As a child I felt the call of the wild. Jack London’s book sat on my bedroom bookshelf and every so often I would take and read. Or rather, I would drink it in, as I did all of my favorite books, living moment by moment Buck’s eerie transformation from favored pet in sunny Santa Clara to wolf fiend of the Arctic. Why did I love the tale? Its cruelty held no charms for me, but its stark beauty captivated me.
One day my friends and I found a small, hurt animal – mouse, bird, I no longer remember what. When one girl wanted to rescue it I spoke frostily of the law of club and fang until she protested, “Well . . . jeepers!” That gentle “jeepers” sank its fangs into my soul. Why would a Christian girl love The Call of the Wild? I decided I had overdosed on wolfish creatures (“They were savages, all of them . . . ”) and read London no more.
This past Christmastide I heard an NPR review of Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant and knew that I had to see it. I had a professional motive, besides. As a history professor specializing in the early nineteenth century, I did not want to be mauled by a student who had seen this film when I had not. So, one fine Friday before the spring semester hit, I took myself to see The Revenant. Continue reading