BY Ernest Seton Thompson
Published in 1898


Snippet from Wikepedia. No Spoilers.

Wild Animals I Have Known is an 1898 book by naturalist and author Ernest Thompson Seton. The first entry in a new genre of realistic wild-animal fiction, Seton’s first collection of short stories …

I’ve added this book to the Adventures Classic category in the Back to the Classics 2016 challenge, and that completes the 12 books challenge. I could also have added Around the World in 72 Days too. Either or both are adventure books, and both also happen to be non fiction.

I’m going to review both.

WILD ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN. I would not have known about the book had it not been for Ambleside Online’s Curriculum. The book was published in 1898. At the turn of the century, many parts of the United States were cowboy, or country man territory. Farming and cattle and all the occupations around that were reality for many. The wild animal threats were a daily danger, a force to be reckoned with.

Wikipedia describes this book as the first in a new genre, realistic wild-animal fiction. This review comes after my review of another first genre (In Cold Blood). Both are different mixtures of realism and fiction. I’ve heard William J. Long books (in the same genre as Wild Animals…) criticized as being a bit of tall tales, or projecting human characteristics in the animals that are not there. In the same line, Capote is accused of having added dialogue, or embellished the story. If they are objective or not, if these books stay true to reality or not, I find it the wrong question, or a question within a philosophy that assumes there’s an aseptic reality. All truth (and there are truths, and a Truth) has to be expressed from a human angle and an individual bias. The bias is no less than the style of the author, his take on the form he’ll choose to tell the story (fiction, non fiction, poetry…) Biases are not our enemy. That’s not well stated, open biases are not our enemies. As a reader, I despise the so called aseptic truths wrapped in a cascade of facts. Many textbooks suffer from that malady. They may be more “objective” in presenting us what a wolf is, yet I’m glad to have met Seton’s very partial and biased Lobo. But why fight? Both views are complementary. Just know what you’ll get when you are using a more encyclopedia type of book. I only ask you to consider this other type of literature, and value it too for what it brings to you. Along with that more fantastic and anthropomorphic manner of introducing animals, it’s a long gone portrayal of American roots. (Huh, it’s the same with In Cold Blood). We have the advantage of some time between these books and ourselves. Their biases are raw, they are not hidden in the euphemisms and politically correct verbiage of our present. That’s why I jumped when I heard Nellie Bly in the next book to review, talk about several issues. Her shortsightedness and her offensive remarks made me shake my head in shame and disbelief. I’m not going to absolve her (as if I could!), but I can simply remember the era, and also believe she’d be willing to listen -if she were alive today, and rectify some of her conclusions and conduct.

The authors of both books, Capote and Seton, bring us their view on the subjects of their books. Seton observes, philosophizes, narrates, and projects judgment into the animal kingdom, and back to the human world. These “biographies” of a few animals, and the chronicles of their existence and their crossing paths with us, will always stay with us.

My daughters and husband did not have any issues with the violence and sadness of the book. We all came to expect much of what happened in the stories. I’ve heard some children cannot read this by themselves. Since we read it together, it was good to be able to talk about it and discuss it. I don’t think we all have to read this book, or not at a young age. We are glad we did. It nurtured our respect for those men and women, and for the animals too.



I listened to this book in audio. It’s free at Librivox, and the narrator is a young woman who made it seem to me as if the same Nellie Bly was narrating the book herself.
I found the book looking for something light and different to what I usually read. Once I started reading it, I remembered having seen Nellie Bly celebrated at google not long ago. I will be frank, I usually ignore anything that says ‘feminist’. I don’t hold a Middle Ages view of woman either, but I’m simply in a different frequency. One of my bias it’s that I find so much angst and misplaced emotions in the whole “ism” of feminism. If I stop and listen, though, I can learn a thing (or ten!).

One of my friends searched Nellie Bly, and, as if this book about her endeavor to break the record of Verne’s fictional character, Phineas Fog, were not fascinating, she feigned insanity to be admitted into a mental institution for women where abuses were suspected, to confirm first hand the treatment these women were receiving. That is worth being mentioned, remembered, and if possible, read.As my friend also put it, to risk your life to improve the lives of others, it’s a noble and courageous deed.

That’s where she traveled. It was a good summer read audio indeed. I won’t spoil it for you, but I cannot leave the review without saying what to me was the highlight of the book. Oh, the book it’s not very long!, but if I had to read it in full to meet the Vernes (yes, Jules Verne and his wife), I’d read it without a doubt.

Victorian travel and nowadays travel? Has it changed? Yes, sure, now traveling is faster, there’s more possible connections and places, more options… but, has service, delays, certain countries behavior towards tourists, restrictions, dangers, commodities, surprises, gauging, bartering, annoying passengers, unexpected friends, nuances with food, weather, luggage, customs, bureaucracy, etc. changed that much? I’ll let you to decide for yourself.

One thought on “Wild Animals I Have Known and Around the World in 72 Days

  1. My children really liked Wild Animals, even though many of them aren't found over here. Yes, a bit sad, but that's reality. I like the sound of Nellie Bly & have never heard of this book so thanks for the review. X


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