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Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds

(Story of Elsa #1)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  30,946 ratings  ·  304 reviews
There have been many accounts of the return to the wild of tame animals, but since its original publication in 1960, when The New York Times hailed it as a "fascinating and remarkable book," Born Free has stood alone in its power to move us.

Joy Adamson's story of a lion cub in transition between the captivity in which she is raised and the fearsome wild to which she is
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 16th 2000 by Pantheon Books (first published January 28th 1960)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  30,946 ratings  ·  304 reviews

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Start your review of Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds (Story of Elsa, #1)
Shirley Revill
I read this book ages ago and I really enjoyed reading it. I also loved the film where her love for animals came shining through. Truly exceptional story.
Summer Lane
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best animal stories of all time. Why? Because it isn't just about a lion named Elsa, it is about a companion, a friend and a loving creature who shared in the lives of Joy and George Adamson when they lived in Kenya. Originally penned in 1960, it is the touching tale of how they raised an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and she grew to be their nearest and dearest friend - she was family. I have rarely read a book so heartwarming. Elsa was really very magical and unique, and ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it liked it
While I loved Elsa's story and enjoyed most of the pictures in the book, this was not the heartwarming story I remember from my childhood. I love Elsa, but I really didn't like the Adamsons. It may be because I keep comparing them to Lawrence Anthony, another conservationist, and I find that Mr. Anthony seemed to have more respect for the animals' right to exist in their environment. I couldn't lose sight of the fact that Elsa was orphaned because he killed her mother thinking she was a male ...more
Joanne Moyer
I saw the movie Born Free as a child and loved it. I probably read the book along the way too but as usual don't remember. The story of Elsa and the Adamsons is still an amazing one of
love and devotion between a wild animal and her 'pride', George and Joy Adamson. The descriptions of where and how they lived is really interesting as it's a way of life not many will ever experience
Noran Miss Pumkin
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all young at heart
Recommended to Noran by: my loving mother
Shelves: me
You saw the movie, you sang the song, you begged mother for the vinyl, and she bought you the book as a surprise. Elsa had all our hearts back then, and her was amazing and truly free in the end. It was the Feel Good story of the decade. so, I think it might be time to bring it back once again for the new generation. What better message to save the Earth?
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
The story of a lion cub,raised in captivity,and returned to the wild,and the couple who made it happen.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Animal Lovers
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Utlimate Reading List - Biography
This is the book the film was based upon, the story of Elsa the lioness, hand raised by a Senior Game Warden and his wife, Joy Adamson, and later released into the wild. This would be rated five stars except that I really try to be stingy with those. The book didn't make me cry, laugh-out-loud or change my thinking, and Adamson, while she writes well and fluently, doesn't have the impressive, lyrical prose of Beryl Markham and Isak Dinesen, two other European women who wrote celebrated memoirs ...more
Reindert Van Zwaal
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
The story was remarkable and I really enjoyed the bonding between a newly born lion and humans. However, the storytelling wasn't that good. It was merely a enumeration of events instead of a tale that is being told. I planned to read all three installments, but I will leave it at the first one, for I cannot get myself up to reading two more books of enumerations.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love animals, and it would be a dream come true to bond with a wild animal like Joy and her husband George did. It was an easy read, and there were lots of wonderful photos. What a fabulous lion Elsa was - she learned to live with other wild lions, but at the same time, she was gentle and always careful around her human caretakers, who she seemed to love just as much as they loved her.
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read this when I was a child and remember loving it. Would love to read it again someday.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'll start with what I liked about this book: the pictures.

Now, I don't know what you're looking for in a book. But to warn you, this book is mildly racist, scatterbrained, and boring at some parts. One paragraph she'll be telling this one story and then she'll get off track and tell a different story without summing up the first one or giving the second relevance or importance. Some areas I zoomed through reading and others I practically fell asleep at. I thought it would be interesting because
Kirsty Noah-whitlock
Bit of a hard one to review. I love Elsas story but not entirely agreeable with Joy and George, just because of some of the animals they killed for no reason to be honest. At times I felt like giving up on the book for this reason but I'm going to continue the trilogy and try reading Living Free to see how Elsas journey continues. I may even get a liking for Joy and Else you never know, watch this space xx
Before this Elsa:


That adorable Kiara:

There was THIS Elsa. An orphaned lion cub, the weakest of the litter that grew up into a beautiful lioness named Elsa, who got involved in many adventures with her foster parents.

Oh, my goodness, how did I forget this one!!!
L.K. Simonds
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Long before Hemingway, Dinesen, and Markham shared their Africa with me, I knew Elsa's Africa. This was a memoir I read in my youth, perhaps the first, and it remains with me to this day.

Joy Adamson's story of returning an orphaned lion who had been raised as a pet to the wild is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and hopeful. It's also a peek at East Africa in the 1950s. All around, a good and emotional read.
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I did love learning so much about the african wilderness and these Lions. I struggled with the mentality that the Adamsons had. Pretty ok to just shoot any wildlife if it was in there way... but I try to understand maybe that was just more the times then... Anyway, pretty good read, pretty good story...
Chloe Playle
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: child-teen-ya
I read this when I was young, and made me cry my eyes out. I still think of this book.
Robin Reynolds
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The author’s husband, in his duties as a game warden, was forced to shoot a lioness as she attacked. He then found her three young cubs (and felt great remorse at having killed their mother) and took them home. Two of the cubs were eventually sent to a zoo, but the smallest, Elsa, stayed on as a member of the household.

The bond between Elsa and the Adamsons is incredible. While raising Elsa as a pet, they rarely kept her penned up or chained and gave her a lot of freedom to still act like a
A story of Elsa a lion cub raised and loved by Joy and George. A telling of the hardship for both Elsa and her human family. It seemed at times to be unattainable and a failure. The life for Elsa was torn between that of being a pet or living a free life in the wild as she was meant to have. The steps in her life are told in many fun and hard adventures. Elsa finally is her own lioness but she never forgets her human family.

Elsa's story started the wild animal rights to live wild and free and
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 7th-sims
Born Free
By Joy Adamson
Review by Graham W

Born Free is an amazing story, that is also true and is unlikely to happen to just anyone. One of the people lucky enough to experience this was Joy Adamson, the author of the book.

Just being in a Safari car on a bumpy road is all worth it, even in tall grass never knowing what is coming around the corner. But as long as the truck is moving you can never take even a half decent picture, and when searching for lions, its just part of the adventure. But
Jun 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the inspiration, true story Elsa, a lioness, who is raised by the author Joy Adamson, and her husband George. When George must go on safari after a man-eating lion, his hunting party is attacked by a vicious lioness. She is shot in self-defense, but they realize later with remorse that she had been trying to protect her young, three cubs who George brings back to camp. Though Elsa’s sisters are sent to a zoo when they are still cubs, Elsa remains in Kenya with the intent of joining her ...more
This is the 40th anniversary edition of this classic book, and it contains a new forward. I remember seeing this movie as a child, and it had a very sad ending that made me cry. This book, however, did not end on a sad note; now I think the movie may have included part of the storyline from the book's sequels.

Born Free is a cute, bittersweet story of a couple in Kenya and their lioness, raised from a cub and successfully returned to the wild. It took place in the late 50s and retains a tiny bit
Lisa Vegan
May 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves animals, especially lions, or has any interest in Africa, everyone
I cannot remember how many times I reread this book; it was many. I also enjoyed Living Free and Forever Free although not quite as much, but it would have been impossible for me to not read those sequels as I would have been painfully curious about how the story continues.

I’ve cried a lot each time I’ve read it because the book is so emotionally moving. The story of Elsa the lioness and her humans and Kenya was completely engrossing. I read it first when I was about 12 and it got me interested
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a nice read. I enjoyed the story and the pictures of Elsa. The author starts the book off when she and her husband first find the lion cubs. She talks about their playfulness, shyness, and intelligence. I thought it was amazing how intelligent Elsa was. In many ways she was smarter than the typical canine. Elsa must learn how to hunt and survive on her own with only her human parents to teach her. There were many skills that she picked up from instinct alone. Again great book! This is ...more
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: big cat lovers
The mastercheese for lion lovers. Grab the hankies. Freedom!

Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This may be the most moving and inspiring "animal story" I've ever read.

Evocative and compelling, Born Free is the remarkable true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy Adamson and her husband, George. At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to release her to the Kenyan wilds where she was free born.

Joy Adamson wrote three books
Nov 16, 2017 added it
Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds
By Joy Adamson
Review by Neve
Lions have never been at my peak of interest, but the story of Joy Adamson and Elsa the lioness certainly did when I first came across this book. It retells the experience Joy and her husband George as they raised Elsa for three years. Throughout the story they travel on safaris and introduce Elsa to the natural world. Joy and Elsa develop a mother-daughter like relationship that lasts a lifetime.
I was not a fan of this story because
Andrew Ives
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals, cinema
(1st ed, 7th imp) Although I remembered not liking the film much at all, and knowing that the book would be without the Matt Monro music which was the best thing about the film, I hoped that somehow the book would be better than the film, as is often the case with adaptations.

Alas, it was not to be. I expected a film/book about lions to be fairly red in tooth and claw, but basically this is a gruesome chronicle of shooting every kind of unfortunate gazelle, zebra, warthog, crocodile, guinea
Lora Shouse
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Surely you remember the movie “Born Free”? Ok, maybe not. But you must have heard the theme song from that movie, also titled “Born Free.” I think it’s become one of those pop-culture classics, of the kind that they actually teach elementary school children.

Well, anyway, this is the book about the lioness, Elsa, who inspired both the movie and the song, and her human family.

George Adamson, senior game warden of the Northern Frontier Province of Kenya, along with another game warden, was hunting
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is another book about a relationship between an animal and humans. In this case, it was between an orphaned lion cub and a couple in Africa. The man was a wildlife ranger in northern Kenya, originally from England, I believe. The mother of 3 cubs had been harming people and had to be hunted and shot. Two of the cubs were sent to zoos in Rotterdam. The third one was the runt, who would have been killed or abandoned by the mother in the wild. The couple fell in love with her and named her ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-atw
A case of truth is stranger than fiction, this is the real life story of the couple who raised a lioness and then successfully reintroduced her to the wild. George and Joy Adamson lived in Kenya; George was an African game warden responsible for balancing the needs of the wild animals with the safety of the humans who lived and worked among them. When he mistook a nursing lioness for a nuisance, he rectified his mistake by saving her 3 cubs. 2 went off to live in a zoo, but Elsa remained with ...more
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All About Animals: Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds by Joy Adamson 31 15 Feb 24, 2013 04:07PM  

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Joy Adamson (born Friederike Victoria Gessner) was a naturalist, artist, and author best known for her book, Born Free, which describes her experiences raising a lion cub named Elsa. Born Free was printed in several languages, and made into an Academy Award-winning movie of the same name. In 1977, she was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art. Born to Victor and Traute Gessner ...more

Other books in the series

Story of Elsa (4 books)
  • Living Free (Story of Elsa, #2)
  • Forever Free: Elsa's Pride (Story of Elsa, #3)
  • Born Free: The Full Story
“Although the release was heartbreaking for the Adamsons, they were mindful that she had been born free.” 10 likes
“It was nearly a week before we returned. We found her waiting, and very hungry. She was full of affection; we had deceived her so often, broken faith with her, done so much to destroy her trust in us, yet she remained loyal.” 8 likes
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