Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Solitude - a cautionary tale

My flatmate is moving on to greener pastures, leaving me to cope with the various ghosts and spectres of the apartment by myself.

As I ready myself for a return to a solitary life, I came across the cautionary tale of a Greenland fur trapper in The Adventurer's Handbook.


An old trapper, Gustav, had taken on a young assistant, Olav, for the season. Olav was excellent company, being naturally lively and talkative. Sadly, however, he lacked the robustness of constitution required for surviving a Greenland winter and, after a month or two, he fell ill and died.

Trappers being, by necessity, fairly unsentimental, Gustav buried Olav and carried on with his work. The trappers had been completely isolated and a ship to collect their furs was not expected until the following summer.

After a while, Gustav grew to miss his erstwhile companion's gay banter so, with no other prospect of company, he dug Olav's body up and sat it a table in his cabin.

Naturally, dead Olav wasn't nearly as talkative as live Olav, plus Gustav was overwhelmed with shame. So he buried the body again. Whereupon he felt terribly lonely again. So he dug it up again. And so on.

Suffering from a terrible guilty conscience, Gustav became convinced that his companion's spirit was haunting him, so he dug the body up one last time and shot it through the head, then buried it again.

When the ship arrived to collect the season's haul of furs, the crew found Gustav quite agitated and, hearing that his companion had died, they took Gustav and the sadly abused cadaver back to Denmark, where Gustav was charged with murder on account of the apparent gunshot wound Olav's head.


There is, thankfully, a happy ending to this tale: an autopsy bore Gustav out in his claim to have shot the body after death. The murder charge was dropped and Gustav instead found himself in an insane asylum.

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