Peter Freuchen: the most interesting man in the world

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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3rd February, 2014 Leave a Comment

Peter Freuchen and wife Dagmar Freuchen-Gale. Photo/Irving Penn

An entrancing photograph has been doing the rounds online.

Taken by American photographer Irving Penn, it features an enormous, bearded, one-legged man, wrapped in an even more enormous bearskin coat; an enigmatic woman sitting alongside, as if in a different picture completely.

Who is he? His name is Peter Freuchen, explains veteran blogger Jason Kottke, and he is a “top candidate for the Most Interesting Man in the World”.

The 60-second biography, from Kottke:

Standing six feet seven inches, Freuchen was an Arctic explorer, journalist, author, and anthropologist. He participated in several Arctic journeys (including a 1000-mile dogsled trip across Greenland), starred in an Oscar-winning film, wrote more than a dozen books (novels and nonfiction, including his Famous Book of the Eskimos), had a peg leg (he lost his leg to frostbite in 1926; he amputated his gangrenous toes himself), was involved in the Danish resistance against Germany, was imprisoned and sentenced to death by the Nazis before escaping to Sweden, studied to be a doctor at university, his first wife was Inuit and his second was a Danish margarine heiress, became friends with Jean Harlow and Mae West, once escaped from a blizzard shelter by cutting his way out of it with a knife fashioned from his own faeces, and, last but certainly not least, won $64,000 on The $64,000 Question.

The full text of his autobiography, Vagrant Viking, is online here. Its introductory blurb:

Peter Freuchen modestly looks upon himself as a vagrant. But the world knows him for what he is: an indomitable Viking, an illustrious explorer, a fearless and irrepressible wanderer into the unknown. Now, at last, he has found time to tell his whole fabulous story, and here it is, packed with fantastic, experiences, taut with drama, sparkling with earthy humour and anecdotes.


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