In the spring of 1833, Hugh Glass and several companions died after being ambushed by members of the Arikara tribe native to the Midwestern United States. Glass, a former member of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, is best remembered for being attacked and mauled by a grizzly bear in 1823. The story of the attack and his survival serves as the basis of this fictional work by Michael Punke and the inspiration for the 2015 masterpiece film ‘The Revenant’, which earned Leonardo DiCaprio a Golden Globe and Academy Award under the direction of Alejandro González Iñárritu.
On a recent flight back from Atlanta, I saw this on the newsstand and decided to give it a read. The book begins very similar to the film and throughout the novel, viewers of the film will undoubtedly revel in the very accurate casting during the making of the film. Punke, admittedly took several liberties with the book and in the film itself, several others were taken most notably the sub-story of Glass’ relationship with his son, also a worker for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Nonetheless, the book is an engaging story that keeps the reader pulled in from beginning to end.
Like its film counterpart, the beauty in the book is not the level of violence or graphic descriptions of wounds and conditions, but the window provided for the reader to step back into time to an era where law was non-existent in many parts of the United States and the plains were home to traders, soldier, mercenaries, rebels and dozens of Native American tribes. It reminds us of a time long gone from which society has greatly advanced. In the midst of our modern-day conveniences, it is fairly easy to forget that less that 200 years ago, many parts of this nation lay uninhabited and in the control of no formal government. Survival skills, instinct and knowledge were critical assets that often meant the difference between life and death. Some of Glass’ story is disputed but what appears to be clear is that he did work for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and as in fact mauled by a grizzly bear. The pursuit of Fitzgerald and his revenge or non-revenge, will be the subject of debate for an eternity. Regardless of person opinion regarding the veracity of the story, Glass led an interesting life changed in an instant by one grizzly bear and sheer determination to live of a noted frontiersman.