The fifth South Dakota Biography Series book
"The strength of McLaid's biography is evident on every page: the author is extremely confident in his research and provides the reader with a fact-filled, synthesis that is fun to read, inspires the inquirer with a path to further research and reading, and most importantly, builds a strong case for exactly what we know, what we don't know, and what we presume we know about the grizzly-scarred mountain man. . . . I feel McLaird's well-written bio-historiography treads lightly on those who repeated the legends, while he elevates those who challenged the lore with facts and evidence. In doing so, the reader will return to McLaid's conclusions again and again as an evergreen resource for chroniclers of the fur trade. . . . Anyone proposing to write an article on the history of the fur trade in the Rocky Mountain West will want this book within arm's reach."—True West Magazine
"There's something to the story that strikes a chord, and McLaird set about (even before the film project was announced) to find out what he could verify about Hugh Glass's origins and the mauling story. . . . It's a biography of the legend almost more than it is a biography of the man, but I think all the more interesting because of it."—History in South Dakota
In 1823, a bear attack left Hugh Glass struggling for life on the plains of present-day South Dakota. Abandoned by his comrades, he crawled two hundred miles to the nearest trading post before setting out on an odyssey of revenge, only to forgive the men who had deserted him. The story of Hugh Glass has provided fertile ground for novels, biographies, stories, comics, and an Oscar-winning film, but the real man remains a mystery.
Little is known about Glass’s origins, and nothing remains to document his physical appearance. Like most mountain men, he might have simply faded into history. Instead, Glass’s encounter with the bear sparked a great western myth, as a series of writers built on his story to illustrate their visions of the American character. Glass’s legend is still growing today, magnified through bestselling books and films like Lord Grizzly and The Revenant.
Historian James D. McLaird traces the threads of the legend back to the earliest evidence and revisits what readers know—or think they know—about Glass and his adventure. Along the way, he examines the growth of the fur trade, the complicated relationship between humans and bears, and how Hugh Glass reflects our always-changing view of the West.
Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor is the fifth book in the South Dakota Biography Series, which highlights some of the state’s most famous residents.
Listen to James D. McLaird on South Dakota Public Broadcasting's program Dakota Midday: