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The Revenant
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Monthly Reads > The Revenant - book and movie

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Zeljka (ztook) | 2949 comments Mod
The veracity of the hardships real-life 19-century's frontiersman Hugh Glass endured is disputable. Nevertheless, the Hugh Glass's survival and revenge story excited the imagination of many since then, so much that even if it was just a legend embellished over time, it is still worth admiring, just like many other stories of the frontier.

The Revenant by Michael Punke was partly inspired by the poem The Song of Hugh Glass by John G. Neihardt, but as the author himself is an outdoor enthusiast, many experiences in the book were drawn from his own ones. (apart from the bear mauling.) If you wish, you can read the poem first. It is in public domain, therefore available for reading online for free: Internet Archive. Beware, it is a pretty long poem. This novel is not the only one about Hugh Glass, so if you can't get a hold of it (doubtful), you can check Lord Grizzly by Frederick Manfred (the National Book Award finalist in 1955) or The Saga of Hugh Glass by John Myers Myers.

Glass's adventures and mishaps inspired some movies too. The Revenant (2015) by Alejandro G. Iñárritu is the one we should see, but I wouldn't dismiss watching also the other interesting film that took its inspiration directly from that man's life: Man in the Wilderness (1971). There is also a spaghetti western in which Glass's character had a prominent role, Apache Blood (1975). The movie has terrible reviews, but if you want to see for yourselves why, it is in public domain, so you can watch it for free on Internet Archive: Apache Blood (1975).

Well, who knew there would be so many sources of reading and watching about this man? I don't think he ever thought he would be now so famous, without actually writing a single word himself. The other people made him immortal. Is that what humanity is? To share in other people's lives and be inspired from their battles and successes? This kind of reminds me of Homer's Odyssey. Although in this case we are certain the person existed, and the events actually may have happened, the pattern is the same, the other person or persons, engraving someone else's name in time and human minds forever.


Daniel Woodward | 28 comments I loved the book. the movie was good, too. the differences were interesting. I would say the film makers had an agenda for sure. It is a worthwhile agenda, but it sure stands out if you have read the book (and of course that's the whole point of this group.) I am curious what other people thought.


Basil M | 18 comments I haven't seen the movie love the book that I won't have read if it wasn't for this group so thanks


Zeljka (ztook) | 2949 comments Mod
Basil wrote: "I haven't seen the movie love the book that I won't have read if it wasn't for this group so thanks"

Daniel wrote: "I loved the book. the movie was good, too. the differences were interesting. I would say the film makers had an agenda for sure. It is a worthwhile agenda, but it sure stands out if you have read t..."

Thank you! I am glad you both liked the book! I am just three chapters in, and I am hooked :)

I am not a fan of trappers, because I have a deep rooted image in my head of those from the Dances With Wolves who slaughtered so many buffalo just for their fur and left the rest to rot. No doubt it was a necessity of the life on the frontier for many to be trappers and for many to trade with them. Some surely weren't bad people, and some surely respected the natives they were communicating with and the nature they were exploiting. I probably won't think any different after reading this book, but at least I hope I'll understand better the frontier from their perspective. The book is very interesting so far!


message 5: by Zeljka (last edited Sep 12, 2020 11:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zeljka (ztook) | 2949 comments Mod
I finished the first part this afternoon. Amazing book! So intense and interesting storytelling! Of course, it was unfortunate for Glass, but knowing he survived that harrowing experience, I can freely say it was exciting read.

I said before I do not like trappers. I still don't, and there are hints mentioned through the eyes of Indians of their wasteful and disrespectful use of resources, and of course, the bad state of the Fort Union when Captain Henry came back to it, showed exactly what happens when one does not respect its surroundings. However, it would be unfair to say they all were rotten and selfish. The people in Captain Henry's team were of various backgrounds, and while some were horrid (like Fitzgerald who would be a bad apple everywhere), there were some decent people caught under the circumstances (like Bridger, who was basically still a kid).

As for Glass, I squirmed a bit at some scenes, but realized that with that modern sensibility we probably wouldn't have lasted a day, let alone a month alone in the wilderness. It was tough to read what he did for his survival, but it was necessity. We should read more often books that will make us think more about our mortality and superficiality of our modern lives.


Zeljka (ztook) | 2949 comments Mod
I used free Sunday afternoon to finish this book in one sitting (or rather, lying down). Wow. It was a ride. I've never thought I'll learn in so much detail how hard it is to survive in wilderness. (not that I learned how to apply what I read. I do not intend to go there.)

One thing though - I had a bit of sympathy toward Glass, he was a decent smart human being, respectful toward natives, but still a product of his own time when he did what he did with buffalo. Yes, that eased their way forward, but truly, it was not essential for their survival. Oddly that I mentioned exactly that in the previous post. And now I am disgruntled, but can't really judge him nor his companions. Those were different and cruel times. No one but natives cared.

The best segment was the moment of truth between Glass and Bridger. It was so painful to read... I felt terrible pity for that boy, yet could understand the rage Glass was consumed with. I was relieved when it was over, and in a good way. Considering that, the reckoning that was due to Fitzgerald was so anticlimactic. If that was a fictionalized part of the story, it wasn't quite satisfying. One might say, that's how it goes in real life. What do you think?

Historical notes were interesting. I had no idea Bridger was later actually quite an influential person, even that some places in the West bear his name now. And Captain Henry! Truly bad luck till the end.

What parts impressed you the most? Is there anything in the book you wished was different?


Daniel Woodward | 28 comments Zeljka, I have been wondering if you have seen the movie yet. I agree with how unsatisfying the final conflict between Glass and Fitzgerald was in the book, but it did ring true.
I would really love to hear your feelings about the differences between the book and the movie when it comes to portraying both the trappers and the native tribes.


Zeljka (ztook) | 2949 comments Mod
Daniel wrote: "Zeljka, I have been wondering if you have seen the movie yet..."

I saw the movie when it came out, but I would like to rewatch it now, exactly because I'd like to see it from this perspective. The only glaring difference I remember the movie Hugh Glass had a son he hadn't in the real life. I guess they wanted to add something more substantial to his revenge issue, as if the fact they left him to die wasn't enough to our modern sensibilities. True, I probably would think the same, but it was reiterated in the book too, and quite often, by the other protagonists that he should leave that rage behind and move on with his life.

I've also found Man in Wilderness movie, with Richard Harris! I'll try to watch them both the next weekend.


Zeljka (ztook) | 2949 comments Mod
So I watched this weekend both Man in the Wilderness and The Revenant. Sorry I couldn't before.

The first one is totally fictional. The inspiration was obvious, but everything was made up and ridiculous. The Indian childbirth, mad captain emulating Aguirre. I wonder if there was any AHS monitoring on the set, as there were some quite gruesome animal torturing scenes. The scenery was beautiful though, and Richard Harris was impeccable.

The Revenant... It definitely wasn't an accurate retelling of Glass's history. The first thing that was truly different, was the addition of the native son to Glass's background. I can only assume only three reasons for it: 1 - they wanted to strengthen his drive for revenge, 2 - they thought Glass's life itself was boring and juice lacking for a two and half hours long film, 3 - they thought one wouldn't think of Glass as a good guy if he was just a plain trapper, when one knows today how bad trappers were for natives and wildlife of America back then. They didn't have time to establish in the film how well versed he was with the local people but through his fictionalized native wife and son. The other characters were more less like in the book. Fitzgerald's background was different, but a scoundrel just the same.

I think they wanted to put focus on the big picture here, not only on Glass, but also how the arrival of white mercenaries affected the natives and the wildlife of that time. The book did try to tell bigger picture too, but it did not stray far from Glass's story. It makes sense to show both sides in this kind of the film. It obviously fictionalized some parts of Glass's biography, but it is still highly probable Glass himself witnessed some of the atrocities depicted here.

I am just suspicious of how they showed French as utterly bad guys even though in the book French actually helped Glass to recover and were decent folk. English trappers in the movie were good guys, the only bad apple being Fitzgerald, whose English was undecipherable without subtitles. It was a bit too much.

It was good film at least for the stunning scenery. It was awesome. I do not recall so huge icy mountains in the book though, but my sense for geography and orientation in the space is not to be trusted anyway.

The ending was the only thing that truly annoyed me. (view spoiler) The other thing I didn't understand were the Arikara in relation to Glass, if someone could explain to me that part, under spoiler tags of course. (view spoiler)

Daniel, would you like to share your thoughts? I am quite interested to hear what did you think. This above is all I could think of at the moment, surely I missed something important on the way.

And of course, if there's anybody else willing to say a word two, freely do so :)


Daniel Woodward | 28 comments I read the book before watching the movie. I loved the book. I admired the movie. (I have not watched the earlier movie, just The Revenant.) The differences interest me very much. the movie certainly has an agenda, but the story of Glass's survival is so basic and clear that it bears the weight of that agenda very well.
I agree with most of your comments above, Zeljka, especially about the ending. At first, the ending of the book bothered me. It seemed too anti-climactic. But after thinking about it, I thought it was telling me that although revenge seems justified, it is ultimately hollow. I can understand that the film makers felt the need to change the ending so drastically.
One thing I miss from the book was the connection Glass had with his gun.


message 11: by D.R. (new)

D.R. Schoel | 8 comments What I wonder is why both the book and the movie did not portray what Glass (historically) did when he finally found those that had left him to die (though his original intent was indeed revenge)... he forgave them. We tend to comment a lot on how terrible people were in the past (i.e. trappers, etc)... yet our modern culture sometimes seems to portray much more cruelty towards each other...


Basil M | 18 comments D.R. wrote: "What I wonder is why both the book and the movie did not portray what Glass (historically) did when he finally found those that had left him to die (though his original intent was indeed revenge)....."

That is a very good point


Daniel Woodward | 28 comments D.R. wrote: "What I wonder is why both the book and the movie did not portray what Glass (historically) did when he finally found those that had left him to die (though his original intent was indeed revenge)....."

In the book, Glass did forgive Bridger.


Zeljka (ztook) | 2949 comments Mod
D.R. wrote: "What I wonder is why both the book and the movie did not portray what Glass (historically) did when he finally found those that had left him to die (though his original intent was indeed revenge)....."

Daniel wrote: "I read the book before watching the movie. I loved the book. I admired the movie. (I have not watched the earlier movie, just The Revenant.) The differences interest me very much. the movie certain..."

Yes, of course, how I forgot that! In the book it was so obvious how people around Glass who helped him nudged him toward forgiveness, but he was so stubborn in pursuing vendetta. I agree with Daniel when he says how that actually was the point, for us to realize that the revenge is hollow in substance. Justice should be done if possible, sure, but as a person one should get over it and move on, not to pursue death and consume yourself with it.

Interesting that Man in the Wilderness goes with that line of thought, and there is even that detail about the gun Glass was so fond of.

The Revenant takes another path, and I didn't understand that ending. Actually that bothered me even before I read the book, the first time I watched the movie, that the whole final act didn't make sense to me.


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