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Freddy Frieda Goes To War


Yes, Virginia maid, there was a Freddy Frieda and he served in the Great War.

Other than that, most of what Earl B. Pilgrim writes in Freddy Frieda Goes to War [DRC Publishing] is fiction; entertaining, but fiction nonetheless.

In August of 1915 Doctor Wilfred Grenfell arrived in Hopedale as part of his final trip to Labrador before he went overseas to France as a medical doctor for the British army. While in Hopedale, Doctor Grenfell spoke with Frederick Frieda, a young Inuit hunter who, because of his association with the Moravian missionaries, spoke German.

At the time, the people of Labrador — with good reason, I s’pose — revered Doctor Grenfell. They handy about worshiped the ground he trod on, to the point that some folks — Freddy’s mother for instance — “… didn’t feel worthy to look into his face.”

I am familiar with this ubiquitous reverence. My step-grandfather, who, by the way, as a young fellow, served on the renowned Strathcona, even on his deathbed spoke of Doctor Grenfell with veneration. Granny sometimes said less respectfully regarding Pop’s constantly singing praises for the mythical Doctor Grenfell: “He thinks the sun shined out of Grenfell’s arse.”

Be all that as it may, Sir Wilfred — yes siree, Sir; Good King George knighted Grenfell in 1927 — encouraged Freddy Frieda to enlist, to use his knowledge of German to become a British spy. Before you could say komatick, Freddy was stuffing his pack-sack and lacing up his boot in preparation for kicking Ol’ Kaiser Billy’s butt.

Freddy hugged his mother, kissed his sweetheart, scravelled up the gangway and sailed off to war … well to St. Anthony anyway, on the Strathcona with Doctor Grenfell.

There comes a point in the book where Freddy, now more or less a spy, sails from Folkestone, England, with his buddies to infiltrate German lines posing as a group of civilian engineers employed to do bridge repairs.

Something stranger than usual — maybe stranger, who’s to say? — happened as I read on from that point.

Every image in my noggin faded to black and white as if some old war movie spooled behind my eyes. Although instead of Gregory Peck and his Hollywood henchmen slip-sliding behind enemy lines, this was a young Newfoundlander and his companions placing themselves in harm’s way. Imagining those young fellows — albeit in black and white with a tinge of sepia — in danger made the story feel more realistic, intrinsically more intense than if it were Greg and his movie star cohorts trembling in their boots as a German officer inspected falsified papers.

Anyway…

Earl Pilgrim has created a dandy bad guy to perpetrate some specific/personal villainy. Son of Moravian missionaries, Karl Hausser, once Freddy’s boyhood friend in Hopedale has become an evil captain in the German army. He is now a merciless killer, capable of blowing a man’s brains out after first torturing him.

No surprise, Karl and Freddy run in to each other during the war. Whether or not they encounter each other after the war you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Alright, I’ll give a hint. Watch for a folding kayak, an early ingenious German invention, p’raps forecasting the practical effectiveness of the latter day Volkswagen Bug.

Freddy Frieda Goes To War is, after all, a war story, eh b’ys?

I swallowed a chuckle when I heard — in my mind’s ear so to speak — Reverend Jens deliver one of the most hackneyed definitions of war: “War is hell.”

That’s not to say just because an expression is cliché that it’s wrong. Oftentimes clichés are born from universal truths.

Earl Pilgrim also has a character ask one of the saddest — perhaps the saddest question — that can be asked in the aftermath of war: “Poor Julian is dead and what was it for?”

What was it for?!

The moment I heard this question John Prine commenced singing an old song of his — Hello in There: “We lost Davy in the Korean War/Still don’t know what for.”

All in all Earl B. Pilgrim has taken a scrap of history — Freddy Frieda’s service in the Newfoundland Regiment — and created an interesting, imaginative story around it.

That’s allowed.

But, hey, even after a 10-minute exhaustive search over at Mr. Google’s house, I’m left with a nagging question.

So…

Mr. Pilgrim, during the First World War, were Moravian missionaries really interned in prison camps in Mount Pearl?

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com

Other than that, most of what Earl B. Pilgrim writes in Freddy Frieda Goes to War [DRC Publishing] is fiction; entertaining, but fiction nonetheless.

In August of 1915 Doctor Wilfred Grenfell arrived in Hopedale as part of his final trip to Labrador before he went overseas to France as a medical doctor for the British army. While in Hopedale, Doctor Grenfell spoke with Frederick Frieda, a young Inuit hunter who, because of his association with the Moravian missionaries, spoke German.

At the time, the people of Labrador — with good reason, I s’pose — revered Doctor Grenfell. They handy about worshiped the ground he trod on, to the point that some folks — Freddy’s mother for instance — “… didn’t feel worthy to look into his face.”

I am familiar with this ubiquitous reverence. My step-grandfather, who, by the way, as a young fellow, served on the renowned Strathcona, even on his deathbed spoke of Doctor Grenfell with veneration. Granny sometimes said less respectfully regarding Pop’s constantly singing praises for the mythical Doctor Grenfell: “He thinks the sun shined out of Grenfell’s arse.”

Be all that as it may, Sir Wilfred — yes siree, Sir; Good King George knighted Grenfell in 1927 — encouraged Freddy Frieda to enlist, to use his knowledge of German to become a British spy. Before you could say komatick, Freddy was stuffing his pack-sack and lacing up his boot in preparation for kicking Ol’ Kaiser Billy’s butt.

Freddy hugged his mother, kissed his sweetheart, scravelled up the gangway and sailed off to war … well to St. Anthony anyway, on the Strathcona with Doctor Grenfell.

There comes a point in the book where Freddy, now more or less a spy, sails from Folkestone, England, with his buddies to infiltrate German lines posing as a group of civilian engineers employed to do bridge repairs.

Something stranger than usual — maybe stranger, who’s to say? — happened as I read on from that point.

Every image in my noggin faded to black and white as if some old war movie spooled behind my eyes. Although instead of Gregory Peck and his Hollywood henchmen slip-sliding behind enemy lines, this was a young Newfoundlander and his companions placing themselves in harm’s way. Imagining those young fellows — albeit in black and white with a tinge of sepia — in danger made the story feel more realistic, intrinsically more intense than if it were Greg and his movie star cohorts trembling in their boots as a German officer inspected falsified papers.

Anyway…

Earl Pilgrim has created a dandy bad guy to perpetrate some specific/personal villainy. Son of Moravian missionaries, Karl Hausser, once Freddy’s boyhood friend in Hopedale has become an evil captain in the German army. He is now a merciless killer, capable of blowing a man’s brains out after first torturing him.

No surprise, Karl and Freddy run in to each other during the war. Whether or not they encounter each other after the war you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Alright, I’ll give a hint. Watch for a folding kayak, an early ingenious German invention, p’raps forecasting the practical effectiveness of the latter day Volkswagen Bug.

Freddy Frieda Goes To War is, after all, a war story, eh b’ys?

I swallowed a chuckle when I heard — in my mind’s ear so to speak — Reverend Jens deliver one of the most hackneyed definitions of war: “War is hell.”

That’s not to say just because an expression is cliché that it’s wrong. Oftentimes clichés are born from universal truths.

Earl Pilgrim also has a character ask one of the saddest — perhaps the saddest question — that can be asked in the aftermath of war: “Poor Julian is dead and what was it for?”

What was it for?!

The moment I heard this question John Prine commenced singing an old song of his — Hello in There: “We lost Davy in the Korean War/Still don’t know what for.”

All in all Earl B. Pilgrim has taken a scrap of history — Freddy Frieda’s service in the Newfoundland Regiment — and created an interesting, imaginative story around it.

That’s allowed.

But, hey, even after a 10-minute exhaustive search over at Mr. Google’s house, I’m left with a nagging question.

So…

Mr. Pilgrim, during the First World War, were Moravian missionaries really interned in prison camps in Mount Pearl?

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at ghwalters663@gmail.com

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