Jack London – “To Build a Fire” (1908)

INTRODUCTION:  Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire” shares words and ideas with stories told by the Anglo-Saxons (who spoke an earlier form of the English language) and Scandinavians over 1000 years ago.  Why does London’s tale of a man and his dog during the Canadian gold rush have so much in common with these much older stories?

This annotated version of “To Build a Fire” can be taken two ways, or a combination of both (and there may be a Jack London scholar out there somewhere who knows for certain which is more plausible):

1.  Jack London could have been very familiar with the stories and historical facts mentioned in the notes and may have intended his readers to make connections between his story and those told by people from the past.

2.  Jack London’s experiences in a harsh northern climate could have led him to hold similar thoughts and feelings to people who lived 1000 years before him because of their parallel environments.

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  londonjack_tobuildafire

Annotations by:  Rachel Linn

The annotated text is adapted from: 

Works cited & consulted in the annotations: