As a child, Danish journalist and TV host Johannes Langkilde often heard his father talk about the remote Samoan island and how they supposedly had family there. “Believe it or not,” his father said. “You even have a cousin who is a real chief in Samoa.” Johannes didn’t really believe the stories, but they were entertaining tales and made him dream of far away islands and how fun it would be to actually have family there.
Fast forward 25 years. Johannes Langkilde is now an award-winning Danish TV journalist currently stationed in the US as the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s Bureau Chief. The presidential election is underway and in Philadelphia, the Democratic Party is due to choose whether they want Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders as their nominee. In the hallway of the massive convention center, the childhood tales about a remote chief cousin and exotic islands suddenly comes to life, when the delegate from American Samoa turns our to be not only a Samoan chief but also one of the very cousins, Johanne’s father was talking about at the dinner table many years ago. As if higher powers had arranged for the two men to be in the same building at the same time under the strangest of circumstances, Chief Fagafaga Danial Langkilde and Johannes Langkilde meet, hug and talk about how this is a sign. A sign that Johannes has to investigate how exactly the Langkilde family ended up in the Samoan islands. And a sign that it is finally time to believe the childhood tales and treat them as facts begging to be researched.
This is the beginning of an adventurous, dramatic and very personal journey which takes Johannes, his wife and two children to the Samoan islands, where they uncover the amazing story of Hans Alfred Langkilde who left Denmark under dramatic circumstances in the 18th century after having fought in the Danish-German war of 1864 to end up years later in Samoa where he married a chief’s daughter and, thus, founded a big and influential Langkilde clan in the remote islands.
It all began on the Danish island of Fyn. Here, Hans Alfred Langkilde grew up as the son of the Danish King Frederik VII’s aid and friend. During the legendary Danish-German war of 1864 Hans Alfred fought as a soldier. A few years later, after the war, Hans Alfred finds himself in a dramatic and illegal duel with a German soldier which demands him to leave Denmark. Whilst fighting his inner demons from the war, and fearing the consequences of the duel, Hans Alfred seeks to restart his life in America, where he quickly ends up as a whale hunter onboard a ship sailing the big oceans. But his attempts fail. Whales are scarce and Hans Alfred is not cut for the rough life. Thus, he desserts the vessel while harboring in New Zealand and ends up jumping ship out of Samoa.
In the house of a British missionary, Hans Alfred finds not only refuge but also his future wife: Melipa, the local chief’s daughter who is educated by the missionary Brit. Hans Alfred and Melipa become parents of 5 children, all of whom are given Danish surnames and the Langkilde family name.
For 150 years, the now big and influential Samoan Langkilde family has only had scarce knowledge about their Danish roots, but Johannes’ expedition and research reveals a dramatic love story and sheds light on the amazing family saga.
“My cousin is a chief in Samoa” takes the reader on two journeys parallelly told and intertwined. The historic journey tells the fascinating yet challenging tale of the young Hans Alfred’s hunt for freedom, solace, adventure and love in a remote exotic island. Meanwhile, Johannes Langkilde invites the reader on an adventurous expedition, where he meets his Samoan family, follows in Hans Alfred’s footsteps, finds his grave and is even himself offered a prestigious chief’s title in Samoa.
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