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James Oliver Curwood (Owosso, Michigan, June 12, 1878 – ID., August 13, 1927) was an American narrator, journalist and conservationist.
He was the youngest of four brothers and in his maternal branch it seems that he had as his grandmother an Indian Mohawk princess. His father was cordonero and James began to write his first histories to the nine years; He received an irregular schooling due to his frequent absenteeism. On November 23, 1894 the local newspaper The Argus published a story and the same year toured the south of the United States by bicycle. He passed the entrance exam at the University of Michigan in 1898 and studied journalism there, but left school at the age of two to enter the Detroit News Tribune; He was fired at six months. Then he worked for a pharmaceutical company. He married Cora Leon Johnson and was re-hired by the Detroit News Tribune in 1902. There he spent five years occupying different positions until he became editor-in-chief. He divorced his wife in 1908.
In 1906 he had decided to devote himself to literature, but his journalistic work prevented him from devoting himself to this task, so he resigned from his job in 1907. Bobbs-Merrill published his first novel (The Courage of Captain Plum), in 1908, and the same year a second one (The Wolf Hunters) where it narrates the adventures of the trapero Roderick and his Indian guide Mukoki, adventures that continued with The Gold Hunters, 1909.
He spent a long vacation in Hudson Bay and started writing about this region. And the Canadian government, noting the popularity of his writings, commissioned him to explore the provinces of northwestern Canada with the intention of attracting new settlers to this part of the country. He was the only American hired by the government of Canada at the same time as an explorer and writer.
He remarried in 1909 to Ethel Greenwood, of whom he had a son, James Curwood Junior. For the next eighteen years he spent more than six months a year in northern Canada in a hut nourishing himself on what he hunted and fished. He published his best-known novel, Kazan, in 1914, followed by Bari, a wolf dog, in 1917. He had the habit of writing in forests or cabins built by himself in his house or in his studio, a replica of a Norman castle to which called “Curwood Castle”, now converted into a museum. In 1927 he was bitten by a spider in Florida and a strong allergic reaction followed by septicemia killed him at the age of 49 at his home in Williams Street in Owosso. His wife moved to California and his unfinished autobiography was published posthumously with the title of The Son of the Woods
Imbued with admiration for his compatriot and contemporary novelist Jack London and specialized like him in the genre of the adventure novel, in a way he became his follower and disciple when he committed suicide. However, unlike his teacher, his vision is not pessimistic and he cared more for the literary style. On the other hand, having been a great hunter in his youth, he evolved towards a radically defending position of nature conservation and campaigned for the protection of the environment and the limitation of hunting, so he was appointed member of the Conservation Commission from Michigan in 1926. He explained his change of attitude in the preface to his novel The Grizzly King, taken to the movies by Jean-Jacques Annaud:
- «This second book about nature is in some way a confession that I offer to the public, a confession and a hope. The confession is that for a few years I have hunted and killed before learning that wild nature offers a much more exciting sport than slaughter; the hope is that what I have written can make others feel and understand that the greatest emotion of hunting is not the act of killing, but that of letting live. “
It should be noted that the final sequence of the forgiveness of the bear to the hunter is authentic; he narrates it in his autobiography.
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