An Interview with Teddy Keen


I love the story behind The Lost Book of Adventure and the mysterious unknown adventurer. Are you able to tell us a bit more about the backstory and the magic behind the mystery?

Obviously, the book is compiled from the lifetime's work of an unknown artist and adventurer – a trove I discovered on a trip to the Amazon. Although some people say that it was actually created by myself and is based on the real adventures of friends and family members. I'll let people decide for themselves which they choose to believe.


Why was sharing this book so important to you, and in doing so, what do you hope readers will take away from The Lost Book of Adventure?

I think seeing my children and their generation potentially grow up without the access to nature and adventure that I had.


Young minds are curious so I think all kids are natural adventurers. I hope the book gives them – and their parents - the tools and inspiration to get out there.

What would you say are the three top ingredients for being an adventurer?

Curiosity. Creativity. And itchy feet.


What are your top survival tips?

Don't be macho – go with the flow. Sort blisters early. Jelly beans work best in the jungle. Be prepared to eat anything.


Would you rather… eat a fire-roasted goliath bird-eating spider or a maggot fresh from a dead wild pig?

Probably the maggot – I have a soft spot for tarantulas. p.s. I've eaten one of the two.


If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one thing with you, what would you bring and why?

A dog. I'd be okay for a few weeks, but would want company after that. There's also another reason – see survival question above.


What’s the wildest fact you know?

The bite of phoneutria nigriventer can kill you and cause priapism at the same time. Just what you want.


What’s your favourite adventure to date?

Would have to be exploring an uncharted river in the Amazon, tracking the footsteps of the Unknown Adventurer.


Favourite travel destination?

Himalayas. If not possible, the alps are perfectly fine.


What’s the last ‘armchair travel’ book you read?

Up The Creek by John Harrison. (Some believe he might be the real Unknown Adventurer.. But I have seen his artwork and it's, well, not quite as good)


I’ve just got to ask! In Finland you’re known as Teddy the Penguin, what’s the story behind this?

I once enjoyed skating in the world's toughest ice race, whilst dressed as a penguin – to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Children's hospital. The kids designed the suit. I couldn't say no.


Right now the UK is in its second COVID lockdown. What would you say to those yearning for travel and adventure?

Think how good it will be when it comes. And research all the good ways to offset those flights. Or just cycle there, perhaps?


This question is about your favourite children’s/YA books. What’s a book you loved as a child, a book you love now, and a book you can’t wait to read?

My favourite books were Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing and Papillon. I love William Grill's - Shackleton's Journey. Looking ahead - probably Ed Vere's next book.


If you could invite any five people – past and present, real and fictional – who would you invite and why?

Durvla Murphy – great stories and Irish.

Frijdhof Nansen – just because.

Sir John Franklin – I'd ask him what the hell happened.

Hemmingway – he'd get us a good spot at the bar.

And a typist.


And finally, we’d love to know what’s next for your writing journey, and if we’ll be seeing more adventures from you soon!

It turns out that the Unknown Adventurer wrote up a number of his incredible adventures in a series of journals, one of which I have been restoring during lock down. Journey to the Last River comes out in September 2021.


Teddy Keen is the editor and compiler of The Lost Book of Adventure - the discovered works and illustrations of The Unknown Adventurer. In 2014 during a trip to the Amazon Teddy, himself an illustrator and outdoor enthusiast, came across a sealed metal container in a remote hut on the banks of Jari River. The contents turned out to be the lifetime's work of an unknown artist adventurer. Alongside the notebooks, sketchbooks and other belongings was a letter which appeared to be written for the benefit of two young family members. The case and its contents were shipped back to the UK. With his outdoor knowledge Teddy and a team of experts have spent the past 2 years restoring, then compiling and editing the treasure trove of adventuring knowledge into a book for the world to see. Teddy lives in London with his family.

You can find out more about Teddy via his website here, and if you're curious to know more about the elusive unknown adventurer follow them on Instagram here.

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