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List Of Contents | Contents of Letters From High Latitudes, by Lord Dufferin
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while a few pretend to discover a relationship between
the Lapp language and the dialects of the Australian
savages, and similar outsiders of the human family;
alleging that as successive stocks bubbled up from the
central birthplace of mankind in Asia, the earlier and
inferior races were gradually driven outwards in concentric
circles, like the rings produced by the throwing of a
stone into a pond; and that consequently, those who dwell
in the uttermost ends of the earth are, ipso facto, first

This relationship with the Polynesian Niggers, the native
genealogists would probably scout with indignation, being
perfectly persuaded of the extreme gentility of their
descent.  Their only knowledge of the patriarch Noah is
as a personage who derives his principal claim to notoriety
from having been the first Lapp. Their acquaintance with
any sacred history--nay, with Christianity at all--is
very limited. It was not until after the thirteenth
century that an attempt was made to convert them; and
although Charles the Fourth and Gustavus ordered portions
of Scripture to be translated in Lappish, to this very
day a great proportion of the race are pagans; and even
the most illuminated amongst them remain slaves to the
grossest superstition.  When a couple is to be married,
if a priest happens to be in the way, they will send for
him perhaps out of complaisance; but otherwise, the young
lady's papa merely strikes a flint and steel together,
and the ceremony is not less irrevocably completed. When
they die, a hatchet and a flint and steel are invariably
buried with the defunct, in case he should find himself
chilly on his long journey--an unnecessary precaution,
many of the orthodox would consider, on the part of such
lax religionists. When they go boar-hunting--the most
important business in their lives--it is a sorcerer, with
no other defence than his incantations, who marches at
the head of the procession. In the internal arrangements
of their tents, it is not a room to themselves, but a
door to themselves, that they assign to their womankind;
for woe betide the hunter if a woman has crossed the
threshold over which he sallies to the chase; and for
three days after the slaughter of his prey he must live
apart from the female portion of his family in order to
appease the evil deity whose familiar he is supposed to
have destroyed. It would be endless to recount the
innumerable occasions upon which the ancient rites of
Jumala are still interpolated among the Christian
observances they profess to have adopted.

Their manner of life I had scarcely any opportunities of
observing. Our Consul kindly undertook to take us to one
of their encampments; but they flit so often from place
to place, it is very difficult to light upon them. Here
and there, as we cruised about among the fiords, blue
wreaths of smoke rising from some little green nook among
the rocks would betray their temporary place of abode;
but I never got a near view of a regular settlement.

In the summer-time they live in canvas tents: during
winter, when the snow is on the ground, the forest Lapps
build huts in the branches of trees, and so roost like
birds.  The principal tent is of an hexagonal form, with
a fire in the centre, whose smoke rises through a hole
in the roof.  The gentlemen and ladies occupy different
sides of the same apartment; but a long pole laid along
the ground midway between them symbolizes an ideal
partition, which I dare say is in the end as effectual
a defence as lath and plaster prove in more civilized
countries. At all events, the ladies have a doorway quite
to themselves, which, doubtless, they consider a far
greater privilege than the seclusion of a separate boudoir.
Hunting and fishing are the principal employments of the
Lapp tribes; and to slay a bear is the most honourable
exploit a Lapp hero can achieve. The flesh of the
slaughtered beast becomes the property--not of the man
who killed him, but of him who discovered his trail, and
the skin is hung up on a pole, for the wives of all who
took part in the expedition to shoot at with their eyes
bandaged. Fortunate is she whose arrow pierces the
trophy,--not only does it become her prize, but, in the
eyes of the whole settlement, her husband is looked upon
thence forth as the most fortunate of men. As long as
the chase is going on, the women are not allowed to stir
abroad; but as soon as the party have safely brought home
their booty, the whole female population issue from the
tents, and having deliberately chewed some bark of a
species of alder, they spit the red juice into their
husband's faces, typifying thereby the bear's blood which
has been shed in the honourable encounter.

Although the forests, the rivers, and the sea supply them
in a great measure with their food, it is upon the reindeer
that the Laplander is dependent for every other comfort
in life. The reindeer is his estate, his horse, his cow,
his companion, and friend. He has twenty-two different
names for him. His coat, trousers, and shoes are made of
reindeer's skin, stitched with thread manufactured from
the nerves and sinews of the reindeer. Reindeer milk is
the most important item in his diet. Out of reindeer
horns are made almost all the utensils used in his domestic
economy; and it is the reindeer that carries his baggage,
and drags his sledge. But the beauty of this animal is
by no means on a par with his various moral and physical
endowments. His antlers, indeed, are magnificent, branching
back to the length of three or four feet; but his body
is poor, and his limbs thick and ungainly; neither is
his pace quite so rapid as is generally supposed. The
Laplanders count distances by the number of horizons they
have traversed; and if a reindeer changes the horizon
three times during the twenty-four hours, it is thought
a good day's work. Moreover, so just an appreciation has
the creature of what is due to his own great merit, that
if his owner seeks to tax him beyond his strength, he
not only becomes restive, but sometimes actually turns
upon the inconsiderate Jehu who has over-driven him.
When, therefore, a Lapp is in a great hurry, instead of
taking to his sledge, he puts on a pair of skates exactly
twice as long as his own body, and so flies on the wings
of the wind.

Every Laplander, however poor, has his dozen or two dozen
deer; and the flocks of a Lapp Croesus amount sometimes
to two thousand head. As soon as a young lady is born--after
having been duly rolled in the snow--she is dowered by
her father with a certain number of deer, which are
immediately branded with her initials, and thenceforth
kept apart as her especial property. In proportion as
they increase and multiply does her chance improve of
making a good match. Lapp courtships are conducted pretty
much in the same fashion as in other parts of the world.
The aspirant, as soon as he discovers that he has lost
his heart, goes off in search of a friend and a bottle
of brandy. The friend enters the tent, and opens
simultaneously--the brandy--and his business; while the
lover remains outside, engaged in hewing wood, or some
other menial employment. If, after the brandy and the
proposal have been duly discussed, the eloquence of his
friend prevails, he is himself called into the conclave,
and the young people are allowed to rub noses. The bride
then accepts from her suitor a present of a reindeer's
tongue, and the espousals are considered concluded. The
marriage does not take place for two or three years
afterwards; and during the interval the intended is
obliged to labour in the service of his father-in-law,
as diligently as Jacob served Laban for the sake of his
long-loved Rachel.

I cannot better conclude this summary of what I have been
able to learn about the honest Lapps, than by sending
you the tourist's stock specimen of a Lapp love-ditty.
The author is supposed to be hastening in his sledge
towards the home of his adored one:--

"Hasten, Kulnasatz! my little reindeer! long is the way,
and boundless are the marshes. Swift are we, and light
of foot, and soon we shall have come to whither we are
speeding. There shall I behold my fair one pacing.
Kulnasatz, my reindeer, look forth! look around! Dost
thou not see her somewhere--BATHING?"

As soon as we had thoroughly looked over the Lapp lady
and her companions, a process to which they submitted
with the greatest complacency, we proceeded to inspect
the other lions of the town; the church, the lazar-house,--
principally occupied by Lapps,--the stock fish
establishment, and the hotel. But a very few hours were
sufficient to exhaust the pleasures of Hammerfest; so
having bought an extra suit of jerseys for my people,
and laid in a supply of other necessaries, likely to be
useful in our cruise to Spitzbergen, we exchanged dinners
with the Consul, a transaction by which, I fear, he got
the worst of the bargain, and then got under way for this

The very day we left Hammerfest our hopes of being able
to get to Spitzbergen at all--received a tremendous shock.
We had just sat down to dinner, and I was helping the
Consul to fish, when in comes Wilson, his face, as usual,
upside down, and hisses something into the Doctor's ear.
Ever since the famous dialogue which had taken place
between them on the subject of sea-sickness, Wilson had
got to look upon Fitz as in some sort his legitimate
prey; and whenever the burden of his own misgivings became
greater than he could bear, it was to the Doctor that he
unbosomed himself. On this occasion, I guessed, by the
look of gloomy triumph in his eyes, that some great
calamity had occurred, and it turned out that the following
was the agreeable announcement he had been in such haste
to make: "Do you know, Sir?"--This was always the preface
to tidings unusually doleful.  "No--what?" said the
Doctor, breathless. "Oh nothing, Sir; only two sloops
have just arrived, Sir, from Spitzbergen, Sir--where they
couldn't get, Sir;--such a precious lot of ice--two
hundred miles from the land-and, oh, Sir--they've come

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