Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A different Kind of Tale

In “In the Land of White Death” we are dealing with a completely different type of adventure narrative. Before I took this class, if you asked me what an adventure narrative was I would have stereotyped it as a diary-like account akin to this: A two year struggle with and against nature where survival was the main goal. I would have pictured a story that could be turned into a comic book for children. Why, then, did this book not enthrall me as much as the others? I struggled with this question throughout the narrative, and honestly, came to the conclusion that it did not have to do with the writing style but more with the fact that Albanov’s goal of survival wasn’t as fascinating as someone battling the more intricate, less biological instincts of mankind. For me, the most interesting part of this course has not been learning about crampons and crevasses, to what extent hypothermia can actually go. The interesting part has been trying to get into the heads of the adventurers, trying to figure them out. I usually think of myself as perceptive, someone who can read people pretty well. These adventures presented a challenge; I just couldn’t figure out some of the decisions they made and how they decided to recount their stories. Albonov, on the other hand, although I in some ways have the least in common with him, seemed very readable, very easy to “figure out”. All his actions were based on his survival instinct, and because his narrative comes from a diary he actually kept we don’t have to debate how much of it is “truth”, how much his memory altered. That is not to say he didn’t have his own biases whilst writing, but his account is merely one of an adventure; no alternative purposes existed.
            All that being said, the one narrative this did remind me of was Stickeen, mostly because of how he described nature. He goes into some intense imagery, “Our senses and our minds, at this unforgettable moment, were assailed by so many impressions that we thought we were living a fairy tale. And yet it was all true, everything was real... The silence of the frozen wilderness, occasionally broken by the strident cries of seagulls, had been replaced by a boisterous cacophony that was a joy to hear. Ringing echoes of Nature in all its exuberance resounded in our ears… It was a profound chorus, the hymn of life and the hymn of existence.” (Albanov, 110)
First of all he uses a capital N to describe nature, just like Stickeen did. Secondly, after all the trouble nature has caused them he still describes it in an almost divine manner. Many of the narratives we have read frame the mountain as the enemy, but here nature is not the enemy, death is. Albanov’s adventure is seeing how strong his body, both physically and mentally, are when put face to face with pure nature at its scariest. He speaks of the moment he reaches land as paralleling a fairy tale, and in my mind fairy tales and adventuring are linked. In my mind an adventure, just like a fairy tale, helps us escape our everyday lives and come in contact with the miraculous. The fairy tale ending is that he survived, but the adventure was akin to being in an alternate world, one where nature reigns, not man.

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