Into The Wild, and story of Christopher McCandless

into the wild, at the bus photo from the film

Next time you find yourself wandering through the Wilderness of Zin, Trekking in Timna or lost in Lahav Forest, spare a thought for young Christopher Johnson McCandless, whose dreams of tramping to Alaska foundered in 2003 when he died trapped in an abandoned bus on his way there.

He was trapped in the sense that roots he had found nearby had proven to be the ‘wrong’ roots for human consumption, and they poisoned him and weakened him so much that he was unable to hunt wild game or forage further.

This remarkable but tragic true tale was documented by writer Jon Krakauer, ‘Into The Wild’, which has now been brought to the screen by Sean Penn, who wrote the screenplay as well as directed.

Seeing the film, and having read the book a year or two ago, it reminds me of the documentary ‘Grizzly Man’ (reviewed here), which also sees a young guy, (and why is it always guys?) disillusioned with people after a difficult childhood who heads into the wilderness to commune with nature and the beasts that populate it, and also comes to a grizzly end.

“Into The Wild’ has a lot of Hollywood slick production values, and the scenery shots are stunning (as is the multi-media film website), but the essence of needing to escape, being a bit naive, but also very caring to the people he met on his travels, is conveyed well, and the anthropomorphic need to be ‘immersed in freedom’ exudes from the screen.

If there are lessons from the lives and legacies of McCandless and indeed Timothy Treadwell, then they are that we need to tread lightly but with conviction as we explore the inner and outer Alaska, and let that sense of compassion for humanity and the natural world rule at all times.

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is rapture in the lonely shore,

There is society where none intrudes,

By the deep sea and the music in its roar;

I love not man the less, but Nature more.”

Lord Byron

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4 thoughts on “Into The Wild, and story of Christopher McCandless”

  1. Farley Mowat is a hero of mine – a great guy & great writer. Even though he had all these adventures, there is a blending of imagination too. And K if you think the guy in ‘Into The Wild’ was a selfish, spoiled brat, then you should watch Herzog’s documentary (reviewed here) ‘Grizzly Man’ …..

    interesting anthropological/anthropocentric dilemma really – do we do it for ourselves, or do we do it for the earth? (or as Lennon once wisely said, “why don’t we [just] do it in the road?” ….

  2. Two Against the North, a Farley Mowet book scared the hejeebers out of me. It’s about what happens when you’re in a canoe and accidently go down the wrong pike. It’s real (in the fiction sense), not something the characters set up to suffer on purpose.

    For some reason it seems like men today create these scenarios artificially. They like dancing with death. Into The Wild was about a guy who was a selfish spoiled brat. I was just thinking of this poor guy’s family the whole time, thinking: how can he run away and do that to them?

  3. many thanks for all your comments, Michelle. See you on the streets of the holy city sometime soon, I’m sure…..

  4. michelle4jerusalem says:

    Do I not know you, James? Anyway, interesting thesis about how it’s always men in these situations. I couldn’t finish the book OR the film. Read 3/4 or more of the book and was totally traumatized. That is scarier that Stephen King. It is hard to imagine a woman who would go to such extremes. The people I know hibernating alone on pieces of land in Arizona and Oregon are all men. Women are more likely to need others around them enough to come back to town. But I would be interested to hear if there were women like this. Just now I’m thinking of Two Old Women, another Alaska story, with two women surviving alone in the middle of nowhere. This one is inspiring though. Check it out.

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