A consummate Canadian.
The dull one-dimensional facts describing Farley Mowat are as follows: (No Criticism of Wikipedia, my favourite source for facts is intended.)
His works were translated into 52 languages, and he sold more than 17 million books. He achieved fame with the publication of his books on the Canadian north, such as People of the Deer (1952) and Never Cry Wolf (1963). The latter, an account of his experiences with wolves in the Arctic, was made into a film of the same name released in 1983.
However, the reality is that Farley Mowat was a multi-dimensional man, and more. In his own words he, “…Never let the facts stand in the way of the truth. I am not a rational animal. I am a subjective animal. The only thing that matters is the subjective response.”
Mowat was born May 12, 1921 in Belleville, Ontario, and grew up in Richmond Hill. His great-great-uncle was Ontario premier Sir Oliver Mowat, and his father, Angus Mowat, was a librarian who later fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Mowat starting writing, in his words “mostly verse”, when his family lived in Windsor from 1930–1933.
In the 1930s, the Mowat family moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where as a teenager Mowat wrote about birds in a column for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. During this time Mowat also wrote his own nature newsletter, Nature Lore.
After serving in World War II, Mowat attended the University of Toronto. His son Sandy was later the editor-in-chief of The Medium, the student newspaper of the university’s Mississauga campus.
Farley Mowat in his own words … With a little help from his friends:
“Whatever you do, remember your readers first and foremost! If you forget them your purpose becomes frustrated and blunted. You can’t lose them!
“The essence of writing is storytelling and it’s oral and always has been and will remain so! And if we lose touch with that we become incompetent as writers. If you examine most of the writers you find difficult–hard to handle–you don’t like their work and are uncomfortable with it–you will see it is because they have forgotten (if they ever knew) what their essential role really was– story-tellers!!” ~
“When Farley Mowat came into the studio, every sense was heightened. I never knew what I was in for, except that it would surprise, whether it was a funny story about the history of what is worn over and under a kilt or a sustained cri de coeur about Canada’s stuck-in-glue lethargy on matters environmental. It helped to have a dram of something standing by, especially if it was an early morning interview. It never clouded him or stopped him from using words like evanescent, for instance, to describe the fading firmness of cottonwood fluff as bedding when he was out camping as a boy.” ~ Shelagh Rogers, CBC … More.
“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself.” ~ Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf
“…the three cardinal tenets of rum drinking in Newfoundland. The first of these is that as soon as a bottle is placed on a table it must be opened. This is done to “let the air get at it and carry off the black vapors.” The second tenet is that a bottle, once opened, must never be restoppered, because of the belief that it will then go bad. No bottle of rum has ever gone bad in Newfoundland, but none has ever been restoppered, so there is no way of knowing whether this belief is reasonable. The final tenet is that an open bottle must be drunk as rapidly as possible “before all to-good goes out of it.” ~ Farley Mowat, The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float
Farley Mowat to his editor: “When I split an infinitive, It had damned well better stay split!”