We headed on without event, though rather slowly, and at sunset yesterday we glimpsed what proved to be the claw-carved ice caves that comprise the region called Polar Bear Kingdom, where we were intrigued to find the gentle yet ferocious-looking ursine natives quite conversant with the English language and entirely unsurprised by our arrival in the frigid coastal waters of their realm. (…) They told us how they had been lately visited by representatives of an American who manufactured phosphate drinks and was most anxious in securing the pictorial rights to any suitably appealing bear activity, for purposes of advertising. They also said that the representatives had next struck further north in hope of finding an elusive polar witch-doctor with whom they sought to make a similar agreement. (…) We struck north and shortly blundered into yet more sense-defying circumstances, coming on a strange and mournful figure crouched before a deer-hide wigwam howling penitently. (…) The wild-eyed, bearded fellow, we discovered, was the same witch-doctor that our friends had warned us of, though he seemed far too stricken by remorse to do us harm. He wore, as his magician’s robe, a fresh-flayed reindeer hide reversed so that the skin was outermost, its bloody red by now turned almost black, lined by the fur inside that stuck out in a trim around the garment’s edge. The beast’s head formed a cowl, the antlers jutting there above his lined, grey-bearded face. He told us between moans of anguish that he was the ‘sha-man’ of the North Pole, charged at the mid-winter solstice with delivering the gift of cheer to all the homes on Earth, his disembodied soul darting around the globe born by his flying spirit animals while all the time his body lies here in his wigwam, raving mad and stained with vomit from the mind-affecting spotted mushrooms that he must take to achieve his trance. Apparently, this Christmas past, his trance was interrupted by two rash Americans who represented the same phosphate-drink concern the polar bears had told us of. This breach of the magician’s most important yearly ritual was met by the witch-doctor’s fierce invisible familiars, or ‘little helpers’ as he called them, who had torn one of the representatives into the shreds we saw a short way off. The other fled, but only after reassuring the frantically-apologizing witch-man that his actions did not constitute a reason to break off their hoped-for future business dealings.
Estratto dal capitolo 6 di The New Traveler’s Almanac, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, di Alan Moore