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Farley Mowat

From the 1981 film Ten Million Books: An Introduction to Farley Mowat
National Film Board of Canada

For many years, Farley Mowat has written of the lands, seas and peoples of the Far North with humor, understanding and compassion. Born in Belleville, Ontario in 1921, Mowat grew up in Belleville, Trenton, Windsor, Saskatoon, Toronto and Richmond Hill as his librarian father moved a household that included a miniature menagerie around the country. During World War II Mowat served in the army, entering as a private and emerging with the rank of captain.

Following his discharge, Mowat renewed his interest in the Canadian Arctic, an area he had first visited as a young man with an ornithologist uncle. He began writing for his living in 1949 after spending two years in the Arctic. His first novel, People of the Deer, published in 1952, described the plight of the Ihalmiut, inland Eskimos of Keewatin District in the Northwest Territories. A profoundly moving story, People of the Deer made Mowat a literary celebrity and contributed to a shift in the Canadian government's Inuit policy: the government began shipping meat and dry goods to a people they previously denied existed. In 1963, Mowat wrote an account of his experiences in the Canadian Arctic with Arctic wolves entitled Never Cry Wolf. The book was instrumental in changing popular attitudes about wolves.

Mowat published a denunciation of "the destruction of animal life in the north Atlantic" entitled Sea of Slaughter in 1984. In 1985, as a part of the promotional tour for this book, Mowat accepted an invitation to speak in California. However, U.S. customs officials in Toronto denied Mowat entry to the United States. Mowat documented the reasons why he was refused entry to the United States in his 1985 book, My Discovery of America.

Mowat has said of himself, "I am a Northern Man . . . I like to think I am a reincarnation of the Norse saga men and, like them, my chief concern is with the tales of men, and other animals, living under conditions of natural adversity." Mowat was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship RV Farley Mowat was named in his honour.

Farley Mowat's 38 books have been published in 24 languages and have sold more than 14 million copies throughout the world. His books include:

  • The People of the Deer
  • The Desperate People
  • Never Cry Wolf
  • Lost in the Barrens
  • Sea of Slaughter
  • A Whale for the Killing
  • Death of a People-the Ihalmiut
  • My Discovery of America
  • Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey
  • Woman in the Mists
  • The New Founde Land
  • The Farfarers
  • No Man's River

Reader Comments on Farley Mowat's Books

Sean Craft, Box 1090, Bragg Creek, AB TOL OKO, Jun 2001

Dear Farley Mowat, I am a fourteen and two months and I go to Springbank community high school. I am a special needs boy and I am taking a lot of courses like wildlife, English, math, P.E., and computer classes.. When I am at home I watch television, play on the computer and play my N64 nintendo games like Turok Two and Three. Mr. Mowat the part in the book that I like is the parade. In the parade I like weeps and wol dress in dolls clothes and mutt look like a tame lion with a lions mane around his neck. Another part I like is wol stealing mutt dinner and bone away where he couldn't reach, most of all wol like to play the tail squeeze game and mutt would yelp. I like the parts because they made me happy and sad. Mr. Mowat If you are starting to write a new book I would be delighted to read your book if you can make copies of it. When I read your first book it was the most spectacular book that made me feel good. At the end of the book I felt a little sad. When I was finish with the book the best part was expressing my thoughts. When some of your newest book come in I will start reading your work again and will write another letter to you. Thank you Mr. Mowat. Sincerely, Sean Craft. P.S. One of my teachers knows Vera who used to live beside you in Saskatchewan. She told us what happened to the owls after the end of the book. That made me feel sorry for you. *Note: This is truly the first book which Sean has ever taken the initiative to read on his own without being coerced or cajoled into reading. This is a huge milestone for him, as is the cogent writing of his "fan letter" to you, and the expression of feelings. Thank you so much. Linda Williams, Special Needs Assistant.

GH Schaller, Halifax NS, Jan 2001

I read The Farfarers shortly after it was published and was very impressed by Mr. Mowat's hypothesis and his explanations for the origin some of the more mysterious aspects of the nothern artifacts. So simple and plausible a theory rings of the truth. I spent a number of years in the arctic in the sixties and now wish I had travelled to some of the sites he mentioned. Yesterday I came across a 1998 edition of Canadian Geographicthat published exerpts from his book which rekindled my interest. I remember being struck at the time by the lack of references to his theories during the celebrations last year in Newfoundland comemorating the one thousandth anniversary of the Viking settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows. I work with a number of young professionals from Newfoundland and most of them do not know, when asked, of the Jakatars (let alone the cairns lying in ruin by St. George's Bay). It seems to me that there is very likely a wealth of archeological and anthropological material in need of study and preservation that is being ignored by mainstream scholars. Can anyone give me an update, is anyone running with the ball that Farley has so deftly tossed into the air?

Chris Kavanaugh, Earth First! Sea Shepherd, Buffalo Field Campaign, Jan 2001

I discovered Mowat while serving in the USCG in Alaska.The world looks different when people like him take off the snow goggles of this thing called civilization. I am hopelessly committed to a lost youth and grumpy middle aged activism. Thank you Farley.

Ibsen Birgers, Pueblo Colorado, USA, Dec 2000

Enjoyed The Farfarers very much. Mowat's attempt at putting flesh and blood on the bones of inexplicable remnants of, presumably, pre-caucasian Europeans, so that they might be logically linked, is fascinating. It is one of those works (I'm thinking here of The Zuni Connection: A native American People's Possible Japanese Connection by Nancy Yaw Davis) that demands a lot of research to collect accredited historical "facts", proofs and other evidence in order to make a likely case for the author's argument. The proofs -- the flesh and blood -- , aside from the thesis -- the bones -- , are engaging. But the story also establishes that the existence of a pre-caucasian group inhabiting Europe, whether true or not, was wholly possible. Farfarers also challenges us to look at western Europe and the north eastern part of North America through a different lens, and not just one that focuses on, say, the Norse or the Celts, and their journeys and landfalls.

Doug McGregor, Manitoba Museum of Man & Nature, Aug 1998

In Farley Mowat's Ordeal by Ice, readers are introduced to the perils of Arctic exploration. His transcription of Capt. John Ross's Second Narrative of a Voyage in Search of a Northwest Passage reveals a tale of benevolence that is rather unique. Your readers will be familiar with the story of the Inuk hunter who, having lost his leg to a polar bear, received a wooden replacement from Capt. Ross as a good will gesture. I would like your readers to know that the wooden leg has survived (though in fragile condition) to this day and still bears the inscription "Victory/ 1830". Pending gallery design, visitors to the Manitoba Museum may be able to view it in the year 2000. I can think of no other artifact that truly symbolizes one of the more positive aspects of European/ Native encounters.

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