I knew nothing about Ludwig Kohl-Larsen before finding his book about the migration of Lapps in Northern Norway among my travel books. My interest was aroused because I have seen a breathtaking documentary of Bruce Parry about the migration of the Nenets in Siberia last year and the way of life of these Northern tribes, along with the magical landscape stuck to my head for a long time. I seriously encourage everyone to watch the show and read the book for some not depicted details. Kohl-Larsen’s tale tells the story of the journey of Lapps and their herd of reindeers to their summer breeding fields by the North Sea. My copy was publishes in 1958, so the anthropoligist’s visit must have taken place before that time when modernism has still left these areas of the world quite untouched. LKL is said to be a pioneer of cultural anthropology and is pragmatic about the description of daily life, but deliberatly avoids dry scientific terms to enhance the readability of his travel journal. Some of his cross-cultural encounters made me smile. Imagine an ascetic German revolting over the cruelty and harshness of Lapps. A real treat.
Apart from the uplifting tale of the legendary migration, you can find some deliciously truthful facts about the circumstances (the best part I think):
– Every woman is called Berit. Well most in the story anyway.
– Among the cold, the wind, the snow, these people eat discusting meals with appetite. Some of my favourites are the “blood balls”, the intesine snacks and reindeer tounges. All served with fur. Oh, and traditionally they keep the ingredients in “reindeer stomach bags”. Don’t ask.
– Not truly surprisingly regarding their poor circumstances, the Lapps are terribly mingy and hide everything even from their own families. Stealing is not really a sin, more a warmly welcomed skill. They are increadibly shameful of this though afterwards.
– Lapps take no water with them for the journey, they just eat the snow if they are thirtsy. Or they drink coffee. A lot. With salt. Out of a plate.
– Cooties everywere, no bath, but wonderful teeth.
-”Buris, buris” means good day!
– The ear of dogs is cut back, so that they could hear their masters better.
Ludwing Kohl-Larsen most famous works however are not about the cold parts of the world but about the hot territories, like Africa. He was a great anthropologist even if his political views were somewhat reprehensible.
(Der Grosse Zug Nach Mittelnacht – Eine Wanderung mit den Lappen zum Nördlichen Eismeer)