Peter & The Wolf, Aklavik Style or How To Terrorize Your Sister

What do Sergei Prokofieff, a Russian children’s story “Peter and the Wolf”, Aklavik, sisterly torment, and an insane Husky have in common?

You probably already know that Prokofieff took that simple Russian folk tale and created wrote the brilliant orchestration that enchanted Walt Disney. Disney was so enthralled that he was moved to create his equally brilliant animated feature based on the story. I remember the featured segment on The Walt Disney Show that highlighted their collaboration, and being engrossed by the black and white images of the two men eagerly discussing various points of the narrative. It is a fascinating insight into the creative processes of the two, each a giant in his own field.

On the Peel Channel of the Mighty McKenzie River
On the Peel Channel of the Mighty McKenzie River
Winter Arctic Arrival
Winter Arctic Arrival
Peter and his Intrepid Friends
Peter and his Intrepid Friends
The Cast of Characters
The Cast of Characters
Oh No!
Oh No!
Don't Let Go!
Don't Let Go!

Some time after this aired, some well-intentioned relatives, probably our grandparents, thought to raise our cultural awareness by gifting us with the popular record set, one of the many commercial offerings from the Disney Studios to capitalize on the film’s popularity. In those days movies weren’t released for the home theater market in DVD or Blue-Ray. There was no home theater market - we went to the theater to see the movies.

The record set came with its own, attached, full-size book illustrated with beautiful full-color stills from the movie. We were entranced. Following the text word for word, we played those records over and over until we knew them note-perfect. I can still hear the theme for each of those characters and creatures as I write this.

At the time, we were living in Aklavik, having returned for our father’s second posting there, and those records were another connection with our family down south, or “outside” as we termed it up there.

My two sisters and I were sharing a tiny bedroom – the only bedroom in our tiny house. My parents slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room. Our luxurious accommodations included a set of bunk beds for my older sister and me, a small chest of drawers at the foot of the bed which held our clothes, and our youngest sister’s crib, which just fit against the end wall of the room. A smallish bookcase stood under the window, holding our library of children’s books and a few toys.

Of course, being the eldest, my sister had the top bunk. Whenever we were sufficiently annoyed with each other, our retaliatory tactics sometimes took on a physical nature. If I braced my feet against the springs and straightened my legs, I could cause my sister’s mattress to bulge upwards. If I did it quietly, the squeak of the springs was inaudible, and I certainly couldn’t be accused of “bouncing” her. Bouncing my sister was strictly forbidden both because of the noise that activity entailed and for the safety factor – the bunks were a tad rickety…but a stealthy, carefully noiseless lift was still within the letter of the law, while causing maximum discomfort for the tenant above.

My sister would retaliate by peeling back her mattress and threatening to spit on me. She never did, in fact, but usually the threat was enough to send me diving under the covers wailing that I was about to be drooled upon.

This was usually ended by a brusque but nautical “Pipe down!” or “Knock it off!” from our father. We both knew better than to push him past “Don’t make me come in there…” That meant swift and decisive retribution, and a spot of sisterly torture simply wasn’t worth a warm bottom.

Our play area indoors was the only open piece of floor in the bedroom - the small space directly under the window, and in front of the door. In this area, we would set out the record player and stack the records to be played, one of our favorite pastimes when our parents were out for the evening.

My loving older sister always played a little game with me. This game was one I thought of as “Hah! Made you look!” after the triumphant crow the winner would unleash to mock the loser.

This game would begin at some point during another activity, started with a brief glance over the shoulder of your opponent. This would be followed by a slightly longer glance, this time displaying some alarm. As soon as the victim made eye contact, the aggressor would immediately look down or away and concentrate studiously on the activity at hand.

The glances would then escalate, each containing more concern, building to fear, and culminating in a prolonged stare reflecting shock and horror, causing the victim to finally flinch, casting a quick look over her shoulder to see what fearsome creature lurked behind her.

At first, this game required that I be positioned with my back to the door or window, but as time progressed, and she became more adept at playing, I could be sitting with my back to the wall, and she could still get me to eventually glance over my shoulder. My sister was very good at this form of sisterly torment. I could never catch her as often as she caught me, but I did manage to make her flinch on a few occasions.

Combining this game with our Walt Disney album of “Peter and the Wolf” was guaranteed to produce the desired results, especially if she waited ‘til after the introduction of the wolf’s theme. You will remember I mentioned earlier we had the album memorized almost note for note…? The suspense of waiting for her to begin the game, knowing she would, was almost as unbearable as her gleeful chortling at my inevitable flinch.

What I never shared with either of my sisters was the nightmares that would inevitably follow.

Working Team
Working Team
Pair Bond
Pair Bond
The Pack
The Pack
Mates For Life
Mates For Life
This Guy Could Be Dick's Son...
This Guy Could Be Dick's Son...

Before we can go there, though, I must introduce to you Dick the Dog. Descended from Siberian Huskies, the American Sled Dog, Malamute and his Arctic Wolf forebears, Dick was a noble specimen of his breed. Stocky and strong, thick-coated and eager to pull, Dick was a valuable work dog, and a good worker.

His owner lived in the second house from the road at the beginning of the village proper, just where the road and the boardwalk turned to lead away from the base, where we lived, into the Village of Aklavik.

All the children in Aklavik knew where Dick the Dog lived, and, as well, everyone in town knew if Dick’s owner was in town or out on his trap line. We, the base children, knew because as we walked down the sidewalk every week day on our way to and from school, Dick would lunge at the end of his chain, snarling and snapping ferociously at us.

Nobody speculated what would happen should that chain ever break or should Dick slip his collar. We knew that these were work dogs, not pets, and that some of them could be dangerous. We all had heard what happened to drivers who had hand raised their dogs and yet had been savaged when they fell in front of their teams while breaking trail, and we all knew why any good driver carried a whip or club…just in case.

Dick the Dog was a special case, though. He wasn’t vicious towards everyone – he just had a problem when it came to children. He hated kids – all kids…anybody’s kids. We were sure he was crazy. Whenever we walked by, though, his abiding lust to tear us apart was apparent in the savagery of his wild attempts to break his chain and get at us.

Occasionally Dick would slip his chain. Then the curfew siren would sound and that meant only one thing – Dick was loose. Kids would vanish off the streets faster than ice cream cones in a heat wave, snatched inside by their parents, base folk and villagers alike.

We didn’t go in fear of Dick – he wasn’t always on our minds - but arctic survival skills were learned or not at your peril, and learning what to do if we ever heard that siren was one such thing.

The siren only went off once during the day while I lived in Aklavik, and it was, indeed, because of Dick. My friend and I went quickly indoors, and I dutifully played at my her house where I had been when the curfew sounded, waiting until my dad came for me.

Dick’s recapture, through the courage of our new female husky pup, Cricket, is the subject for another hub. For many years though, Dick remained my personal bête noire, and when my sister succeeded in terrifying me yet again during “Peter and the Wolf”, it was Dick the Dog who stalked my dreams for several ensuing nights.

My wolf appeared on the dusty, corduroy road of my dreams to the sound of a curfew siren. My wolf, which turned slowly towards me and approached step by silent, measured step, didn’t have the long stylized snout of Disney’s creation. My wolf had the thick-coated, stocky build of a good work dog, and the two white over-eye spots of Dick the Dog.


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11 comments

ralwus 7 years ago

So when was the last time you were up there in the deep freezer of our globe? This is one heck of a childhood memory and I'm surprised your dark beast was Dick and not a grizzly or Polar bear, but then again a dog like that is pretty ferocious and it would fit with the tale of Peter and the Wolf, a tale made famous by Disney. I too remember it from childhood.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

Ah, sisters!! :)

What a vivid recollection you have of what sounds like a most interesting childhood!


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

What a wonderful story. You certainly have lived an interesting life :)

I remember Peter and the Wolf from first year music, I always really enjoyed listening to it.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, ralwus. I was last above the Arctic Circle in the early 60s, in Aklavik and then one last northern posting in Fort Churchill - so I have been close to the Polar kings. Dick was scary enough, thanks. When you have a real creature of such incredible violence and potential danger so close at hand, I guess you don't much worry about the ones you can't see, lol. Dick was waaay scarier than Disney's wolf - Dick was real.

Good day to you, too, FP, and thank you. I find my sister sometimes doesn't remember a thing quite the same way I do (selective amnesia), and says she never did more than repay my attentions, but she does admit that she was quite good at the "Made You Look" game.

I, too, loved the music, and still do, Uninvited Writer. It is quite evocative and stirring. We also took our lives quite for granted at the time. Looking back now, I realize that many didn't have nearly the opportunities for adventure and for seeing other places and cultures that we were afforded as kids. Thanks so much. Always lovely when you stop by.


Carmen Borthwick profile image

Carmen Borthwick 7 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

Great hub, I agree you have lived an adventurous life. And I also agree that sisters don't seem to remember events quite the same!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain

Wow the way you write you weave the reader right into the middle of the story as an observer this was powerfully remembered and delightfully written and it brought back my own much tamer memories of that piece of music.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Hi there, Carmen. Thanks so much for your comments. I didn't realize how much until many years later. We grew up believing that, of course, everyone had such experiences. Selective amnesia, I tell you! ;)

Thanks so much, maggs. I really appreciate your observations. Hope you enjoyed the music clip, too.


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

Great hub - amazing what you remember - Peter and the Wolf, for me, was the cause of 17 years of nightmares...so I didn't indulge in a 'listen' down memory lane...lol


RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

So it got you, too, hey? Mine only lasted into my twenties, and then gradually morphed into a different format, thanks goodness. Still love parts of that music, though, Enelle...but I don't indulge either, LOL.


tantrum profile image

tantrum 7 years ago from Tropic of Capricorn

Sisters, sisters! I enjoyed your story very much. Colourful and vivid!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

tantrum - don't know how I missed your comment so many months ago - my apologies! Thanks so much for it. Nice to see you!

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