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Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Firstly when Leisure Books secured the rights to publish this book, which originally came out in 1926,  as a mass market paperback they must not have read it. They must have figured it's Max Brand so it's a western but although it's a wonderful and memorable read it is certainly not a western. The beautiful cover painting must also have been done from a misleading synopsis that went something like, "a western and there's a white wolf in it". Problem is the white wolf in question is actually a bull terrier and not the lupine creature depicted on the admittedly beautiful cover painting.

Less western and more wildlife adventure - it's closer in theme and spirit to Watership Down than Shane, but that's not a criticism - I loved the book. Though if I was looking for a western as the book suggests I would have been disappointed but as it was after a chapter or so I found myself sucked into this great story.

It is the story of Tucker Crosden who is determined to breed the perfect bull terrier - he decides to take his prize bitch into the mountain to give birth because he figures that if the pups spend their initial weeks in the wilds it will make them better dogs. One day he goes hunting but a wolf sneaks into camp and after a bitter fight with the terrier bitch proceeds to kill the puppies. However one of the pups does manage to escape  and finds shelter amongst a litter of wolf cubs and is then raised as wolf - the dog becomes known to other wolves as The White Wolf.

The animals talk to each other in this story, they speak with the full range of human language and this is the story of White Wolf and his struggles to become accepted by his adopted species. It's a great yarn - heart warming on times and also thrilling as the young dog struggles to survive in the brutal world created by Mother Nature. White Wolf, comes from a species long domesticated by man but now the rules of civilisation are alien to the environment in which he finds himself.

"Do you hear?" growled the black wolf, licking the great scar on its foreleg. "Is that the voice of one of our kind."
                  La Sombra reached out a tentative paw and turned the puppy on its back; then she sniffed it from head to toe.
                 "It is strange," she said, hesitantly.
                  "It is not half the size of the others, for one thing," remarked the father.

It's a great read, hugely entertaining but it's most certainly not a western.

1 comment:

bish8 said...

This is interesting. Was Brand (I can't remeber his actual name at the moment) doing a variation on the white child adopted by Indians after they've slaughter his family?

This is kind of a standard in the western genre and perhaps Brand either consciously or unconsciously played the theme out through a different scenario.

I may be reaching for meaning that isn't (most probably isn't) there, but it's definitely a thought.