Sounds like a story Jack London may have made up. In the middle of winter, a deadly disease strikes the children of a tiny town of gold diggers in Alaska, between the frozen sea and the snow-covered wilderness. The only hope for the residents: a shaky plan to retrieve and bring treatment vials from a railway hundreds of kilometers away to the city, after crossing mountains, inlets and braving the storm on a dog sled. But it is not a fictional tale. The “serum race” of 1925, as those who know the story call it, was such a significant event that it deserved a memorial statue in Central Park, New York, where it shares space with 29 other artistic commemorations such as Christopher Columbus, the characters of Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland, as well as a memorial dedicated to John Lennon. It is the statue of a stout dog, portrayed in a heroic pose, and children love to climb on it. But for those who know how to see beyond, it is a celebration of loyalty, tenacity and a sense of duty for the greater good. The dog’s name, engraved at the base of the statue, is Balto. But it should be another. Neither name is well known enough to the public but the same is not true for Willem Dafoe who, playing Seppala, began a journey to discover a man he would end up understanding thoroughly. “I knew the story of the serum race,” he told National Geographic UK. “But not that of Seppala and Togo. In general, those who know the story know Balto ”. But the question is, why? The real hero is Togo.

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