Guide to Alaskan-centered Novels and play by Robins

The Magnetic North

Begun in 1901, first as a series of "Yukon Sketches," this novel was one of the longest in process, but one that, on publication, established Elizabeth Robins's reputation as a first rate novelist. The plot is based quite directly on her brother Raymond's experiences as he and his older brother and several other men became trapped part way up the Yukon in the fall of 1897. They construct the "Big Chimney Cabin," were visited by Jesuits of the Holy Cross. A young Morris Burnett, "The Boy" and "Colonel" George Warren from Kentucky break camp in midwinter to trek across the ice and arrive in Dawson. The men do not strike it rich, but arrive in Dawson after all claims have been struck and while disease is raging.

Several of the novel's published chapters were exerpted in periodicals, and two chapters not part of the printed book (pulled when Robins recognized she needed to shorten the work) were also published. See "Monica's Village," and "The Caribou Stand."

Come and Find Me

Robins wrote a masterfully complex female quest story that had at its basis her own trip to Nome in 1900. While she imagines a grand tale of adventure and romance, at the heart of her novel are two female characters, Bella Wayne and Hildegarde Mar. Their friendship through adversities and misunderstandings triumphs over their losses and even a delayed romance. She used the experience of her own ship, TheTacoma's stranding on a sand bar and the elaborate kedging operation in Chapter 21. [The complete book is not on line, but Chapters paralleling Robins's journey on the Tacoma can be read at: Chapter 21 and Chapter 22 In addition to her own experience, Robins incorporated what she learned in Nome of the swindled explorer, H. L. Blake. By inventing the character Jack Galbraith, Robins also tied to her plot the exploits of the Swedish pole explorer Fridtjof Nansen, whose work she helped translate in the 1890s.

Bowarra

Unpublised and unproduced. See Gates, Elizabeth Robins, 179-181. This was conceived as a children's play, shortly after Barrie's success with Peter Pan. Robins worked with Harley Granville Barker, who had directed her suffragist drama, Votes for Women, both in its initial production prospects, 1910, and after World War I, when Barker promoted the play on a trip to the United States. The Eskimo boy Kaviak, who appeared in The Magnetic North, must reclaim his tribal heritage. He is guided by the sacred Crow to retrieve the "bow" and "arrow" of his ancestors. Other mythical animal have magical powers.

Go To Sleep Stories

Unpublished. Princess Muckluck is the heroine. She negotiates her priorities in a male-dominated Eskimo world. "The Boy" is a character whose hearing of the traditional mid-winter tales links the action loosely to characters created in The Magnetic North.

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