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Victor Carl Friesen

Victor Carl Friesen

Victor Carl Friesen was born on a farm near Rosthern in 1933. He took most of his high school by correspondence courses, attended Saskatoon Normal School, and began his teaching career in a one-room country school. He then alternated university attendance with teaching, obtaining a B.Ed. degree (with Great Distinction), B.A. (with High Honours in English), and M.A. (1965) - all from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Ph.D. in American literature, while holding a Canada Council Fellowship, from the University of Alberta (1975).

He taught intermediate grades in an elementary town school, English and mathematics in a composite high school, upgrading in a technical institute and community college, and English at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, and the University of Saskatchewan.

In 1983 he took up freelance writing full-time. His eclectic interests are revealed in 250 articles and stories published in journals such as Queen's Quarterly, Canadian Forum, Fiddlehead, Canadian Nature (now Nature Canada), RGS: The Ruffed Grouse Society Journal, Prairie Forum, Mennonite Mirror, Canadian Children's Annual, Canadian Geographic, The Beaver, and Saskatchewan History. Victor's short stories have appeared also in four anthologies, including Stories from Western Canada (Toronto: Macmillan, 1972), and Liars and Rascals (Waterloo: University of Waterloo Press, 1989), and been read on Robert Weaver's CBC "Anthology" from Toronto. He has published two books of poetry.

Victor has spoken about history and literature at six provincial conferences and a symposium in Nebraska, and conducted workshops on science instruction. As well, he has had "media days" in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Calgary to promote his books and been interviewed on both "Identities" and Peter Gzowski's "Morningside" (national network programs).

An avid birdwatcher, Friesen has published some thirty natural history articles. His studies of the crazy-flight phenomenon of the ruffed grouse has drawn response from wildlife research stations and university biology departments in eighteen American states as well as a game conservancy in Scotland and the ecology laboratory of Université de Bourgogne in France.

Friesen's specialty is American naturalist-philosopher Henry David Thoreau, his two graduate theses focusing on him. Thoreau has also been the subject of two of his books and more than a dozen articles. One piece was cited in Houghton Mifflin's 150th anniversary edition of Thoreau's classic, Walden; another established a Saskatchewan connection to his famous essay, "Ktaadn." Further, in 1999 Friesen gave a paper on "Science, Spirituality, and the Environment" with reference to Thoreau, at Brock University in Ontario. In the same year he joined other Thoreauvian scholars for a signing and sale of their own books in Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau's birth place. The event was promoted by the Thoreau Society, of which Friesen has been a life member since 1969. In 2006, he presented a second paper at a Brock conference entitled, "Man, Nature and God: Some Literary Considerations, Particularly Those of Thoreau." There were twelve other papers presented.

Friesen continues to write in Rosthern, where he lives with his wife, Dorothy.

Books by Victor Carl Friesen

[7 of which are available on this site]

The Spirit of the Huckleberry (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1984)
-- "This charming book presents a balanced and valid view of Thoreau"-- Alexander Kern, Fulbright Professor and co-editor of a volume in the new Princeton Edition of Thoreau's works; in 2005, a chapter was included in an anthology brought out by Berg Publishers of Oxford, England, representing scholarship from American and European universities.

The Mulberry Tree with Anna Friesen (Winnipeg: Queenston House, 1985, and Saskatoon: Prairie Lily Books, 1997; reprinted 1999)
-- "In a moving way... an Anne of Green Gables speaking not from Prince Edward Island but from Saskatchewan." Jean Johnston, researcher of a ten-year, Canada Council - funded study on Canada's pioneer women;
-- "I was reminded of Willa Cather's My Antonia." Carlyle King, former Bateman Professor of English, University of Saskatchewan; the book is now listed as resource material for grade ten language arts in the province.

The Windmill Turning (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1988; reprinted 1989) - a history and colection of Mennonite nursery rhymes, maxims, and other folklore - first winner of the Alberta Book of the Year Award;
-- "What a delightful surprise this book is! by [a] noted Saskatchewan ethnographer." - Queen's Quarterly.

The Year is a Circle (Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 1995; reprinted 1996 & 2002). - a celebration of Henry David Thoreau in nature photography and poetry.
-- "Remarkable insight into both Thoreau and nature." - Walter Harding, founder of the Thoreau Society, author of the definitive biography, and former Professor Emeritus, State University of New York;
-- "Painterly approach to photography... a wonderful gift." - Prince Albert Daily Herald.

Where the River Runs (Calgary: Fifth House/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2001) - a 480-page account of the Saskatchewan Rivers, going back to fur-trade days and focusing as well on famous explorers, plainsmen, scientists, artists, and writers in the area up to the time of agricultural settlement.
-- "Combines detailed history with an often-lyrical tribute ...writes with great insight." Saskatoon Star Phoenix;
-- "Comprehensive and meticulously researched. ...a well-crafted story." - Canadian Book Review Annual.

Forever Home (Calgary: Fifth House/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004)
-- "Richly poetic" account of growing up on a small Saskatchewan farm: "does not romanticize the hardships," a "knack for incredible detail," a "collection of literary paintings - John Constable brought to the prairies and translated into words." - Calgary Herald;
-- "A voice that is authentic, engaging, and worthy of the reader's trust." - from the Foreward by Trevor Herriot.

The Gift of Country Life (Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 2005) accessible poetry and old photographs describe rural activities of yesteryear, with a reverence for nature:
-- "Eloquent pieces, in which Friesen displays a gift for rendering a sense of place, filled with sounds, sights, and sensations." Country Press.
-- "Written with a passion for simplicity ...a long, luscious ramble through country life.... Friesen's poetry flows in an ever changing variety of emotion and remembrance." - Diversions.

A Sky Full of Dreams (Calgary: Kingsley Publishing, 2010). Memories of earlier days on the farm; a companion volume to Forever Home.

Birds, Bugs, and Beasts (Calgary: Kingsley Publishing, 2012) - humorous verse and cartoons for intermediate grade students - and parents, and grandparents too!




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Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS)
Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7K 7H8
(306)242-6105
Archive Hours: Monday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. & 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.