Monday, March 07, 2005

Looking for a Grey Owl Connection

A friend of mine recently wrote and asked me whether I knew of a connection between the Canadian author Grey Owl and Ernest Thompson Seton.

I had been vaguely aware of Grey Owl and new that he was a Canadian Indian writer of the early 1900s. Among his books are The Men of the Last Frontier (1931), Tales of an Empty Cabin (1936) and The Tree (1937). Given the location and their interests, it indeed seems logical that there night be a connection.

I have reviewed my sources and I have yet to find a connection. But I have found a new interest.

Grey Owl lived and worked in northern Ontario from 1906 on as a trapper, guide, forest ranger, conservationist and writer. He claimed to be the child of a Ojibway and a white woman and lived among the Native Americans.

After his death. It was discovered that grey Owl was really Archie Belaney who had immigrated from England in 1906. Somewhere on his journey, he erased his past and created a new one. That he pulled it off so well is a literary mystery.

Grey Owl was the subject of a 1999 film, Grey Owl, starring Pierce Brosnan.

If anyone knows of a connection between Seton and Grey Owl, please share the information.


Ron Edmonds said...

I haven't found a direct link between Seton and Grey Owl, but here is an indirect one -found in the introduction to a book published while both were still living:

1936 FIRST EDITION HARDCOVER OF THE IMPORTANT CANADIAN NATURE STORY BY KENNETH CONIBEAR, entitled "North Land Footprints or Lives on Little Bent Tree Lake," published by Lovat Dickson Limited, of London, England, who we believe also had interests in the work of Grey Owl and other Canadian wildlife writers. "In North Land Footprints the author achieves a book of animal life which is at once informative and absorbing. It is neither a fantasy nor a treatise; it is, in fact, a realistic novel in which animals are the chief characters. Ahmeek the Beaver, Mistigi the Muskrat, Nekeithe-Tzompah the Silver Fox, Little Ceeseh the Whiskey-Jack - their loves, hungers, feasts, fights, sadness, deaths; their inter-relations, the part played in their lives by winter, summer, the snows and the winds. The author, a Rhodes scholar, was at one time a trapper in the North-West Territories of Canada, and writes therefore with authority. He is, nevertheless, on the side of the animals. Deep understanding with accurate detail and honest realism, is indeed the keynote of the book, which has received the enthusiastic approval of Grey Owl." Conibear thanks Ernest Thompson Seton and Grey Owl for their inspiration in the book's introduction.
(This was taken from an Ebay listing.)

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