As winter descends bigtime on Katzville, I am reminded yet again how cold and dangerous travel is in winter as reflected in Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire”. When I started teaching in 1972, the short story text for English 10-1 (AB) was Studies in the Short Story. The London story was long (about an hour to read aloud in class), but it usually went over well in the wilds of Grand Centre in the Cold Lake area. There, we were all closer to Nature and to the dangers of winter (e.g., one teacher’s wife died travelling on the highway out of town in winter on her way to work; I nearly perished when my car spun out in a winter storm.). Living there gave me, a city-born kid, a healthy, more realistic understanding of both Nature and winter.
I wish this movie version, faithful to London’s story, had been available to me before 2004 when it was released on DVD by VCI Entertainment/Blair & Associates. I would definitely have used it with the story. Ian Hogg plays the Cheechako and Orson Welles all-knowingly narrates. I would highly recommend this DVD to teachers in grade 8-9, or 10-1 or 10-2, who are looking for something to teach the man vs. nature theme, a good classic story, and a reminder of how dangerous winter and cold can be.