Svalbard in fiction

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers have set their works in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic which constitutes the northernmost part of Norway. Fictional works about Svalbard often make reference to its Arctic climate, the isolation of the archipelago and the natural beauty of its vast glaciers, mountains and fjords.


North of Danger, by Dale Hollerbach Fife, is a World War II story about a 12-year-old boy living in Svalbard who has to hide in a coal mine to avoid being captured by the Nazi invaders. The Commonwealth Club of California declared North of Danger as best juvenile book of 1978.[1] Bear Island is a 1971 thriller novel by Scottish author Alistair MacLean about a movie crew who travels to Svalbard. When the group arrives in Svalbard, members of the crew start dying under unusual circumstances.[2]

The Norwegian crime writer and glaciologist Monica Kristensen has written a novel set in Svalbard entitled Operation Fritham. The novel tells the story of a small group of World War II veterans who meet in Svalbard to commemorate Operation Fritham, a 1942 Norwegian military operation which aimed at securing the rich coal mines on Spitsbergen and denying their use to Nazi Germany. Unbeknown to the elderly soldiers, one member of the group is an impostor, a civilian murderer who has taken the identity of one of the veterans. The main character, who must solve the mystery, is the head of the Svalbard police force.[3]

Dark Matter, by Michelle Paver, is a ghost story set in 1937 in an isolated bay on the north-east coast Svalbard.[4] A group of scientists land in Svalbard and prepare to overwinter in an abandoned mining camp. However, they soon discover that there is someone—or something—else out there of a sinister nature.[5]

Svalbard is the home of the armored polar bears in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. This trilogy of fantasy novels, coming together to form an epic comprising Northern Lights (1995, published as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It follows the coming-of-age of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes against a backdrop of epic events. The three novels have won various awards, most notably the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year prize, won by The Amber Spyglass. Northern Lights won the Carnegie Medal for children's fiction in the UK in 1995. The trilogy as a whole took third place in the BBC's Big Read poll in 2003. The story involves fantasy elements such as witches and armoured polar bears, and alludes to a broad range of ideas from such fields as physics, philosophy, and theology.

Neige Noir ("Black Snow")[6] is a 1974 novel by Canadian author Hubert Aquin about a newly married Montreal couple who travel to Svalbard.[7] The Canadian Encyclopedia calls Neige Noir "a modern version of Hamlet integrating film, music and painting techniques into its sustained philosophical reflection on time, love, death and the sacred".[8] The Svalbard Passage by Thomas Kirkwood is a tense thriller set in the US, Norway and Svalbard during the Cold War.[9]

The Solitude Of Thomas Cave, by Georgina Harding, is a novel about a sailor who bets his shipmates that he can overwinter in Svalbard. A review states that the "descriptions of scenery are outstanding" such as the language used to describe frozen streams" as "a temple of white streaks that weave out and back into one another like the boughs and twigs of a tree".[10]

Spitsbergen, the largest island in the archipelago, during August


Filmmaker Knut Erik Jensen made three short films about Svalbard: Svalbard in the World (1983), Cold World (1986) and My World (1987). This Svalbard trilogy has been called "an artistic peak" for him.[11] The Norwegian film Orion's Belt (1985) (Orions belte was the original title) is set in Svalbard, based on Jon Michelet's 1977 novel of the same name. The film, which was directed by Ola Solum, includes beautiful depictions of the region's white icebergs and desolate mountain ranges. It was one of the two 1980s Norwegian films which "...found large audiences and made their mark internationally".[12] The 1998 Belgian-Dutch-German movie When the Light Comes is set in Svalbard.


The Sky Atlantic thriller Fortitude (2015) is a murder mystery set in a fictional version of Svalbard. It consists of 21 episodes over 2 seasons. The series was actually filmed in Reyðarfjörður, Eastern Iceland and the UK.[13]