HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Grizzly King: A Romance of the Wild
Author: James Oliver Curwood
Publisher: PrairieView Press, revised edition published in 1997
Related website: http://www.PrairieViewPress.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 13-18
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Curwood, James Oliver. The Grizzly King: A Romance of the Wild (originally published in 1916 by Grosset and Dunlap; revised edition published in 1997 by PrairieView Press, P. O. Box 88, Neche, ND 58265). Thor is a huge grizzly bear who lives in the Canadian Rockies. Jim Langdon, his guide Bruce Otto, their Native American companion Metoosin, along with Langdon’s hunting dogs, all have one aim, which is to kill Thor. They track him through the mountains, during which time he adopts an orphaned black bear Muskwa, and meets with his mate Iskwao and his older offspring Pipoonaskoos. Then one day, while completely alone at the edge of a cliff with a broken rifle, Langdon unexpectedly comes face to face with the grizzly king. The hunter becomes the hunted. What will happen?
James Oliver “Jim” Curwood (June 12, 1878 – August 13, 1927) was an American action-adventure writer and conservationist. Born in Owosso, MI, the youngest of four children, he left high school before graduation, but passed the entrance exam to the University of Michigan, where he enrolled in the English department and studied journalism. After two years, he quit college to become a reporter. In 1900, he sold his first story while working for the Detroit News-Tribune. By 1909 he had saved enough money to travel to the Canadian northwest, a trip that provided the inspiration for his wilderness adventure stories. The success of his novels afforded him the opportunity to return to the Yukon and Alaska for several months each year and allowed him to write more than thirty such books. He died at the age of 48 of an infection resulting from an allergic reaction to a spider bite. At least eighteen movies have been based on or inspired by Curwood’s novels and stories including Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1988 film L’Ours, released in North America as The Bear which was taken from The Grizzly King. Also the 1961 Disney film Nikki, Wild Dog of the North was based on Curwood’s Nomads of the North.
The Grizzly King, told primarily from Thor’s standpoint, is one of James Curwood’s best known novels. Jim Langdon’s conversion from big-game hunter to conservationist parallels that of the author, who was an avid hunter in his youth but, as he grew older, became an advocate of environmentalism. The change in his attitude toward wildlife can be best expressed by a quote from The Grizzly King: “The greatest thrill is not to kill but to let live.” It shows the contrast between Thor who kills to eat and the hunters who kill only for pleasure. Also, the author’s love of the high country and its wildlife is obvious in every page. And a wealth of information about the grizzly is found. But the thing that I like best about the book is how Langdon, or Curwood, sees God’s hand in all nature. “This is why God had made…the great Creator had ordained…the Creator’s far-sightedness…formed by a great mighty Hand…the day when God created animals.”