Thrilling tale of betrayal and revenge set against the nineteenth-century American frontier, the astonishing story of real-life trapper and frontiersman Hugh Glass
The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Hugh Glass is among the company’s finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. Two company men are dispatched to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies. When the men abandon him instead, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge. With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out, crawling at first, across hundreds of miles of uncharted American frontier. Based on a true story, The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession, the human will stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.
* People who’ve watched the movie, The Revenant, will not be spoiled for the book because it’s very, very different. The concept is the same and the cinematography is very accurate of the setting of the book, however, that’s where the similarities end. Both are great (speaking as a Leo fan), but in their own way.
Being a history enthusiast, this book piqued my interest. Although written American history doesn’t date as far back as European, African or Asian history, it’s quite full. There’s a fascination toward American history because it’s extremely tragic and rich story. A time period rarely mentioned is the American frontier.
The American frontier was a special time. It highlighted a period of pure exploration, expansion and both friendly and hostile relationships between European men and Native Americans. The representation of The Revenant as a western is quite accurate because of the feel of the times and the novel.
Basically, Hugh Glass was a frontiersman and fur trapper: first European men to cross the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains in search of fur. They traded with Native Americans from whom they learned hunting and trapping skills. (Wikipedia). This wasn’t a very glamorous job. A large portion of the animal pelts collected were in highly populated Native American land – states like Montana, Missouri, South Dakota, etc. These states still have a high Native American population, but they weren’t the minorities in their land during this time. However, the European influence in America was felt by its indigenous people immensely. In consequence, there was tension between the Natives and European trappers and the job was dangerous. Weather and the Native Americans were a big threat to trappers and (according to the novel) it wasn’t unheard of for them to be abducted/invaded and scalped.
Regardless of their circumstances, there was also war between native tribes and some who didn’t care for Europeans, but weren’t interested in killing them either (depending on the person) – Hugh Glass was one of the lucky few. Because of the dangers of exploration and hunting as trappers, experienced navigators were needed to direct them toward the optimum path to avoid both geographical and potentially dangerous sections.
The plot of The Revenant is quite linear. Men leave him to die and steal his favorite gun, the only logical response to such a predicament would be him traveling over 300 miles with a slit throat, broken arm and leg, partially removed scalp, and deep lacerations adorning his back (all from a bear attack), to exact revenge on his enemies.
“They had killed him. […] Murdered him, except he would not die. Would not die, he vowed, because he would live to kill his killers.”
― Michael Punke,
It’s clear what you’re thinking: “That’s a ridiculous and ephemeral plot”
I myself said these exact words, however, after completing it, I realized how bad ass that actually is! Being a lover of westerns, I guess it’s something that would strike my fancy, but its sheer adventure was so wonderful.
The writing style is well done for a novel centered around a singular character, in enemy territory, with fatal wounds, for days before he gathers the strength to begin his quest. The descriptive language and imagery was beautifully done – Michael Punke can sure paint a picture.
Punke also skips around the characters’ lives, although it remains third person-omniscient, and skips around chronologically with flashbacks. He tells us about Glass’s life before joining the Trading company; John Fitzgerald’s (Archenemy) life before the company, and some of the other trappers. Interestingly enough we don’t get any insight into the Natives, but maybe that’s a good thing – wouldn’t want him messing that up. However, we do meet a few Native tribesman (like some Lakota people) and are rewarded with some of their culture and ethics.
Fair warning, this novel isn’t for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, etc. The profession of our main character is to kill beavers and skin them, however, there are other instances also. One example being him eating a dog…………………….. it’s just not a good idea.
Back to the topic, I actually forgot it…
Bear attack, left for dead, oh yeah, I’m reminded (If you know what song that highlighted portion is your cool points just tripled 😉 ) Since this story is based upon the that of Hugh Glass’ survival, the ending is less than satisfactory for the reader. Since there wasn’t sufficient evidence of what exactly happened to everyone, it leaves you with questions and heartache, but never regretful.