering on my eyeballs. The kindness, the mother freaking kindness was just so much! The package was so exquisitely prepared, the gifts – which included a water buffalo tooth, a parrot feather, several bars of handmade chocolate, a hand made witch patch and several packets of jerky – so lovingly considered.

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When I’d gathered myself, I explored Men of the Frozen North. I smelt it. It hummed deliciously of old bookshop and was in immaculate condition for a book that’s older than my mother. (It was published in 1962.) I examined the contents page while squealing excitedly about what I was going to discover. (I was particularly excited about Part IV The Lapps as my knowledge there is a little weak.) I fanned through the pages, my eyes darting over words, illustrations and photographs. You’d have thought I’d never seen a book before.

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Men of the Frozen North was written by Peter Freuchen – his life-worn portrait on the back cover of the book is deeply humbling – a Danish explorer, author and anthropologist. He’s renowned for his role in Arctic exploration, in particular the Thule Expeditions. He was also a serious badass, the sort of badass we rarely see in today’s world.

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The 6ft 7 Dane wore a coat made from the skin of a polar bear he’d killed himself, he amputated his own toes with no anesthesia and once, when trapped in a tomb of ice after being caught in a blizzard, made a knife out of his own shit and carved his way out to safety. Needless to say, I’m pretty fucking excited about what’s going to unfold when I start powering my way through Men of the Frozen North.

If you think you might be able to contribute to my Arctic Library and be a part of this ambitious dream, let me know in the comments or you can send a note to katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk I would be ever so grateful!

 

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