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The Sea Wolf

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The Sea-Wolf is a 1904 psychological adventure novel by Jack London about a literary critic Humphrey van Weyden.The story starts with him aboard a San Francisco ferry, called Martinez, which collides with another ship in the fog and sinks. He is set adrift in the Bay, eventually being picked up by Wolf Larsen.Larsen is the captain of a seal-hunting schooner, the Ghost. Brutal and cynical, yet also highly intelligent and intellectual, he rules over his ship and terrorizes the crew with the aid of his exceptionally great physical strength.

425 pages, Paperback

First published April 3, 1904

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About the author

Jack London

7,624 books6,464 followers
John Griffith Chaney (1876-1916), better known as Jack London, was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. A pioneer of commercial fiction and American magazines, he was one of the first American authors to become an international celebrity and earn a large fortune from writing. He was also an innovator in the genre that would later become known as science fiction.

His most famous works include The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories, "To Build a Fire", "An Odyssey of the North", and "Love of Life". He also wrote about the South Pacific in stories such as "The Pearls of Parlay", and "The Heathen".

London was part of the radical literary group, "The Crowd," in San Francisco and a passionate advocate of unionization, workers' rights, and socialism. He wrote several works dealing with these topics, such as his dystopian novel, The Iron Heel, his non-fiction exposé The People of the Abyss, War of the Classes, and Before Adam.

London died November 22, 1916, in a sleeping porch in a cottage on his ranch. London's ashes were buried on his property, not far from the Wolf House. The grave is marked by a mossy boulder. The buildings and property were later preserved as Jack London State Historic Park, in Glen Ellen, California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,752 reviews
Profile Image for brian   .
248 reviews2,980 followers
April 23, 2021
the biggest boldest pieceofshit pulpedout ridiculous shitshow of a novel I've come across. ever. i love it.

here’s the deal: an effete bookworm gets on a boat that crashes just off the san fransiscan coast and is scooped out of the water and brought onto the seal-hunting Ghost, headed to Japan, and captained by Wolf Larson, the darkest, most demented and brutal guy to walk the planet. this guy makes ahab, kurtz, and bligh look like merril fucking stubing. no shit. and he’s got a brother named Death! Death Larson! and Wolf Larson! i mean, c'mon. (Death Larson: "…golden bearded like a sea-king… six feet eight or nine inches in stature – 240 pounds. And there was no fat on him. It was all bone and muscle.")

our faithful narrator, one – wait for it, wait for it – ‘Hump’ Van Weydon describes Wolf as "not immoral. merely unmoral." forget leopold, loeb, or raskalnikov: Wolf Larson is the true nietzschean superman. here’s a typical bit of dialogue that Wolf happily spews while observing one of his crewmen:

Look at him, Hump. Look at this bit of animated dust, this aggregation of matter that moves and breathes and defies me and thoroughly believes itself to be compounded of something good; that is impressed with certain fictions such as righteousness and honesty…

in another scene, to more fully express the idea that the human animal can never fully accept death even if the intellect believes it has, Wolf strangles Hump into unconsciousness while waxing philosophic on the old body/mind dialectic... purty cool.

through the course of the book, Wolf Larson beats the shit out of multiple men at once, climbs a ladder with attackers hanging off his arms back and legs, he beats the crap out of Hump, Johnson, Leach, Johanson, Cooky, and, yes, even Death Larson. he beats up a shark. yes. a shark. after tossing Mugridge overboard, Wolf spies a shark fin, and with a single arm he hoists Mugridge out – the sharks leaps out of the water and bites off Mugridge’s foot! naturally, while the crew scrambles for a tourniquet, Wolf’s gotta teach the shark a lesson. later on, Wolf tries to set himself on fire, laughs when knives are thrown at him, and, finally, he fully enjoys it as his brain slowly shuts down. yeah, you read that right. unfortunately, the book gets kind of good (y'know, really good. not, like, gloriously deranged good) at the end when Hump, Maud Brewster (the fast-talking NYC poetess), and Wolf get shipwrecked on a tiny island inhabited by angry seals and some kind of mysterious neurological condition shuts down Wolf’s body bit by bit eventually reducing him to a blind, deaf, mute, quadriplegic who conveys his profound and nihilistic joy at the universe's ultimate 'fuck you' by flashing a crooked smile and tapping messages out with a single finger.

you really gotta read this shit to believe it. it’s fucking great. it’s the book that Uma Thurman’s character in Sweet and Lowdown would have written. it's the book i wish i'd written. and i gotta profess a deep love for jack london. multiple novels about dogs? and now this? fuck yes, man. you are my hero. i spent this past new year's at london’s favorite bar, The First and Last Chance Saloon (named such as it’s right on the water: the sailor’s first chance to get drunk upon arrival and last chance upon departure), the very bar where jack london wrote The Sea Wolf. explains a lot. he must’ve been shitfaced when he wrote this madhouse. absofuckinglutely.

well, don't know if i wanna give this five stars or one star, so i'll be a total pussy and give it three.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
October 8, 2021
The Sea Wolf, Jack London

The Sea-Wolf is a 1904 psychological adventure novel by American novelist Jack London.

The book's protagonist, Humphrey van Weyden, is a literary critic who is a survivor of an ocean collision and who comes under the dominance of Wolf Larsen, the powerful and amoral sea captain who rescues him. Its first printing of forty thousand copies was immediately sold out before publication on the strength of London's previous The Call of the Wild....

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هشتم ماه جولای سال 1972میلادی

عنوان: گرگ دريا؛ نویسنده: جک لندن؛ مترجم: جواد پیمان؛ تهران، فرانکلین، 1339، چاپ دیگر در سال 1345؛ در 415ص؛ چاپ بعدی در 320ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، کانون معرفت، در 280ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، علمی فرهنگی؛ 1394؛ در 378ص؛ شابک 9786001215490؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

مترجم: علیرضا یاوری؛ تهران، ؟، ؟؛ در 36ص؛

مترجم: فریدون حاجتی؛ تهران، آرمان، 1362؛ در 264ص؛ چاپ دیگر آرمان دبیر، 1370، در 144ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، دبیر اکباتان، 1386؛ چاپ بعدی 1387؛ در 148ص؛ شابک 9789645967183؛ چاپ دیگر 1388؛ شابک 9789642621859؛

مترجم: ع دیبائی؛ تهران، دنیای کتاب، 1358؛ در 212ص؛

مترجم: مهرداد مهرین؛ تهران، توسن، 1371؛ در 259ص؛

گرگ دریا، رمانی اثر «جک لندن»، نویسنده ی «آمریکایی» است، که نخستین بار در سال 1904میلادی منتشر شد، و به سرعت با استقبال خوانشگران روبرو شد؛ «جک لندن» در این رمان، داستان روشنفکری به نام «هامفری وان ویدن» را بیان می‌کند؛ که بر اثر غرق کشتی، اسیر گروهی ملوان خشن، به سرپرستی شخصی به نام «ولف لارسن» می‌شود؛ که او را با کشتی خود به دریاهای دوردست می‌برند.؛ «ولف لارسن» مردی بی‌ اخلاق، و خشن است، که قدرت بدنی دارد، و در عین حال (همانند خود «جک لندن») خودآموخته است، و کتاب‌های بسیاری خوانده است.؛ داستان با ورود زنی به نام: «ماد بروستر»، که شاعر مشهوری است صورت دیگری بخود می‌گیرد، و «هامفری» که عاشق «ماد» شده، در جزیره‌ ای دورافتاده، با همکاری او، از پس «ولف» برمی‌آید؛ «جک لندن» در این رمان به «ابرانسان نیچه» نظر داشته، و در داستان به بزرگان عرصه ی ادب و اندیشه، همانند: «هربرت اسپنسر»، «عمر خیام»، «هیپولیت تن»، «شکسپیر»، و «جان میلتون»، اشاره دارند.؛ کتاب پر است از واژه های دریانوردی.؛ ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 24/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 15/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Matt.
918 reviews28.3k followers
July 23, 2021
“‘I believe that life is a mess,’ [Captain Wolf Larson] answered promptly. ‘It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all…’”
- Jack London, The Sea-Wolf

This is just like Moby Dick, if Moby Dick had been written by Hemingway. That’s a good thing.

Of all the classics I’ve read, sometimes grudgingly, Moby Dick frustrated me the most. I like everything about it, in theory. It is epic in scope, big in ideas, and populated by fascinating characters. It has whales, and ships, and tyrannical captains, and harpoons, which are some pretty good ingredients, if you ask me. But I despised it.

Turns out, I should have been reading The Sea-Wolf instead. There are some differences, of course. Both have ships, but in The Sea-Wolf you substitute seals for whales, and rifles for harpoons. Also, where Moby Dick is bloated and obscure, The Sea-Wolf is blunt, pared-down, and direct. It is a flint-hard epic told in a lean, mean 281 pages (in my Modern Library paperback edition).

I’ve often found that reading an alleged “classic” means that I’m in for an intellectual struggle. Not here. The Sea-Wolf reads like a modern page-turner. London does not mess around with long setups. The novel starts with Humphrey Van Weyden – a doughy, soft-handed trust-fund lad with literary aspirations – on the deck of a ferry in San Francisco Bay, espousing his unearned opinions about the mathematical ease of seamanship. Before he can finish that thought, and before the end of the fourth full page, that ferry has been sliced open in a collision with a second ship, dumping Humphrey into the sea.

Humphrey, a proto-metrosexual, is picked up by a sealing schooner called the Ghost. The Ghost is captained by one of literature’s great creations, Captain Wolf Larson. Larson is a stunning character, by turns brutal and brilliant, part psychopath and part poet. He is described in almost otherworldly terms by Humphrey, who is the novel’s first person narrator:

[M]y first impression, or feel of the man, was not of [his height], but of his strength. And yet, while he was of massive build, with broad shoulders and deep chest, I could not characterize his strength as massive. It was what might be termed a sinewy, knotty strength, of the kind we ascribe to lean and wiry men, but which, in him, because of his heavy build, partook more of the enlarged gorilla order. Not that in appearance he seemed in the least gorilla-like. What I am striving to express is this strength itself, more as a thing apart from his physical semblance. It was a strength we are wont to associate with things primitive, with wild animals, and the creatures we imagine our tree-dwelling prototypes to have been – a strength savage, ferocious, alive in itself, the essence of life in that it is the potency of motion, the elemental in short, that which writhes in the body of a snake when the head is cut off, and the snake, as a snake, is dead, or which lingers in a shapeless lump of turtle-meat and recoils and quivers from the prod of a finger.

For the bulk of the novel, up until a plot turn that I will not reveal, the narrative is rather episodic. Scenes of action and acclimation (where Humphrey begins to transform into that which he detests) are interspersed with a dialectic between Humphrey and Larson. The two men are philosophical opposites, with Humphrey representing a familiar strand of liberal humanism, concerned with goodness, right action, and the immortal soul. In opposition, Larson is a kind of Nietzschean narcissist, concerned only with himself and achieving his own ends, whatever the cost to others. Humphrey is initially appalled by Larson, a stance he attempts to maintain even as he nurtures a near-obsession with understanding him. Of course, as you might expect, Humphrey is drawn to certain aspects of Larson’s being. Specifically, he starts to reevaluate himself as he grows harder, stronger, a competent seaman, while toiling on the Ghost. This is, in a way, simultaneously a celebration and a deconstruction of masculinity.

The Sea-Wolf is really a joy to read. The secondary characters are mostly excellent, if a bit shallow. There are some memorable dramatic set pieces featuring men against nature, and men against other men. The writing is vivid, especially the descriptions of the sea, of storms and squalls and dead calms. London is also quite adept at capturing the functioning of a turn-of-the-century sailing vessel. He was once on a vessel like the Ghost, and that experience shows.

I am often leery of books that attempt to have characters debate the deeper meanings of life. When I read them, I feel like I’ve stumbled into a room full of half-baked freshmen who’ve finished half a semester of Philosophy 101. The Sea Wolf has a tendency to get close to this threshold with the interactions between Humphrey and Wolf. Ultimately, though, it wears its philosophical and psychological complexity lightly. I could swallow their endless debates because they were sweetened by scenes of dash and excitement, while their competing theories were demonstrated with instances of primal brutality. In other words, London does a good job of showing and telling, rather than just telling. He is also almost giddy in the way he mixes genres and changes tones. One moment things are super dark, the next, things might be as light and delicate as new-fallen snow. And yes, I know I'm speaking in riddles, but I don't want to ruin any surprises.

This is an imperfect novel. While the relationship between Humphrey and Wolf Larson is mesmerizing, a separate pairing later on does not work nearly so well. Even when there are false notes, though, London keeps the tale afloat. His world – of sailors and their ship and the sea – is so fully realized that it makes up for many, if not all shortcomings. Besides, at less than 300 pages, the kind of imperfections I’m talking about are not fatal. I cannot say the same for the imperfections of Moby Dick.

Classics can be a chore. Not this one. This is like eating a candy bar and calling it exercise.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
458 reviews3,240 followers
January 21, 2022
Millionaire Humphrey van Weyden a bookish gentleman, (who reads anymore) was coming back from visiting a close friend in the East Bay shore. Crossing the waters to San Francisco , again, his ferry boat collides in the thick fog with a steamer. Quickly sinking her, the dilettante can't swim good thing he has a life preserver on... going overboard amid piercing cries in the gloom, drifting in the chilly waters out through the Golden Gate (before the bridge was built). The tides and winds sweeping him to the open sea, rescue vessels can't see Mr.Weyden in the "pea soup", nobody around him yet a quiet calm prevails. It makes the survivor, very distraught knowing the end is near, he screams futility into the darkness despairingly and slowly going insane. Numbness through his whole body, as time goes by but how much, elapses?.. Sleep takes the victim into another world , but he awakes and sees a three masted schooner heading directly at the lonely man . Barely missing his skull, watching the uncaring boat pass by helpless to shout out, Humphrey dead tired has no voice left, too much seawater consumed. Captain Wolf Larsen spots the tiny object in the ocean, brought on board later thinking, was this good or bad? Asking to be taken back to the city the captain of the" Ghost," refuses, he's heading for Japan this is a seal-hunting schooner not a pleasure cruise. Owner , captain, tyrant, his word rules... the twenty seamen hate him with a passion, they the worst of the scum, criminals, killers, thieves on any sea. But are afraid more of the Wolf, he has killed many... making the wealthy man a cabin boy at 35, working in the galley with the slimy, dirty, filthy, disgusting "Cooky" and he's the cook! Treating the millionaire like a lowly slave, the vicious chef delights in tormenting Weyden, whose choice is work or die. Survival of the fittest Wolf Larsen believes that, a very strange combination of intellect and brute strength, discussing philosophy and literature (life is valueless, except to itself). With the newest crewman "Hump", between terrorizing everyone on the vessel and putting down a deadly mutiny, the captain has a brother too. "Death" Larsen, arch- rival on another seal-hunting steamer, owner, skipper, of the well armed, larger, "Macedonia" and in the area. Trouble is coming, the ocean is vast but the seals are in the same place, they the siblings hate each other with enthusiasm. The seals blood flows freely on deck, as the beautiful animals are butchered for their skins, why ? For women's coats, Humphrey has to somehow escape this hell hole. Leaving the Ghost is not easy, if he stays the primitive Wolf Larsen will kill him someday. Complications arrive, five people are rescued off the stormy coast of Japan shipwrecked, four are immediately made crewmen whether they want to be or not. There have been losses on the "Ghost", one is a woman...Maud Brewster a poetess this is 1904, the lonely gentleman has read her poems and enjoyed them. He starts to fall in love, and he a part- time literary critic and reviewer of her work in magazines....One of the best Jack London novels full of terrific adventures and excitement, with splendid characters, especially the unforgettable Wolf Larsen.
Profile Image for Jesse.
91 reviews13 followers
May 9, 2023
"I don't think it was worth it," I said to Wolf Larsen, "a broken boat for Kelly's life."

"But Kelly didn't amount to much," was the reply. "Goodnight."

I think this conversation sums up most of what you need to know about Captain Wolf Larsen.

Wolf was a horrible person, no doubt about that. He ruled his ship, the Ghost, with an iron fist. He was physically, emotionally, verbally, and psychologically abusive. He killed men with no hesitation or emotion. He beat men into submission like they were dogs. A poor Norwegian boy who escaped to the sea at 12 and made his way through the ranks from cabin boy to captain. Along the way learning reading, writing, mathematics, philosophy, navigation, spirituality (in a sense), and most importantly, buritality. He was a tremendous ass hole. He was a murderous maniac. He was an abusive overlord. He was one of the best characters I've read in a long while. But as it goes, his iron fist ruling and disregard for human life style of leadership was his downfall.

On the other hand, we have our protagonist, and contrasting "hero", Hump. A rich gentleman who has done nothing in his life except live off of other people's earnings. A man who has never done a days work in his life. A man who has no purpose and no direction. A true early 20th century gentlemen.

I probably take a different view of Wolf and Humps relationship than most people. I tend to veiw Wolf as Humps savior. Yes, he essentially kidnapped him. Yes, he abused him. Yes, he wanted to murder him. But he also wanted to make him into a real man. He took Hump as a weak good for nothing gentlemen and turned him into a self-sufficient man capable of standing on his own legs. What would Hump have done with his life had he not been shanghighed into the crew of the Ghost? Proably nothing. He would have continued on his mildly successful writing career living off his family's success. I like to think Wolf made him into a well-rounded individual and gave him real-life experience in a horrible and make you want to die kind of way.

The dynamic relationship between Wolf and Hump is what made this book so interesting. I found the pace slow and the writing so so
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book484 followers
April 11, 2022
This novel is my first Jack London that is not an animal or nature tale, but then it mostly deals with the animal nature of a man, so maybe not that different. The Sea Wolf is Captain Wolf Larsen, a seaman who believes in nothing but his own welfare, and stops at no atrocity if he finds it to benefit his own desires. He is materialism and atheism run amok. He is intellectual, without emotion, values nothing but money, including anyone’s life aside from his own, and he has no moral code of any kind.

That London manages to make this character seem real instead of caricature is a bit of miracle in itself. As a foil, London has Larsen impress into service a shipwreck victim, Humphrey Van Weyden. To Hump, as he is called, Larsen expounds upon his philosophy and he and Hump argue the existence of the soul or the worth of a life that is not your own. For me, the repeated conversations became tiring. It was as if London was pounding the issue, but perhaps he was simply engaging in his own struggle with his own beliefs.

What I did like about this book were the passages related to life at sea. I could feel the rising of the storms and the swaying of the ship, and there is a very detailed description of an engineering feat that is so intricately described that you know it would be exactly how the maneuver would be achieved. There is extreme brutality, but it is necessary to the tale being told and it is not so graphic as to make it intolerable to read.

I try not to superimpose the beliefs of an author over the fiction that he writes, but that was hard to avoid with this book. London was an atheist and a socialist, and I am wondering how comfortable he was with either position based upon his arguments in this book.

Finally, there is a love story introduced late in the book that I found improbable, to say the least. I thought about the other London’s I have read and realized none of them contained any women or love stories; they are about rugged individualism and animal instinct. I think he is better suited to that subject.

All in all, I had hoped to like it better. I’m sure I would have liked it less had I been reading alone and not sharing the experience with a group of very savvy readers who helped to keep my interests alive and brought me a balanced view of the extreme philosophy expressed here.
Profile Image for Jay Schutt.
250 reviews82 followers
July 28, 2018
This terrific tale of the sea is character driven. Also, a study of human nature. Life, death, courage, hope for survival, immortality and love. A really good, but under-rated read.
Profile Image for Daniel.
203 reviews
July 13, 2009
"We were talking about this yesterday," he said. "I held that life was a ferment, a yeasty something which devoured life that it might live, and that living was merely successful piggishness. Why, if there is anything in supply and demand, life is the cheapest thing in the world. There is only so much water, so much earth, so much air; but the life that is demanding to be born is limitless. Nature is a spendthrift. Look at the fish and their millions of eggs. For that matter, look at you and me. In our loins are the possibilities of millions of lives. Could we but find time and opportunity and utilize the last bit and every bit of the unborn life that is in us, we could become the fathers of nations and populate continents. Life? Bah! It has no value. Of cheap things it is the cheapest. Everywhere it goes begging. Nature spills it out with a lavish hand. Where there is room for one life, she sows a thousand lives, and it's life eats life till the strongest and most piggish life is left."

Those are the words of Wolf Larsen, arguably the baddest bad-ass ever to grace the pages of any seafaring novel, including those by Melville and Conrad, and perhaps any novel overall. Wolf Larsen, captain of a hunting vessel, beats up several men at once, hard-bitten sailors and seal hunters among them; chokes one of his men to win an argument; fixes a shark to starve to death, revenge for the shark having bitten a sailor's foot clean off; wagers which of his men will commit suicide; carries on a conversation as bullets whiz past; and beats the snot out of his brother, rival sea captain Death Larsen. That's right, his brother is named Death Larsen! And the name's not just for show:
He towered like a Goliath above Wolf Larsen. He must have measured six feet eight or nine inches in stature, and I subsequently learned his weight -- 240 pounds. And there was no fat about him. It was all bone and muscle.

Wolf Larsen's a great character because he's not just some mindless, musclebound brute. No, he's highly literate and well-read (and self-educated to boot), and able to clearly explain why he does what he does, as evidenced in the passage above. He's able to spar with his opponents not just physically, but verbally as well.

OK, maybe "The Sea Wolf" isn't great literature, but it is brilliantly trashy fun -- and well-written trash at that. Why isn't this book as widely read as "The Call of the Wild" and "White Fang?" Perhaps because most of us stop reading Jack London after junior high school (for some reason), while "The Sea Wolf" is the manliest of all manly men's books. Lord knows I, for one, was not ready to encounter Wolf Larsen in junior high school. Frankly, I'm probably not ready for him now.

What's interesting about "The Sea Wolf," and I doubt I'm the only reader to feel this way, is that even though we the readers are presumably supposed to see Wolf Larsen as the book's villain and sympathize with the narrator, Humphrey Van Weyden, well, fuck that. Hump -- yes, that is his nickname -- has a bookish, idealistic, romantic view of life. (That final trait comes to the forefront after love interest Maud Brewster shows up halfway through the book.) Those character traits simply pale in comparison to Wolf Larsen's kick-ass, every-man-for-himself pragmatism. I think it's the rare reader -- or at least the rare male reader -- who, even though he likely has much more in common with Hump than with Wolf Larsen, wouldn't, had he the option, choose to be the latter. London may have even intended the book to be read that way.

"The Sea Wolf"'s only real weakness comes in its final pages, when the romance between Humphrey and Maud becomes sickeningly sweet. (Wolf Larsen's reaction, had he read this section of the book, would have been, I'm guessing, "Bosh!") Perhaps London was trying to make up for all the amputations, fisticuffs and testosterone-drenched manliness in the pages that preceded -- or maybe compensate for the homoeroticism in Hump's descriptions of Wolf Larsen's physique. London needn't have bothered. The book was awesome without the romance.

Despite that shortcoming, though, I highly recommend "The Sea Wolf," especially to men who wish they were a bit less like Humphrey Van Weyden and a bit more like Wolf Larsen.
Profile Image for BrokenTune.
750 reviews202 followers
July 4, 2016
“Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself? And it is of course overestimated, for it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds of rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself? Yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. There is plenty more life demanding to be born. Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from the comb, there would have been no loss to the world. The supply is too large.”

I remember watching the tv adaptation of Jack London's The Sea-Wolf with my gran, but all I remember are images of sails and the ocean. I don't remember anything of the story from that time. So, when The Sea-Wolf came up as a buddy read, I jumped right on it.

The story is told by Humphrey van Weyden, a wannabe author and self-professed gentleman, who is shipwrecked and picked up by the crew of The Ghost and their Captain - Wolf Larsen. Contrary to Humphrey's (Hump's) expectations, he is not set ashore but is Shanghaied by Larsen, who is short of crew and short of time.

While on board, Hump transforms from a man of thought into a man of action, while witnessing the brutality of life at sea and especially the brutality of The Sea-Wolf, Captain Larsen.

“Wolf - tis what he is. He's not blackhearted like some men. 'Tis no heart he has at all.”

It's an interesting book in which London explores human motivation and philosophises about the meaning of life and the value that society attaches to one profession over another. It is not always easy to follow, London's train of thought, however, and it is not at all clear whether some of the views are the author's own.
In some ways, I was reminded of Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, with its anti-hero Captain Nemo, whose disdain for human society somewhat parallels that of Larsen - except that Nemo had reason that are more relatable than those of Larsen.
The Sea-Wolf remains a mystery until the end.

Despite this, tho, the story works - even as just a simple story of adventure.

The only aspect that really grated on me was that London felt it necessary to add an element of romance into the adventure and side Hump with a lady journalist, who he falls in love with. This is not the grating bit. The grating bit is that she's a pretty strong character and her falling for Hump - who is a patronising wimp - is pretty unlikely. It's Hump's interaction with the lady journalist and his description of her as feeble and weak, even though she does more than her fair share of manual labour on the ship, that really made me want to kick him over-board.

“You are one with a crowd of men who have made what they call a government, who are masters of all the other men, and who eat the food the other men get and would like to eat themselves. You wear the warm clothes. They made the clothes, but they shiver in rags and ask you, the lawyer, or business agent who handles your money, for a job.

'But that is beside the matter,' I cried.

Not at all. It is piggishness and it is life. Of what use or sense is an immortality of piggishness? What is the end? What is it all about? You have made no food. Yet the food you have eaten or wasted might have saved the lives of a score of wretches who made the food but did not eat it. What immortal end did you serve? Or did they?”
Profile Image for Matt.
752 reviews522 followers
January 27, 2018
Jack London’s take on Nietzsches’s dubious concept of the Übermensch.

In the confined space of a seal-hunting schooner in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the most captivating antagonist ever, captain Wolf Larson, highly intelligent with superhuman physical strength, have it out with the somewhat stodgy protagonist Van Weyden, an intellectual bookworm, scholar, and landlubber. Their philosophies and views on life couldn’t be more different.

The whole thing is embedded in an exciting adventure on high seas and spiced with a love story at the end, which, to my taste, is a little bland.

A recommended read for fans of adventure-philosophy, in which sometimes bones get broken to underpin an argument.

The book confirms the impression I already had after reading The Iron Heel, namely, to regard Jack London as a serious writer.
(Update 1/27/2018)

While reading the critical/annotated edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf I didn’t expect to find a quote from The Sea Wolf in one of the footnotes. Hitler’s notion of “Race interests” as trumping any moral notions and that ethics is never entitled to a timeless validity (contrary to Kant's beliefs) can also be found much earlier among epigones of social Darwinism, even in popular culture. Jack London’s character Wolf Larson answers to the question of ethics and if he believes in right and wrong:
“Not the least bit. Might is right, and that is all there is to it. Weakness is wrong. […] One man cannot wrong another man.  He can only wrong himself. As I see it, I do wrong always when I consider the interests of others.” 

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Profile Image for Daniel Villines.
383 reviews51 followers
May 7, 2022
At face value The Sea Wolf is an intriguing novel that gives insights into one of the most philosophical bullies ever depicted as a captain of a ship at sea. Captain Bligh, eat your heart out. London dares to dive into the intellectual makeup of Captain Wolf Larsen, which allows his readers to test the very foundation of Larsen’s selfish acts and behaviors. The disconcerting discovery is that Wolf Larsen, as a person, is absolutely true to his environment and upbringing. It’s only when you consider the world that exists outside of the microcosm of his own small ship that Larsen’s philosophy falls apart.

Additionally, the book focuses on the growth of Wolf Larsen’s polar opposite, Humphrey Van Weyden. Van Weyden is a literary gentleman and finds himself suddenly immersed in a seaman’s life of hard work and survival at sea. His transformation illustrates the human capacity to adapt, learn, and overcome in the face of adversity.

Included in the story are depictions of storms in the Pacific Ocean and suffering of ordinary seamen at sea. And all of this is told with the realism that makes London’s greatest novels a pleasure to read.

But I sensed that there was something more to this story. Through the biographies that I’ve read of London, the thought occurs that this novel may be allegorical to his socialist beliefs. It may be that London used the isolated setting of a small ship at sea as a means of bringing the much larger world of 1904 into focus. The strong and powerful captain, Wolf Larsen, excessively devours his own desires in a way that mimics the oligarchs of the time in their desire to devour every bit of wealth generated by society. And the altruistic Humphrey Van Weyden, weak and powerless, has no choice but succumb to Larsen’s wants. Van Weyden, like a subsistence laborer of 1904, is expendable and is only maintained in life by Larsen while Larsen gains from his presence.

Along this same theme, it is through Van Weyden’s education in Larsen’s demagogue philosophy and his learning of the workings of the small world at sea that he is able to ascend above his meager predicament. Ultimately, his altruistic philosophy combines with his acquired knowledge of Larsen and transforms him into a kind and benevolent master of the London’s isolated world. As for Larsen, he ultimately depicts the logical end of the ever ongoing consumption of society’s wealth by the oligarchs.

Finally, there’s the love sequence that occupies the concluding chapters of the book. While these are the weakest part of London’s writing in the novel, I cannot help but think that they depict the relationship between London and the woman that he called "mate," Charmian London. Theirs was a unique relationship practically between equals, so I would imagine that their behavior in love was as unique as the love interactions depicted by London in The Sea Wolf.

On multiple levels, The Sea Wolf is an intriguing book to read. It’s an engaging, haze-gray sea story with much food for thought and reflection, and its all wrapped up in a package that is dripping with the realism of Jack London’s writing.
Profile Image for Paul O’Neill.
Author 3 books174 followers
August 24, 2016
An enjoyable sea faring tale, and not entirely what I was expecting.

The first half of this book would receive a solid four stars. It gets a bit boring at the end. The main reason being that I'd rather the 'sea wolf' character was indeed the main character. We've come a long way in what we want from our characters (thanks GRRM!) and their motivations. Is it wrong that I liked the 'bad guy' in this book and wanted to know more about him, his motivations and also agree with his pirate behaviour? Instead we follow a rich, spoiled gentleman on this voyage.

Still a good read.

Also, this book must set some record for the most times the word 'poop' is used in a book.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,160 reviews141 followers
May 6, 2022
I have mixed feelings about this one. I’m not really into adventure novels (and seafaring ones even less!) but I do enjoy London’s writing. Man against nature seems to be something he’s into. The opposite character types of the ultra masculine Wolf Larsen and the academic ‘sissy’ Humphrey Van Weyden (the narrator) lead to some interesting discussions but ultimately it was too long for my taste and the less said about the only female character Maud, the better (perhaps Maud isn’t that bad but Hump’s writing about her is so nauseating that the ending was really disappointing. I was hoping Maud would say ‘See ya’).
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
699 reviews201 followers
October 4, 2016
What a Maudlin Brew’s That …

I don’t know whether Jack London’s seafaring novel The Sea-Wolf enjoys the same popularity in the U.S. as it does in Germany, where practically every member of my generation fondly remembers the Weihnachtsvierteiler on TV, in which Raimund Harmstorf as Captain Wolf Larsen mashed a potato in his hand. Speaking of fond memories, though, one must admit that the adaptation came over as rather lengthy when I last watched it. But that is neither here nor there: The most important point is that the scriptwriters proved infinitely wiser than London when they decided to have Maud Brewster conveniently drown in her attempt to escape with Humphrey Van Weyden, thus sparing us many of the puerile gushings of the last third of the novel.

Maud Brewster is, indeed, the weakest point of this novel, which got me hooked from the very start and kept me at baited breath following the duel between Humphrey and Wolf Larsen for many pages until the protagonist and his love interest find themselves washed ashore on an apparently undiscovered island. To have done with Maud and get her out of this review at the earliest moment possible, let me just mention that the pathetic final chapters set on Endeavor Island become more understandable – although not necessarily more palatable – when you read them as a private declaration of love of the author, who, at the time of writing the novel, was on the point of leaving his wife and his two daughters in favour of his mistress Charmian Kittredge, who was to become his next spouse. Therefore let us put down these awkward and, as I said, puerile effusions to London’s pent-up sexual longings (just consider how chuffed to bits Maud is when Humphrey finally manages to erect the makeshift mast of the Ghost), to the wild and often mortifying uxoriousness of somebody who is newly in love, to a lack in taste which is due to an overflowing heart, and concentrate instead on the more felicitous parts of the novel.

Basically, The Sea-Wolf tells the story of the literary critic Humphrey “Sissy” Van Weyden, who finds himself adrift at sea after the sinking of a ferry and who is taken aboard the Ghost, a seal-hunting schooner. The owner of the Ghost, Captain Wolf Larsen, is a ruthless sociopath, a man deeply rooted in the tenets of vulgarized Social Darwinism, as the following passage may aptly show:

”’I believe that life is a mess,’ he answered promptly. ‘It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all. What do you make of those things?’

He swept his arm in an impatient gesture toward a number of the sailors who were working on some kind of rope stuff amidships.

‘They move, so does the jelly-fish move. They move in order to eat in order that they may keep moving. There you have it. They live for their belly’s sake, and the belly is for their sake. It’s a circle; you get nowhere. Neither do they. In the end they come to a standstill. They move no more. They are dead.’

‘They have dreams,’ I interrupted, ‘radiant, flashing dreams—‘

‘Of grub,’ he concluded sententiously.”

Having lost his mate shortly after setting sail, Wolf Larsen decides to keep Humphrey on board and to make him one of his crew, telling him that since he, Hump, has never lifted a finger but is living on the money he inherited from his father, he is in fact standing on a dead man’s legs and that he will be taught to stand on his own legs. In the course of their voyage, Larsen’s callous brutality and his penchant towards sadism become more and more obvious, especially with regard to those crew members who do not readily submit to him but uphold their own dignity. All in all, the microcosm of the Ghost seems to bear out Larsen’s view of the world as an eternal rat-race, an exercise in dog-eat-dog ruthlessness and “piggishness” which does not feel restrained by any moral code of behaviour. Van Weyden has to stand his ground against the despicable ship’s cook Thomas Mugridge, whereas the Captain takes grim pleasure in following his own crusade against the unflinching sailors Johnson and Leach, a crusade that will lead to their destruction. Nevertheless, Larsen is no senseless brute but a well-read and self-educated man, who uses his erudition to justify his merciless materialism in his discussions with the idealist Van Weyden. One has to admit, though, that Van Weyden is surprisingly pathetic during these discussions, using the weakest arguments imaginable, so that Larsen easily gets the better of him. All in all, notwithstanding the fact that the Captain has, in Hump, finally found somebody who is able to engage in philosophical talks with him, Larsen does not consider Van Weyden as an equal but rather as a tyrannical monarch might consider his personal jester.

London himself claimed that in Wolf Larsen he wanted to criticize Friedrich Nietzsche’s conception of the Übermensch but anyone who has read Nietzsche will soon find that London cannot have had any deep knowledge of Nietzsche’s writings and thoughts. In fact, Nietzsche would undoubtedly have turned in disgust from Wolf Larsen’s crude materialism as much as he would have derided Van Weyden’s unsystematic attempts at proving Larsen wrong by referring to Christian concepts of the immortality of the soul and similar sentiment. Wolf Larsen’s philosophy seems more in line with what Nietzsche’s notorious sister and the Nazis read into Nietzsche (without probably ever reading him). And yet, there is more to Larsen than a vulgarized Übermensch label might suppose us to assume at first sight. Larsen’s statement

”My mistake was in ever opening the books”

seems to betray the mental despair of somebody who set out to find answers to the great questions of life but who could never accept what was offered him since none of it was able to stand the test of real life. One can argue that somebody who has been pampered by life like Van Weyden can easily sermonize on immortality, altruism, the human soul and high principles, whereas somebody who had gone through a childhood of deprivation, who had never had an encouraging word but got accustomed to fending for himself at a very early age would turn a more critical eye to all these noble principles. Both Larsen and Thomas Mugridge are examples of men who had to struggle through life, and while Mugridge turned into an abject cur as he lacked both physical and intellectual power, Larsen, who had anything but a golden opportunity became the cruel and unscrupulous Captain of the Ghost. This, however, might be another prompting of materialism, although, saying that, it should be added that London himself did not believe in the immortal soul of man but was a die-hard materialist. Maybe this is also why Van Weyden’s arguments are so weak that they lead to the following response by Larsen – a response which seems quite understandable and convincing to me:

“’There you are!’ he cried at her, half angrily.’“Your words are empty to me. There is nothing clear and sharp and definite about the thought you have expressed. You cannot pick it up in your two hands and look at it. In point of fact, it is not a thought. It is a feeling, a sentiment, a something based upon illusion and not a product of the intellect at all.’”

Mind that Larsen reacts angrily – probably with the anger of somebody who gave up his search long ago and who is sick and tired of having his hopes permanently rekindled only to find them deceived once more. Philosophically speaking, there is infinitely more to the grim pessimism of Wolf Larsen’s world view than to the sentimental hogwash of Van Weyden – who is remarkably cowardly and intent on preserving his own life for somebody who deems himself in possession of an immortal soul, by the way – and Maudlin Brewster. The most outstanding flaw in Larsen’s outlook, however, is his monadic approach, which leads him to a most primitive bellum omnia contra omnes interpretation of life. I really wonder whether Larsen, in his autodidactic readings, might not also have come across Thomas Hobbes, whose writings could have shown him that a more skeptical view of human life and the immortality of the soul can be compatible with a theory of civilization based on a contract that serves individuals to pursue their own interests in cooperation and in a constant process of negotiation. Do ut des seems a very sensible tenet to me, simply because life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. The latter especially to those who have never had the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson read aloud to them.

Now, I must confess that in the course of my ramblings, I have quite lost my bearings. There are many other aspects of the novel that invite discussion, e.g. Van Weyden’s pusillanimity, or Wolf Larsen’s tragic ending, which is partly due to a brain tumor but partly also to the fact that his brother and his steamship prove a bigger piece of yeast than he himself and his sailing ship and which therefore illustrates Larsen’s theory with a touch of dramatic irony – and this short list of examples may serve to point out what an interesting book The Sea-Wolf actually is. Most of it will definitely compensate you for the embarrassing Maud Brewster parts.
Profile Image for Joe.
97 reviews18 followers
July 9, 2007
Anyone who needs a good shot of testosterone but thinks the movie 300 was a little to homo-erotic should read the Sea Wolf. This book makes Hemmingway run off like a little girly man. The main character is a woosy book-worm literary critic who gets press-ganged into a sealing crew led by the cruel and rutheless Wolf Larsson. Larsson is one of the greatest villians I've had the pleasure to read--he's intelligent and brutal, but at times you even sympathize with him.
By the way, I especially suggest this book to people who consider themselves vikings.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,028 followers
October 22, 2014
I've read quite a few of London's books although it was years ago for most. I've reread a few, but somehow never got to this one. I'm glad I remedied that. Wolf Larsen & Hump are certainly two of the most vivid & interesting characters I've had the pleasure to encounter. The story was all the more intriguing because it explores the meaning & purpose of life through a rousing adventure. London based much of it on a sailing voyage he took to Japan which explains the reality of the setting.

Wolf Larsen is the penultimate materialistic man. He believes life is nothing more than a seething vat of yeast where the stronger eat the weaker for no other reason than they can. He believes in no afterlife or gods. He holds to no law save that of the jungle, but he's completely rejected any sort of society. On top of that, he's the captain (last of the tyrants) of a seal hunting ship, so is the ultimate authority in a small, violent world peopled by fantastically hard & damaged men.

Humphrey (Sissy) van Weyden is so pitifully sheltered that it's amazing he took the ferry without an adult to accompany him, even though he's 35 years old. He quite believably winds up on the Ghost & under Wolf's rule. The story is mostly about the growth of Hump into a man under this harsh tutelage.

I didn't give it 5 stars simply because of the ridiculous Victorian love theme running through it. It was awful. I thought that Maud Brewster was well drawn especially for the times, though. She certainly wasn't the robust, kick-ass heroine of modern fiction, but she grew at least as much as Hump did.

My edition is an old rip from audio book cassettes I got from the library. It wasn't abridged & was read by Frank Muller or Mueller. He did a great job.

This novel is now 110 years old. You should have read it or at least be familiar with the overall story line through one of the movies. Edward G. Robinson (1941) or Charles Bronson (1993) were perfect picks for Wolf Larsen. Christopher Reeves as Humphrey van Weyden was perfect, too. (See update below.) If you haven't, then beware

************ Spoilers Below *************

As far as bad-asses go, Larsen could give lessons. While he completely lacks empathy, he's quite the practical psychologist. He out thinks all his opponents (that means everyone) or beats the crap out of them if that seems the reasonable or most expedient thing to do. He hurt Hump's arm for days simply by gripping it briefly. He killed men without a qualm, usually with enjoyment.

When he decided to poach his brother's hunters, he takes one down to his cabin alone for a 'discussion'.
He towered like a Goliath above Wolf Larsen. He must have measured six feet eight or nine inches in stature, and I subsequently learned his weight -- 240 pounds. And there was no fat about him. It was all bone and muscle.
A fight is heard & Larsen emerges a bit red faced from exertion, but otherwise unharmed. The giant is carried out.

In many ways, Larsen reminds me of one of Ayn Rand's heroes, if he'd been raised as a savage. Larsen certainly acts as if he had to fight for every scrap since he was a babe, which makes his intellectual accomplishments the more amazing & his lack of any hint of empathy or society even worse. Larsen says it is simply a lack of opportunity that he didn't outdo "The Corsican" (Napoleon). I believe him.

Larsen's basic philosophy is described here.

'And the highest, finest right conduct,' I [Hump] interjected, 'is that act which benefits at the same time the man, his children, and his race.'

'I wouldn't stand for that,' he replied. 'Couldn't see the necessity for it, nor the common sense. I cut out the race and the children. I would sacrifice nothing for them. It's just so much slush and sentiment, and you must see it yourself, at least for one who does not believe in eternal life. With immortality before me, altruism would be a paying business proposition. I might elevate my soul to all kinds of altitudes. But with nothing eternal before me but death, given for a brief spell this yeasty crawling and squirming which is called life, why, it would be immoral for me to perform any act that was a sacrifice. Any sacrifice that makes me lose one crawl or squirm is foolish; and not only foolish, for it is a wrong against myself, and a wicked thing. I must not lose one crawl or squirm if I am to get the most out of the ferment. Nor will the eternal movelessness that is coming to me be made easier or harder by the sacrifices or selfishnesses of the time when I was yeasty and acrawl.'

Larsen is a noble creature, though. (Note, I did not write 'human'. He's more akin to a shark in his single-minded voracity than his namesake which is a social animal, although not thought so by London.) If nothing else, he's admirable simply because he's such a perfect bastard, much like Lucifer to whom he is likened.

While he has all his faculties about him, Larsen is almost god-like. When they fail, he becomes an object of pity to Hump & Maud, although he certainly asks for none & does his best to reject it. The hell he descends into is a fitting end, too. Nothing could be a worse punishment for him & he certainly deserves plenty.

Hump & Maud certainly found themselves under Larsen's tutelage. I'd say they owe him a great debt, but one doesn't owe anything to the predator or the natural forces of the world. One survives them or is eaten. At the end of the novel, I can imagine both going on to doing great things. Both were wasted in their previous lives, mere drones that were awakened into their full powers by the adversity they faced & overcame. I doubt much in the way of physical or mental hardship will ever daunt them. They also found their moral limits. Stupid as they were, they owned them well. Like their teacher, they were comfortable with themselves, an awesome state of being.

Update 9Jan2014: I watched the 1993 version of this movie with Charles Bronson & Christopher Reeves. Both were perfect for their parts as I suspected they would be. The movie wasn't entirely faithful to the book, but it did stick to the theme pretty well. The romance was done far better, but Bronson didn't directly give the philosophical speech I quoted above. That was a shame, but it was still well worth watching.
Profile Image for Martha.
5 reviews7 followers
March 19, 2008
This has got to be one of my all-time favorite novels. I've read it over and over and over :) Jack London (an atheist to the chore) is one of our great, American authors. His story is extremely gripping and intense, while he weaves throughout the story-line his thoughts of God vs. Atheism. The protagonist (the Christian) and the antagonist (the Atheist) are frequently involved in debates about right vs. wrong, design vs. accident, and God vs. evolution. Jack London does not, however, endorse either view in his book (of course, as he is an atheist, he puts forth stronger arguments in support of his own beliefs). This book really made me think. Oh, and of course the story is amazing!!!
Profile Image for Mahdi Lotfi.
447 reviews96 followers
June 20, 2017
گرگ دریا رمانی از جک لندن نویسنده آمریکایی است. این رمان در سال ۱۹۰۴ منتشر شد و به سرعت با استقبال خوانندگان روبرو گشت.

جک لندن در این رمان داستان «هامفری وان ویدن»، روشنفکری را بیان می‌کند که در اثر غرق کشتی اسیر گروهی ملوان خشن به سرپرستی شخصی بنام «ولف لارسن» می‌شود که او را با کشتی خود به دریاهای دوردست می‌برند. ولف لارسن مردی است بی‌اخلاق و خشن که قدرت بدنی زیادی دارد و در عین حال (مانند خود جک لندن) خودآموخته است و کتاب‌های زیادی خوانده است. داستان با ورود زنی بنام «ماد بروستر» که شاعر مشهوری است صورت دیگری می‌گیرد و هامفری که عاشق ماد شده در جزیره‌ای دورافتاده با همکاری او از پس ولف برمی‌آید.

جک لندن در این رمان به اَبَر انسان نیچه نظر داشته و در داستان به بزرگان عرصه ادب و اندیشه مانند هربرت اسپنسر، عمر خیام، هیپولیت تن، شکسپیر و جان میلتون اشاره دارد.

این کتاب پر از اصطلاحات دریانوردی است و جک لندن در نوشتن آن (مانند بسیاری از دیگر رمان‌های خود) از تجربه زندگی خود بهره گرفته است.

کوتاه از رمان گرگ دریا :
در رمان جک لندن، گرگ دریا به ناخدای یک کشتی شکار خوک دریایی گفته می شود. او مردی ورزیده ولی جانور خو به نام ولف لارسن است. قدرت بدنی او به حدی است که همزمان می تواند با چند نفر مبارزه کند و آنها را شکست دهد. وی رفتار وحشیانه ای با کارکنان کشتی دارد. تا جایی که در بخشی از داستان اجازه می دهد دو نفر از کارکنان کشتی که زمانی به خاطر رفتار وحشیانه او با یکی دیگر از کارکنان بر او شوریده اند، در دریا غرق شوند. اما گرگ دریا چند ویژگی دیگر هم دارد و آن این است که با وجودی که به مدرسه نرفته، کتاب های زیادی خوانده است و به بحث درباره ادبیات و فلسفه علاقه مند است. او به طور کلی در زندگی فلسفه خاصی دارد.
ماجرای رمان گرگ دریا از آن جا شروع می شود که جوانی به نام همفری ون ویدن که از خانواده مرفهی است، با کشتی عازم دیدار دوستش می شود. ولی کشتی ای که او با آن سفر را شروع می کند غرق می شود و ویدن به وسیله کارکنان یک کشتی شکاری به نام شبح نجاب پیدا می کند. ....
Profile Image for Louie the Mustache Matos.
948 reviews67 followers
April 8, 2023
I have read enough Jack London novels throughout my life to acknowledge London as an adventuring activist, journalist, master storyteller concerned about the struggles between man and nature. I have never read this one. I would remember Wolf Larsen, the captain of the seal-hunting Ghost. I would remember his policy for rescuing people from the sea, how he rescues our narrator, and indentures him rather than return him to San Francisco. It doesn't matter that Humphrey Van Weydon is all-but useless on a sea-borne vessel. He has no manly skills. He is a magazine writer. Still, Wolf Larson forces Hump to contribute by starting him as the lowliest position onboard. Little-by-little, as Hump begins to develop his sea legs and a natural instinct to occupy the right space at the most opportune time, Hump not only becomes a trusted member of the crew, but an essential right hand to Larson. Lest we begin to like the captain too much, his bipolar disorder kicks in to perform truly the most heinous acts. During a storm, the Ghost comes across a ship of other people needing rescue and the captain manages to gain more indentured servants, not the least of which is Maud Brewster, a NYC high society poet more accustomed to the circles that Van Weydon would frequent. She only naturally draws the attention of the men. So undoubtedly a reckoning must occur.
Profile Image for David Allen Hines.
310 reviews31 followers
November 28, 2017
Re-read one of my favorite books of youth and it still does not disappoint. The character of Wolf Larson, his intelligence but brutality, is one of the most memorable in literature, while Van Wyden's transformation from a weak gentleman to a strong and powerful man is as equally memorable. All set in a terrific sea-faring tale. The only detractants to this work are the ridiculous portrayal of the female as weak and helpless even as her actions in the book suggest real strength and the book's abrubt ending although truth be told the story is at an end. This is a well written tale, one of London's best, and one which makes either a young adult or a more grown person both think and yearn for adventure. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kenchiin.
258 reviews104 followers
May 9, 2016
"You stand on dead men's legs. You've never had any of your own"
A book full of truth.
Profile Image for Missy Ivey.
537 reviews29 followers
May 7, 2021
The Sea Wolf, a classic originally published in 1904 by Jack London (1876-1916) at age 28. This novel was based on his experience from his 1893 seal-hunting voyage out of Alaska when he was only 17 years old. According to the Jack London State Historic Park (Glen Ellen, California) website, and the place where his ashes were buried, Jack had kidney failure more than likely from late-stage alcoholism and possibly from a few diseases he had caught earlier while traveling around the world, such as scurvy from the Klondike and yaws from the tropics, and was on heavy morphine at the time of his death. He went into a coma shortly before dying on November 22, 1916 at age 40.
This is my first Jack London novel, and it was nothing what I expected it to be, which I thought was going to be a long drawn out story about seal hunting, one I’d regret ever diving into. Nope! This story brought out so many different emotions from start to finish. I will say it would have helped had I known just a little bit about the parts of a sailing vessel, such as a windlass, halyards and shears, topmasts, foremast, booms, gaffs, poop deck, and other parts of the vessel. I couldn’t picture the magnitude of the work they had to do on the rigging before escaping Endeaver Island at the end of the book. Still, it was every bit a psychological adventure as promised.
Wolf Larson, the ruthless captain of the schooner “Ghost”, a seal-hunting vessel, which was just leaving San Francisco and bound for Japan, scooped 35-year-old Humphrey Van Weyden out of the water near the Golden Gate Bridge just in time, then kept steaming on out of the bay into the Pacific and away. Humphrey was an unfortunate victim off the sinking of the ferry boat, the “Martinez”, which had just collided with another boat in the heavy fog. But, you could feel his panic and desparation set in as Humphrey watched the bay of San Francisco pass them by, and he watched, right before his eyes, as the captain and the 20 rough looking crew members showed total disregard for a dying crew member on deck. Humphrey begged and even offered to pay the captain $1000 to be returned to the dock. The captain laughed and the “Ghost” never slowed. It continued on out, and seeing a vessel approaching, heading in to the San Francisco port, and in passing he tried to wave it down and offered $1000 to return him to land. No deal. It kept on steaming by. Humphrey looked back and could still see the fog covering the bay as they headed out deeper and deeper into the Pacific for God knows how long. Weeks? Months? He was definitely trapped and this evil, maniacal Captain Larson was about to teach him a thing or two about survival and the realities of life.
Humphrey was a trust-fund baby. He never worked a day in his life. His hands were soft, his body was soft, he had no muscles at all to speak of. He considered himself an elitist scholar and a pretentious “dilettante”...you know….enjoying the company and rubbing elbows with other pretentious and prestigious elites. But, Captain Wolf Larson was about to show old “Hump”, a name he would soon accept, just what a useless yeasty ferment he was in life and to society...when real men had to work in life just to eat. The captain inspected Humphrey’s hands and said in disgust, “Dead men’s hands have kept it soft. Good for little else than dish-washing and scullion work.” Not a good start!

Humphrey does learn to stand on his own two feet eventually, and he learns how to work around the captain’s violent tempers. He eventually develops a sort of connection with Captain Larson when he finds he is actually also an educated man and likes to be challenged intellectually. They often would have strong and sometimes violent conversations about philosophy and the immortality of the soul, which Wolf didn’t believe in. But, with the captain’s personality being extremely bipolar, changing at the drop of a hat, every single chapter leaves you wondering what else could happen to poor ol’ Hump.

In time, you see Humphrey transform from a man who can really do nothing for himself to taking on the characteristics of the rough crew members, holding his own and taking charge of his life. All the men were a product of the environment in which they were brought up, including Captain Larson. I felt Humphrey’s fears as each day brought new challenges and struggles with the Captain. The author did a great job evolving the characters. I was happy when he found a way to finally connect with Wolf. Then, at the end, when the captain was losing his power and his hold on life, I can hardly believe it, but I felt sorry for him. The story seemed to also lose a little momentum when Captain Larson lost the leading role. I guess that’s because he had such a dynamic presence in the story, which I really enjoyed watching play out in spite of his evil ways.

"The Sea Wolf" (1941), starring Edward Robinson as Wolf and Alexander Knox as Humphrey Van Weyden.

"Legend of the Sea Wolf" (1975) an Italian film, starring Chuck Conners as Wolf and Giuseppe Pambieri as Humphrey Van Weyden.

"The Sea Wolf" (1993), starring Charles Bronson as Wolf and Christopher Reeve as Humphrey Van Weyden

"The Sea Wolf" (2009) TV mini-series, starring Sebastian Koch as Wolf and Stephen Campbell Moore as Humphrey Van Weyden.

I am ready for a new movie to be put out, and I can only imagine Russell Crowe playing Wolf. Now, that would be awesome.
Profile Image for Kris.
392 reviews10 followers
September 2, 2015
How many ways did I loathe this book? Well, first there was the constant theme that in order to be a "real man" (I'll save discussion of women for later) that one has to work with his hands, and has to brave the elements, and laugh in the face of danger, and be cruel, sadistic and amoral, and that these are all things to be admired! Oh, and don't forget that you have to have the body of a Greek god and a a self-taught intellect that is only used to back up one's own views, not to explore other views. This, basically, is the description of Wolf Larsen, captain of the Ghost, a seal-hunting ship in the early 1900's. Our protagonist, Humphrey van Weydon is an intellectual and a scholar, who never "worked a day in his life", according to the illustrious captain. (Hump was 'rescued' from a shipwreck and immediately, and illegally, pressed into service aboard the Ghost - where the first thing he sees is the captain killing the first mate.) Hump is shown to be in every way inferior to the brutish captain.

Needless to say, the captain and 'Hump' disagree on morality, duty, bravery, and just about anything else. So the first part of the book is full of long discussions between the two of them, where the captain always seems to get the better of Hump. This was point two of what I loathed. The arguments were facile; Hump was never very convincing of the 'Christian' or even moral point of view. In all ways, Wolf Larsen is portrayed as superior (despite, or even because of, his cruelty to his crew).

Next we have an amazing coincidence of a rescue at sea of a damsel in distress, Maud, with whom Hump immediately falls in love. This really lacked in believability. At least Maud does not fall for the epitome of all that is male (Wolf) and sees him for what he is - a sadistic monster, who uses his intellect to justify his cruelty.

The next bit of the book was at least interesting, when Hump and Maud escape and are marooned on an island and have to fend for themselves to survive. Their struggles to make shelter and find food seemed quite realistic, and at least at this point their blooming love for one another seemed more realistic. But, even here, the descriptions of Maud as the weaker sex and Hump's feelings toward her were simply laughable: [Hump thinks to himself] "I shall never forget in that moment how instantly conscious I became of my manhood. The primitive deeps of my nature stirred. I felt myself masculine, the protector of the weak, the fighting male. And best of all, I felt myself the protector of my loved one. She leaned against me, so light and lily-frail, and as her trembling eased away it seemed as though I became aware of prodigious strength. I felt myself a match for the most ferocious bull [seal] in the herd, and I know, had such a bull charged upon me, that I should have met it unflinchingly and quite coolly, and I know that I should have killed it." All I can say is, ugh.

Then, a still more amazing coincidence occurs - the Ghost crashes on the island, bereft of all crew except for Wolf Larsen. He, however, is suffering from some sort of brain ailment (possibly a tumor of some kind) and is blind, and then slowly becomes paralyzed. Hump and Maud both bemoan the tragedy of such an "alive" person becoming weak and helpless. When he finally dies, Maud even feels sorry for him!

Look, I realize this was written over 100 years ago, when the ideals of masculinity and femininity were different, but this was just WAY over the top. There was nothing, NOTHING admirable about Wolf Larsen, except maybe his hot body. He was a bully, a sadist, and a criminal.

Oh, and one more thing I loathed - the edition I read had an afterward written by some English professor who seemed to practically glow with admiration for Wolf Larsen and what and example of the Heroic Man he is in literature.

So, why did I even finish it - well, Jack London is a decent story teller and I wanted to see how it was going to end. But I found the first half of the book difficult to read, between the endless (and pointless) arguments about morality and manhood, and the horrible cruelties inflicted on the crew. This was NOT a rousing sea adventure, a la Horatio Hornblower or Master and Commander. If that's the kind of sea-faring tale you like, do NOT bother with this book.

Profile Image for Vicente Ambou.
Author 6 books130 followers
September 18, 2019
Uno de los mejores exponentes de los libros de aventuras de Jack London, con dos remarcables virtudes: el ingrediente de novela psicológica, presente en toda la obra, y el mensaje social de su contenido. Elementos ambos para la creación de dos sólidos personajes: el del capitán “Lobo Larsen”, y el de Humphrey van Weyden. Ambos en interesante yuxtaposición: brutal y proteico el primero, aunque intelectualmente elevado, es el protagonista negativo; civil y refinado el segundo, es su antagonista positivo. Van Weyden es un señorito rico del mundo de las letras. Wolf Larsen es capitán de un barco que caza focas en el Pacífico. El ferry en que viajaba van Weyden se hunde tras una colisión en la bahía de San Francisco, y es rescatado por Larsen quien, habiendo perdido un miembro de su tripulación, obliga a van Weyden a servir de grumete. Y así, navegará van Weyden a bordo del “Ghost” (nombre del barco) obligado a ganarse el pan y a defenderse de los agresivos marineros, pero, sobre todo, a aprender a sobrevivir en ese imperio del músculo en el cual Larsen, “cual un Circe macho”, tiene sometidos con sus brutales métodos capitalistas a todos los tripulantes. Surgirá así, no obstante, una relación de proximidad entre el humanista literato y el cínico y materialista capitán, quienes, filosóficamente vistos, en tanto contrarios, igual que se excluyen se condicionan…
Una de esas novelas que nos marcan en la adolescencia, pero que, ya maduros, releyendo sus páginas, descubrimos con sorpresa que la marca, lejos de atenuarse se acentúa, encontrándole aún más valores de los que entonces supimos ver. Nada raro entonces que haya sido llevada al cine varias veces, en varios países. Esa obra que, como el buen vino, mejora con los años.
Profile Image for Allison.
90 reviews
February 13, 2010
Oh my god. This book is...well, it defies description.

At first, I thought "Oh, illegal seal hunting, violence, and poor health conditions on a ship lost in the Bering Sea. What's not to love?" (Note the heavy sarcasm.)

Turns out, all of those things have a very minor role in the story. It is mostly about the learning experiences of a gentleman aboard a brutal ship, and his conversations with the captain, who is a very unusually educated man. I could go on for pages about the discussions that they have, and the overall character of the captain, but I will spare you.

Jack London is an incredible writer. His writing style is very descriptive while still managing to say exactly what he means in very few words. I really enjoyed reading this book because of it.

I really enjoyed this book. I would definitely recommend it as a quick, but though - provoking read.
Profile Image for Onur Yeats.
179 reviews12 followers
June 30, 2020
Tam bir natüralist başyapıt. Buna rağmen daha kısa olmasını dilerdim. (Jack London’ın çok umrundaydı zaten)
Ayrıca bu kitap, Herman Melville - Billy Budd ile yarışır.

“Yaşamın kargaşa olduğuna inanıyorum. Ekmek mayası gibi, devinen ve bir dakikalığına, bir saatliğine, bir yıllığına yada yüz yıllığına devinen, ama sonunda devinmeyi bırakacak bir şey, bir maya gibi. Devinmeyi sürdürebilsin diye büyük küçüğü yer, gücünü yitirmesin diye güçlü zayıfı yer. En fazlasını şanslı olan yer, en uzun da o devinir, işte o kadar.”
Profile Image for Juan Nalerio.
457 reviews76 followers
July 3, 2019
Jack London fue un gran escritor y supo trasmitir sus experiencias vividas en una época en donde el mundo era un lugar a explorar.
Ésta es una novela de mar, de aventuras y uno está en el barco y siente el agua, el frío, el miedo.

Se agrega una veta filosófica. Las charlas entre ambos protagonistas sobre la vida y el alma son muy profundas e interesantes.

Voy por más London.

La edición de Akal-Clásicos de Bolsillo deja mucho que desear.
Palabras mal escritas y con letras separadas convierten al presente ejemplar en un descuido editorial.
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