Tag Archives: Alaska

Fur Rondy


PH: Anchorage, Alaska has this huge festival in late-February to early March called Fur Rondy. It’s a big winter festival with outhouse races, which are like buildings of massive outhouses and then they make a toilet seat and someone has to sit in it and then the team needs to carry them across snow. When I worked in Alaska, the dispensary I worked for won the award for the most realistic outhouse. There are also other attractions, like massive snow sculptures and a race where people wear costumes and start running down a field then after a little while they release reindeer to run through the crowd. There is also a tradition every year where they sell yearly “Fur Rondy” pins and if you go downtown to the parade without wearing a pin (from any year) you are sent to “jail”, a little cage they carry along in the parade. 


This is an Anchorage staple, it happens every year since before the state gained statehood in the United States. PH lived in Alaska for 18 years, and participated in Fur Rondy every year. If you go to Alaska during this time it’s like the event of the year. 


While seemingly random and wild, Fur Rondy represents ritualistic traditions that are truly by and for the common people. It is proof that anything can be considered a festival or celebration with significance, though an outhouse race isn’t what most people may think of when they imagine a celebration. Fur Rondy is a unique example of a known individual, Vern Johnson, purposely starting a festival to foster a sense of community. The original event was founded in 1936, and was a 3-day sports tournament. Today, the festival is 12 days long, and since the 1950s has included Alaskan Native celebrations and tribal dances, for which the participants need to be flown into Anchorage from other parts of the massive state. 



PH: The Iditarod sled-dog races started in Alaska in 1973 and annually celebrates sled-dog teams that made it through blizzards to bring life-saving medicine to Nome in 1925. So the sled-dog races have happened every year since they started in 1973 to celebrate. It’s definitely one of the most prominent rituals in Alaska, everyone shows up for it. Kids are commonly told the story of Balto, a half wolf half husky dog that led the original dog sled in 1925. There’s like movies and events surrounding it, it’s a huge part of modern Alaskan culture. 


PH: I have been going to the Fur Rondy festivities and Iditarod since I was a child and into adulthood. As times have changed, downtown Anchorage now holds the Ceremonial Start for the Iditarod but the official start has moved to Big Lake, roughly two hours north, where there is more snow and less people.


The Iditarod is a nationally famous celebration, children throughout the country are told about the story of Balto and the dog-sledding in Alaska. This event is similar to the Dragon Boat Festival, in that it honors a historical event with an annual ritual designed to recreate a difficult situation that was overcome in some manner.

Professor Thompson’s Alaskan Log Story

A fellow classmate and I went to Professor Thompson’s office hours to ask him for any folklore. ME is the classmate, PH is myself, and TT is the informant.

PH: We were wondering if we could collect folklore from you for the project.

ME: Specifically, any stories about Alaska, the Alaskan wilderness, maybe about animals

TT: Stories… You’re looking for something kind of traditional I suppose, um. There’s a story my dad told to me that was told as, somewhat traditional, he got it from someone else who got it from someone else… I got a few stories, probably somewhat true. So here’s, uh, um, uh uh um, there’s one from my hometown, I’ll give you one of those from my hometown, it’s not really an animal story but it’s one from my hometown. So, I grew up in, uh, what was at the time kind of transitioning away from a Native village, it was a Native village when I was born there, but then they discovered oil and a lot of people came in, but just a few years back it was more of a Native village, kind of a Russian Native outpost since the 1700s, this is in Kenai. So, um, my dad moved out there a few months after World War II, uh, and he hung out with a lot of people and collected stories, not that he was a folklorist he just liked talking to people and it was a small town but uh there were a lot of stories from the small town. One that was on my mind um, just recently… Are you ready for it?

PH: Yeah, it’s recording

TT: Back in the day, everybody had little cabins, it was a small little town, and everything was, all the heat was woodpower, everybody had to cut their own wood, there was just wood stoves, and at one point, some guy became aware that somebody in the town was stealing his wood and he didn’t know who, um, you know it’s hard to stop because everybody had their log pile right in front of your house and he just started noticing his log pile going down further than he was burning it, and he couldn’t figure out how to… how to catch the thief so he came up with an idea and he invited everybody over to a party and um, pretty much the whole town… It’s pretty cold in the winter so if someone throws a party everybody shows up, and, uh, they had food, drink, or whatnot, and at one point, he kind of just casually announced to the party, “Yeah, you know, somebody’s been stealing my wood, but that’s okay, I fixed it.” And everybody’s like, “Oh, how did you fix it,” you know, like, “Did you find out who it is?” Like, “No, no, I took care of it.” …like, “How’d you take care of it?” and he’s like, “Well. Here’s what I did, I hollowed out one of the logs and I crammed it full of dynamite and plugged it back up…so….and I noticed that piece of wood was gone last night, sooo, as soon as that…pretty soon we’re going to hear a big bang, and somebody’s fireplace is going to explode.” Yeah, he waits a couple a minutes, pretty soon this one guy says like, “Uhh, I have to get going” and he looks out the window and he sees the guy running as fast as he can home, so..”

All of us laugh

ME: How old were you when you were first told this story?

TT: Probably quite young, and I heard it many times over the years

Illiamna Lake Monster

My informant states that there have been accounts of people seeing a giant monster in the lake. My informant states that his friend whom is a bush pilot has seen a giant ripple shaped as a V, moving through the lake. My informant stated that this creature is known to be bigger than a blue whale and people have seen it for over hundreds of years. People have seen sightings of this creature. This creature is described as giant whale like creature, however it is a fresh water creature. People are not scared of this creature and actually still fish there even though this legend is prevalent in Alaska. My informant has also heard that there have been attacks on fishermen and people by this creature as people have been knocked out of their boats.

My informant heard this from his friend and he tells this story to guests who visit him in Alaska. He also states that this is a very popular legend in Alaska, as many different television shows that focus on capturing “mythic creatures.” have attempted to catch the laker monster.

When I asked my informant if he has nay ideas what this creature is, he stated that it could be a whale that adapted to freshwater. Scientists and Alaska Department of Fish and Game have actually research for this creature and have not found anything. My analysis on this is that it is the same as other tales about lake monsters in other countries. The water has always been mysterious for human beings as it is an environment where people are out of their comfort zone, thus fears start to creep into people’s mind and create monsters. This could also be a tourist attraction for people to visit this specific lake.

Interestingly this legend was annotated in two television shows, one was the River Monster’s episode Alaska Horror, where the host, Jeremy Wade attempted to capture the lake monster. Jeremy Wade in the end of the episode stated that he believes that the creature is a giant white sturgeon, however he had no proof that his claim was true. Discovery Channel also had a special where two fishermen from The Deadliest Catch attempted to capture this creature, however they came up empty again.

The Legend of the Wildman

The Legend of Wildman

According to my informant, there is a place called “Devil’s Bay,” which is a little bay on the Alaskan peninsula. It is hard to fly down there or even drive there; the best way to get to this place is to boat in or floatplane in. Thus this location is very secluded. In this location there is a man who is described as a mix between a bear and a man. This creature stands on its legs, is very hairy, and has blood-red eyes. This creature also feasts on human beings. This legend is very popular legend in Alaska. 

My informant stated that one of his friends and his crew mates  were fishing in “Devil’s Bay;” they soon encountered this creature while they were exploring the hills of this place. They stated that they were chased out by this red-eyed creature. Thus they got in their skiff and returned to their boat and reported this incident to their captain. The captain of this ship was telling the commercial fishing boat, that my informant was on about this encounter, as the captain thought it was hilarious that his crew members were so frightened. However later in the night, while the ship was still anchored in “Devil’s Bay,” the captain heard a noise at the front of the ship, which woke him up. He went to check what this noise was and was alarmed to see the “Wildman” climbing the anchor line to get on the bow. Thus the captain rammed the boat in gear and left the bay immediately at night and radioed this to the ship my informant was on. My informant and other witnesses have claimed they heard this captain’s report and were terrified due to the fact that whatever this creature was, it attempted to climb onboard. 

My informant shares this legend to warn people about “Devil’s Bay,” due to the Wildman’s aggressiveness. He also stated that he could not sleep due to how scared he was of this report on the radio, due to the fact that it tried to climb the anchor line. My informant stated that the creature could be a bear or another creature. My analysis is that this is another version of a legend quest for fishermen, due to to the location only being able to be reached by boat. It is also another version of the yeti or bigfoot, howver what is interesting is that there is a specific report by natives that this creature enjoys feasting on humans. This creature is in the end an interesting adaptation of bigfoot as this creature has blood red eyes, can climb and swim, and also eats people.