Image: © Bastien Numakura
Author: Ann Dorothy Firmann
MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN AFTER STORY OR THE LEGEND OF INURLANGUT
To Mrs. Saville, England
19th May 1845
You will no doubt disapprove of this announcement but I hope you of all people will understand my reasons for such a decision. I have this day departed Greenhithe harbor with the HMS Terror under the command of Captain Franklin, and though I can’t wait for my grand adventure to take place, I leave with a heavy heart, knowing how you all dreaded my pursuit of what you consider to be a fool’s dream. It pains me to leave you all troubled but I hope that your anguished hearts might find peace in the perspective of my return.
I did try to tally with the family’s expectations regarding my future still I couldn’t stay watching my life pass before me, when there is so much to discover, so many new tribes to encounter, so many languages and cultures to study. Even though father had shown me great understanding when he let me continue my studies in this new field I enjoy so much, while working at his law firm, I strongly felt that this was not my rightful place, and that my life was destined for greater a purpose. I realised that had I renounced, all new discoveries in my field would have been painful wounds that with time would have no doubt turned me into a bitter man, jealous to see in others the courage he himself lacked. After all it was you who taught me that nothing was worse than living in regrets.
I have henceforth made my decision as any free man should. I was commissioned on this expedition based on my language skills, being at the same time clearly warned not to bother any crew member with my interests in indigenous people. As the Captain hinted the chances of a direct encounter are very small.
However, encounter of any sort might be of tremendous interest for me, as it might result in an opportunity to convince the board to finance my own scientific expedition. In any case, I will have plenty to observe and will acquire a better understanding of the climate the Arctic tribes endure. Of course there is always a risk of failure, however, something good always comes of such a voyage. After all, your brother wrote a book on his expedition that I dare say made him quite rich after his return. The perspective of following in his steps and being part of the expedition that will traverse the last not yet navigated section of the Northwest Passage is in itself a great achievement for me.
Both ships are sturdily built and were equipped with the latest inventions to tell you the truth I can hardly imagine how anything could happened to us on such solid and reliable vessels. The crew of the Terror is made of 128 of the best and most courageous men I ever met, and though I am to sleep in a common room with four crewmembers, which reduces the perspective of comfort, the company is nice and my essential needs are covered. My companions are lively men, and though they do not understand the use of a scholar like me on such a dangerous expedition we still enjoy trivial yet nice conversations.
Fear not for me, I will return safe and sound as Robert, your dear brother, did forty-five years ago. Such a great and important expedition is bound to succeed especially when I’m under the order of such an experienced and competent explorer as Captain Franklin.
I can’t end this letter without urging you to reassure mother and dear little Anna about my wellbeing. Please tell father how sad I am to have caused him such great disappointment, I hope you and mother might make him understand how vital this choice was for me, and that with time he will come to forgive such a stubborn son, as my three brothers are resolute to make him a proud father and, hopefully, a grandfather soon.
Sincerely, your Robert.
My Dear Grandmother,
I write to you knowing that you might probably never set eyes on this letter. In the depths of my despair I am reminded of you all, and of my own foolishness in ignoring your predictive warnings. Both our vessels are trapped by a sea of ice as far as human eyes can see. On sunny days we have been hearing rumbles and roars surrounding us as if the earth was cracking its knuckles endlessly. At first the crew was relieved to hear such sounds thinking the ice was finally setting us free but we have now been stuck for almost a year, and except those bloodcurdling sounds there is no reason to hope for a change in the immediate future. The food is rationed and groups are daily designated to hunt around, with not much success. Rapidly several brawls took place between crewmembers and some of the troublemakers had to be shut away in the bilge. Strong men started to get sick and some died in an instant like infants plagued by scarlet fever. After almost a year of cold, desolation, hunger and death, resignation marked faces as surely as death, and the crew started wandering around like cursed souls on a ghost ship.
What a fool have I been to ignore those rightful warnings delivered with such loving concern! I weep at the cruelty of fate, I who dreamed for so long to walk alongside my great uncle in a North Pole expedition, am now trapped in the same manner as he once was, without much hope of surviving. You showed me your correspondence during his journey as a warning but blind to my own faults I only saw in it a frightening ghost story, ignoring the fundamental warning it hold about self-contempt and pride. I, as Victor Frankenstein, took my dreams for reality and rushed in this adventure without further thoughts. But whatever pain and shame I hold, I am but responsible for my own fate, and am grateful not to have more responsibilities in this exploration.
Sorrow and concern weigh on Captain Franklin as the earth on Atlas’s shoulders. Even though we all chose to participate to this expedition, our Captain is responsible for his fellow companions’ lives. I therefore spend a great deal of time with him, as I consider it my duty to be useful in some way. I often suggested that I shall explore the area in search of a native tribe that might supply us with food and intelligence on how to inform the world of our dreadful situation. My proposition was politely turned down by the Captain at first till he clearly stated to me that: “As long as he lived no man under his command shall mingle with such savages”. You might imagine how disappointed I was to realise how much prejudice is held against these natives even in the eyes of one of the best educated and cultivated men in England.
Death seems to have cast its black veil on our expedition; men die weakly of sickness, despair, or exhaustion, and lately the reinforced hull of the Terror shows signs of weakness, it won’t take long for the ice to split our vessels open like hazelnuts. Yet it seems that I who was prone to illnesses as a child, am the only one death seems to willingly ignore. As I am quite useless in any manual task I was appointed to second the physicians in taking care of the sick and suffering, but however wretched the state of the patient I never got sick unlike my luckless companion Md. Haworth who died two months after I was appointed to him. I believe death takes even the best of us. This morning Captain Franklin’s second called on the remaining physician and we were appointed to the Captain’s cabin, as our dear protector and chief is lying in bed with a Typhoid fever. All water supplies have been replaced but it seems the constriction of the space added to the number of people on the ships have rendered the air rotten and poisonous. I have to resume my task, and attend on those who need comfort. It may well be my last task so see to the peaceful death of all the crew before my own.
6th March 1847
Captain Franklin is dead. After a long and painful fight against his condition he finally surrendered during the night. We were all devastated by the news. Today we will hold a ceremony in his honour, though we can’t bury him, we will do the same as for all the others, conserving him in an iced part of the ship, letting his body be mummified by the freezing temperature. It is strange how their bodies shrink like dried apricots. Some of the crew are now looking at every new death with hungry eyes, daily rations no longer fill the gap in our stomach, we are not far from starving, and we could use some fresh meat. The option was considered, our physician pointed out the risks of disease, but the matter was still put to a vote that was thankfully refused. Just the thought makes me stagger, I would rather die than stoop to so wretched an act as cannibalism. I won’t be able to bear it for much longer, hope of rescue has completely vanished by now, and living on this ship is more and more like waiting for my turn in a gigantic grave of ice. I now spend most of my time on deck, preferring the beauty of this desolated desert of ice under this deep blue sky to the fetid air and the ships of death that our vessels have become. I am resolute, my death is certain, the last sparks of hope died in me months ago. But the idea of dying on this ship, surrounded by living dead, corpses, cries, and death wheezes is unbearable. I would rather die outside; my body eaten by wild beasts, at least my last breath might be made of cold, pure, fresh air.
26th March 1847
I’m leaving! This morning I gathered my few belongings, and sat at a table to write these few lines. When I’m done, I will bid my adieu to my companions of misery and take my chances in the wild. Nothing keeps me here, our Captain is dead, and soon there will be more dead bodies than men on these vessels. I don’t have much hope for myself; I know I will die on this land. But I hope those men will be rescued, though we all stopped believing in this possibility a long time ago. If these are my last lines, I have but one regret that my death will be a source of misery for my loved one.
Robert A. Saville.
Today while I went through my belongings I found this diary, and thought of relating the main events of the last two years. A few hours after I had left the vessels of death, the bright and burning sun gave way to a snow storm that hit me out of nowhere. Instantly, the cold, peaceful, immaculate land that surrounded me turned into a dark, freezing hell. The snow was so thick that I couldn’t see my hands in front of my eyes. Slowly I sat on the snow waiting for death to take me.
I woke up in the most puzzling décor, my body firmly packed in a warm fur. It seemed that all my surroundings were bathed in a strange bluish light. After a while I realised I was actually staring at the ceiling of some sort of building, the material used was white and almost shiny, like made of peculiar opaque, white, glass. I was stretched out on a firm yet soft floor, and I could smell the characteristic odour of wood fire. I was still blurred by delirium when a nice cold hand was placed on my front head. That was when I realised that hunger no longer contracted my stomach, and cold no longer burned. I felt weak yet the doom that had followed me for I don’t know how long had vanished. I tried to sit up when a firm hand restrained me, followed by a flow of strange guttural sounds. An old woman appeared above me, her face was wrinkled and tanned like a piece of vellum, round and smiling, which wrinkled the corner of her eyes even more. Her long pepper and salt hair were tied in a long braid she wore on the side. She looked me straight in the eyes for quite some time before renewing the guttural sounds she previously made. She then pointed her finger at me, put one hand over the other before her separating them horizontally. My brain was not more efficient than a bowl of pudding at that time but I still understood she expected me to stay where I was, and lie down. I nodded stupidly and she took off whistling a particularly melancholic tune. This was my first encounter with my saviour.
It took me six months to recover, in what I guessed to be an Eskimo camp. The old lady cared for me all that time, I could often hear other voices muttering but she was the only one I saw till I was finally well enough to take a breath of fresh air. I realised then that the shelter in which I had spent my convalescence was actually an Igloo, one of several built in circle. My nurse was the only member of the community to approach me even after I had fully recovered. The women ignored me, the men showed curiosity while children looked at me suspiciously. But what terrified me the most at the time were the “wolves” who seemed to wander freely around the camp. I later learned they were in fact Arctic dogs.
It took me three more months to learn the basics of their language. I had always believed Inuit languages to be somewhat similar to one of the many languages I mastered but I discovered a specific language of incredible richness. The old woman was a patient yet strict instructor, teaching me to speak as if I was a particularly slow type of student. One night she sat in front of the fire intimating me to tell her my story. She then told me that she had found me alone in the snow on the verge of hypothermia. She brought me to her village and cared for me.
When she found me I was in quite an awful shape, my body was exhausted and my recovery longer than expected. I then told her about my companions and the vessels trapped in snow, on hearing it she went out and came back with five tiny yet strongly built men. They listened carefully and took off for the night, the following day at dawn an entire rescue team had formed. I sat on one of their sledges and we took off. After several days of search we finally located Victoria Strait and the two vessels. At the sight of them I immediately understood we were too late, the ships had been abandoned for at least two weeks. The Eskimos told me that another tribe had reported finding a cave with several bodies of strange men; I was now undoubtedly the last survivor of the Franklin expedition.
Today I was offered a woman, Chena. It is a tradition for my hosts to supply any foreigner with a woman, though this might be considered a barbarous act in England, this tradition is actually based on scientific grounds. As I found out the village that took me in is actually composed only by members of a single family. Therefore giving a girl to foreigners is a way for the village to renew blood and insure the best offspring possible. For that purpose men when in age go visit other tribes in search for a bride that they will bring back with them.
The chief of this family is my saviour; here everybody calls her Aanak, which means grandmother. She was the one who chose Chena for me. I must admit I was a bit intimidated at first but Chena is a lively girl with a heavenly laugh, her hair is pitch black and her skin quite fair. Chena’s father helped me to build an igloo for us. It is strange how these people who know nothing of me accepted me like one of them. They are all very patient with me, and though I am quite convinced I will never be more than an awful hunter, my fishing skills improve daily.
It is strange, now that I am surrounded by the subjects of my studies in ethnology, writing has become a burden. I would rather experience this life, immerge myself in it rather than look at it from a scientific viewpoint. I fancy this life more and more. In England I was unable to fix myself on one occupation, my mind always attracted by something else, I had no idea life could be so soothing. The strong wind has become a lullaby to my ears. My daily occupations are simple; the physical work I dreaded so much before has turned out to provide me new strength and sharpened my mind. The cold atmosphere is like a continuous source of stamina and the desert of ice I could see from the boats, turned out to be a source of unexpected livelihood. Chena is pregnant with our second child and we are going to get married, it will take place during the next gathering.
Every year tribes assemble to hunt the big and mighty whales. On this occasion they celebrate unions, tell stories, and exchange knowledge, techniques and so on. Last year Aanak asked me to stay with her and help her watch over the camp while the others were away. She convoked me this morning and announced that as I am now considered as part of the family I was henceforth allowed to not only witness but take part in it. The openness of this culture always amazes me, I now feel as Inuit as I could be and have no desire to go back to my previous life. The other tribes will start arriving in a few weeks and our village is now agitated by the preparations. Children can’t wait to meet with friends they haven’t seen for a long time and Chena won’t stop talking about how her friends will envy her new happiness. I must admit being the source of his wife’s pride is a wonderful sensation for a man.
The tribes arrived over a month ago. The hunts were more than fruitful, and they will soon part from us and return to their camp. I am actually in a state of unprecedented confusion, last night I was told the story of Inurlangut, or the legendary giant man. During the night the strangest dream captured me and I realise I was told the story of a well-known wretch my grandmother told me about before I departed for Artic. I will convey to you this story as it was told to me.
Long ago a Angakkuq (1) of outstanding power was born among the Inuit. He spoke to animal and spirit and was respected and feared. After choosing a wife he decided to set his igloo outside of her village. On the night of his first son’s birth Igaluk (2) appeared to him: “Nanook (3) wanders the land, your Igloo is his prey. Search for Inurlangut, he is the child of Akna (4) that was torn from her womb. Angakkup lineage depends on him”.
Wise and devoted Angakkuq got out of his igloo, all was silent, Igaluk’s round and pallid face illuminating the earth. Amarok5 cried in the night and Angakkuq followed his grieving.After several hours he found a gigantic dark form lying on the snow. Coming closer he noticed the strange and repulsive appearance of the giant, withstanding his looks was hard in itself but Angakkuq knew better than to judge on appearances. He tied the colossal being to his back and pulled him to his Igloo, the prodigious being was heavy and dawn was already breaking when they arrived. Inurlangut’s body was as cold as ice but Angakkuq knew life hadn’t entirely left him. He set a heating fire inside and wrapped the stranger into the biggest fur he could find.
Angakkuq’s wife was scared but knew her husband to be a wise and intelligent man, she however forbade young Adlartok, their five year old daughter to approach Inurlangut.
After two days the body of the giant had regained vitality and on the third day his eyes opened. The giant seemed lost at first but soon his face showed the most pitiful, sorrowful expression, Angakkuq had seen this look on men before, it was the expression of those who had lost everything, even humanity.
Suddenly the giant jumped on his feet and ran off outside. Angakkuq’s wife who was outside screamed as if she had seen death itself, Angakkuq ran after the stranger and saw the most insufferable scene: Adlartok was playing on the shore and not ten feet from her an enormous polar bear raised himself up ready to charge. Angakkuq was powerless and as his daughter looked at him the polar bear attacked. In an instant he was on her, about to tear her head off with one strike, when the giant appeared behind him, gripped the beast and with a movement of the hips threw it in the water.
Inurlangut was about to run away again when Adlartok grabbed his hand, her face taking refuge in his rags. Angakkuq couldn’t let him go anymore for he understood the God’s words; Inurlangut was to be his daughter’s protector, in her lay the destiny of his lineage. Inurlangut stayed with Angakkuq’s family and became the little girl’s best friend, she taught him Inuit, the language of spirit and how things are more than what they appear to be. Inurlangut on the other hand did his best to help them and the entire village soon discovered how useful such a strong and resistant fellow could be. Of course his face did not inspire sympathy at first glance but Inurlangut turned out to be as kind and attentive on the inside as he was monstrous on the outside.
One day he confided to Angakkuq his wretched past, considering himself unworthy of the attention and love he received but Angakkuq explained to him that a man can only give what he himself received. As Inurlangut received nothing but fear and hatred he could not give anything else. Frankenstein’s demon had died following his master.
Inurlangut was then able to be reborn, a man gave him life but it was Akna who guided him here to this place where he could be revived as a creature of Mother Nature.
Adlartok became the greatest Angakkuq ever known, she never chose a husband and lived all her life with Inurlangut, when she had spent all the years her life contained, she died followed by her dear giant. It is said they still watch over the Inuit tribes and will till the end of time.
Here ends the tale of Victor Frankenstein’s creature.
I am now writing the last line of my adventure; once I’m finished I will travel to the nearest fur-trading post and send this diary. You shall never see me again, to be honest I don’t even know if you are still alive, but writing to you kept me from insanity and I owe the family into which I was born the truth. As Inurlangut did, I found the place where I belong. I am conscious this letter will only revive the pain of my disappearance but at least you will all know I am alive and happy. Please share the tale of our unfortunate mission with the world so that my companion’s family might find closure. The ships are still in the Victoria Strait containing bodies that deserve graves.
I now know it was faith that made me board the HMS Terror, I had to witness the useless purposes of our society to be able to understand the true beauty of Inuit’s lives. Humans are made to live as men not as Gods, I wish one day western society will understand that earth does not belongs to us, we belong to earth.
Forever with you in heart, yours sincerely.
Robert A. Saville
(2) The moon god
(3) Master of polar bears
(4) Goddess of fertility
(5) The Wolf spirit