Photo, by Irving Penn 1947.In a portrait by Irving Penn, Peter Freuchen wears a vast coat, made from the fur of a polar bear, which only serves to emphasise his not undaunting 6’7″ frame. Freuchen stands beside his third wife, Dagmar Cohn, whom he married in 1945. But the beguiling portrait only hints at the surprising life of Peter Freuchen.
The Key to Arctic Survival
Improvised Implements of Excrement
In a portrait by Irving Penn, Peter Freuchen wears a vast coat, made from the fur of a polar bear, which only serves to emphasise his not undaunting 6’7″ frame. Freuchen stands beside his third wife, Dagmar Cohn, whom he married in 1945. But the beguiling portrait only hints at the surprising life of Peter Freuchen.
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.
Freuchen also 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 was involved in the Danish resistance against Germany, was imprisoned and sentenced to death by the Nazis before escaping to Sweden, and studied to be a doctor at university. His first wife was Inuit and his second was a Danish margarine heiress, he was also friends with Jean Harlow and Mae West, and once escaped from a blizzard shelter by cutting his way out of it with a knife fashioned from his own faeces.
A woman offered to bite off Peter Freuchen’s toes. He declined. Instead, he chopped them off with shears and a hammer.
These are not tall tales. These are not fake Chuck Norris facts. Peter Freuchen was not the Most Interesting Man in the World. He was a Jewish Danish Arctic explorer, who had to survive glacial Greenland winters. On one occasion, he had to keep wolves away from his makeshift igloo by… singing.
Freuchen did make it out (be it without a leg) and went to… Hollywood. There, a movie was made based on a book he wrote. That movie was the Oscar-winning “Eskimo”, starring the previously-profiled Ray Mala. Oh, and Freuchen had a part as well. He played the villain.
After that, it was back to Denmark, but World War II broke out. So Freuchen joined the Danish resistance, was captured by the Germans, but managed to escape to Sweden.
And, last but certainly not least, with the war over, Freuchen made it back to America, where… he won $64,000, one of the first winners of the famed game show, “The $64,000 Question.”
Alright, maybe Peter Freuchen was the real Most Interesting Man in the World.
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