Baree: The Story of a Wolf-Dog
Double Book Review - Kazan and Baree -
both by James Oliver Curwood
I recommend both these books for animal lovers, dog lovers, nature lovers, people who have pets,...maybe even people who are fearful of animals and/or want to understand them better. Both these books are par excellence in this genre and are in a sense shaping the 'curiosity bordering on fascination' feelings that I had towards animals into a very real admiration and respect. Let's take them one by one for review.
by James Oliver Curwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the most lively and enjoyable books that I have ever read. This is a must read for animal lovers, nature lovers and especially dog lovers. It's definitely not a hyperbole if I say that the story of Kazan and Gray Wolf can really touch your heart and mind. It makes you wonder about the deep feelings and instincts that are inherent in all of nature's creation, and not just human beings. In fact Kazan seems much more humane than some of the humans in this book (with whips and clubs and rifles) who seem to be lacking some basic humanitarian qualities. Kazan's feelings and struggles and deep emotions are presented so tastefully and skillfully that you cant help but wonder and be amazed with the story that unfolds...the climax was perfect and left my eyes moist.
Kazan is a one quarter wolf - three quarters husky, who responds to love and affection. He has a soft corner for human females and children, whom he has found to be extremely loving, but has a hard block towards human males as most of the men he has encountered have been abusive and cruel. He could tolerate men, but never really trust them, given these experiences.
The story starts out with Kazan, his owner Thorpe and the owner's wife going up north towards the great white northern regions (which are now known as the land of Canada), where they meet a man called McCready. From Kazan's reactions to McCready's presence, it is obvious that he knew him from before and that it was not a good relation between them. From Kazan's eyes we see how McCready would use whips and clubs and fire to beat and coax Kazan into submission. All this abuse leads to a deep resentment and loathing in Kazan's heart towards McCready, which scares Thorpe and he starts regarding Kazan with suspicion. Later when McCready attacks Thorpe's wife and attempts to force himself on her, during Thorpe's absence, a moment of cold fury and hatred engulfs Kazan and he breaks free from his chain and kills the evil abusive man. Realizing that he has killed a human, and in his simple heart, believing that this would mean being subject to violent beatings with clubs and whip lashes, he runs off and disappears into the Canadian wilderness, where he encounters, quite literally, his wild side and legacy.
Here he joins a wolf pack, finds a devoted mate in the loyal Gray Wolf, and after defeating the alpha male leader of the pack, becomes its new leader. They hunt together and rule over the forests. Once, sensing humans in their area, and driven by a mad anger he leads his pack towards their tent. The thrill of the hunt was on and the strong jaws snapped and howled the song of impending death while approaching their tent, when Kazan senses and sees a scared frail woman holding her infant close to her chest and sobbing with fear. This evokes his protective side and he turns this strong jaws on the pack instead. Gray wolf is confused by this behaviour, but being in the heat of battle and having a strong sense of mate-hood and fidelity, throws in her mettle with Kazan and they fight the pack off together, thus sealing their fate as outcasts from the wolf pack.
They journey alone, with just each other for company. In time, Gray wolf gives birth to three little pups. Kazan finds himself turning into a father and increased responsibility which comes with the same. Once, when Kazan is out hunting, a lynx attacks their cave, permanently blinding gray wolf and killing off her cubs; before Kazan returns and kills the physically stronger lynx. This incident makes his blood boil with rage and leads to a lifetime of hatred and enmity with lynx-kind.
The two partners survive forest fires, starvation, human induced separation, gray wolf's blindness and hence dependance on Kazan, and many other challenges, but they stick with each other through thick and thin. The book is full of a number of thrilling incidents small and big, only a few of which are mentioned in passing in my review above, and is guaranteed to tug at your heart chords. An absolute must - read. Someone should absolutely make a movie on this book. The people of this world definitely need a bit more sensitization and awareness which this story can provide. View all my reviews
by James Oliver Curwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Baree, a dark blackish coloured wolf dog, was born to Kazan and Gray wolf (from the book above) and this book is devoted to his adventures and experiences. This book is as well written as the one above, and very touching and lively. However, if I have to choose, I would rate the previous book a bit higher than this one.
Due to his mother unfortunately being blinded during a violent fight with a lynx, she chose to deliver Baree inside the protected environment of a cave rather than under a moonlit sky in the open plains guarded by her mate, which is the norm for wolves. The dark cave, Gray wolf and Kazan was all that tiny Baree knew, till he started experimenting more and setting out and discovering new things about the world and having his own little adventures. A freak accident washes him downstream and separates him from his parents while still quite young, and he has a number of adventures.
He encounters a hunting wolf pack one night and his instincts kick in and he joins them in the hunt and also finds a young she-wolf. However, circumstances (read - his black-ish coloured fur) cause the wolves to become confused about his identity and turn their fangs on him, and they drive him out. It broke my heart to see what the wolves did with him, and the way Baree started to hate wolves, similar to the loathing that Kazan had for Lynxes throughout his life.
Due to the dog heritage in him longing for company, Baree develops some curious friendly relations with bears, beavers, and other jungle animals. He finds himself in the care of, and warming up to Nepeese, a half Indian half French girl, and her father Pierrot who is a trapper. He develops a deep intimate bond with them, especially with the girl. There are a number of twists and turns later where he is captured, abused and set in a ring to fight to death with another dog for people's pleasure, and is rescued by a kind man. Baree never gives up on Nepeese though, and keeps trying to return back to her.
The last chapters and especially the climax is a heart warmer and James Curwood literally had me in tears yet again. Have become a fan of his writing and would most probably read many more books from this author. View all my reviews