Wanny Woldstad, widowed twice and the mother of two teenage sons, was a Tromsø taxi driver when she met the rakish trapper Anders Sæterdal, who was home on summer leave from his usual life in Svalbard. Something clicked, and he persuaded her to throw all caution to the wind and come with him to a life of hardship and solitude in the Arctic wilderness. She spent no less than five consecutive trapping seasons with him in Svalbard in the 1930s.
But if he thought that she would be a docile housekeeper with female companionship included, he got more than he bargained for. Wanny was not your usual housewife. She was used to hunting and guns, and had won trophies for marksmanship (hence the somewhat goofy title of this booklet – Wanny rhymes with Annie). She was Sæterdal’s partner on equal terms, and she was a fast learner. She went with him on almost all outings and hunting expeditions, sharing hunting thrills and the joy of nature, but also hard work and many perilous moments.
She published this account of her extraordinary life in 1956, almost twenty years after coming home from her last expedition. There must have been more than friendship and camaraderie between Wanny and Sæterdal, but none of this shows directly in her book. However, the intimacy and mutual tenderness is always there – even when e.g. Sæterdal gives her a telling-off for not giving the first polar bear she shoots an extra round in the head for safety’s sake. After their last season together in Svalbard, Sæterdal and she decided to pack it in, and they bought a small farm together. The magic did not last – their relationship broke up after five years. Wanny could never settle down to ordinary life.
In the last part of her life, Wanny Woldstad gave talks on her life as a trapper and hunter, and her book is based on her lecture notes and diaries. The book hit the wave of fascination with adventure and exploration among Norwegian readers in the 1950s, but has not been reprinted until now, and the original book is quite rare today. Permission to reprint and translate Wanny Woldstad’s book has been granted by her family.
Wanny Woldstad died in 1959 after being run over by a bus. It is ironic that she was done in by civilisation after surviving so many dangers she confronted in the Arctic. But her memory lives on.