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A thrilling tale of betrayal and revenge set against the nineteenth-century American frontier, the astonishing story of real-life trapper and frontiersman Hugh Glass
The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Hugh Glass is among the company’s finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. Two company men are dispatched to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies. When the men abandon him instead, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge. With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out, crawling at first, across hundreds of miles of uncharted American frontier. Based on a true story, The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession, the human will stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.
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A Novel of Revenge
By Michael Punke
PicadorCopyright © 2002 Michael Punke
All rights reserved.
AUGUST 21, 1823
"MY KEELBOAT FROM ST. LOUIS is due here any day, Monsieur Ashley." The portly Frenchman explained it again in his patient but insistent tone. "I'll gladly sell the Rocky Mountain Fur Company the entire contents of the boat—but I can't sell you what I don't have."
William H. Ashley slammed his tin cup on the crude slats of the table. The carefully groomed gray of his beard did not conceal the tight clench of his jaw. For its part, the clenched jaw seemed unlikely to contain another outburst, as Ashley found himself confronting again the one thing he despised above all else—waiting.
The Frenchman, with the unlikely name of Kiowa Brazeau, watched Ashley with growing trepidation. Ashley's presence at Kiowa's remote trading post presented a rare opportunity, and Kiowa knew that the successful management of this relationship could lay a permanent foundation for his venture. Ashley was a prominent man in St. Louis business and politics, a man with both the vision to bring commerce to the West and the money to make it happen. "Other people's money," as Ashley had called it. Skittish money. Nervous money. Money that would flee easily from one speculative venture to the next.
Kiowa squinted behind his thick spectacles, and though his vision was not sharp, he had a keen eye for reading people. "If you will indulge me, Monsieur Ashley, perhaps I can offer one consolation while we await my boat."
Ashley offered no affirmative acknowledgment, but neither did he renew his tirade.
"I need to requisition more provisions from St. Louis," said Kiowa. "I'll send a courier downstream tomorrow by canoe. He can carry a dispatch from you to your syndicate. You can reassure them before rumors about Colonel Leavenworth's debacle take root."
Ashley sighed deeply and took a long sip of the sour ale, resigned, through lack of alternative, to endure this latest delay. Like it or not, the Frenchman's advice was sound. He needed to reassure his investors before news of the battle ran unchecked through the streets of St. Louis.
Kiowa sensed his opening and moved quickly to keep Ashley on a productive course. The Frenchman produced a quill, ink, and parchment, arranging them in front of Ashley and refilling the tin cup with ale. "I'll leave you to your work, monsieur," he said, happy for the opportunity to retreat.
By the dim light of a tallow candle, Ashley wrote deep into the night:
On the Missouri
August 21, 1823
James D. Pickens, Esquire
Pickens and Sons
Dear Mr. Pickens,
It is my unfortunate responsibility to inform you of the events of the past two weeks. By their nature these events must alter—though not deter—our venture on the Upper Missouri.
As you probably know by now, the men of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were attacked by the Arikara after trading in good faith for sixty horses. The Arikara attacked without provocation, killing 16 of our men, wounding a dozen, & stealing back the horses they had feigned to sell to us the day before.
In face of this attack, I was forced to retreat downstream, while at the same time requesting the aid of Colonel Leavenworth & the US Army in responding to this clear affront to the sovereign right of US citizens to traverse the Missouri unimpeded. I also requested the support of our own men, who joined me (led by Capt. Andrew Henry) at great peril, from their position at Fort Union.
By August 9th, we confronted the Arikara with a combined force of 700 men, including 200 of Leavenworth's regulars (with two howitzers) and forty men of the RMF Co. We also found allies (albeit temporary) in 400 Sioux warriors, whose enmity for the Arikara stems from historical grudge, the origin of which I do not know.
Suffice it to say that our assembled forces were more than ample to carry the field, punish the Arikara for their treachery, & reopen the Missouri for our venture. That such results did not occur we owe to the unsteady timber of Colonel Leavenworth.
The details of the inglorious encounter can await my return to St. Louis, but suffice it to say that the Colonel's repeated reluctance to engage in an inferior foe allowed the entire Arikara tribe to slip our grasp, the result being the effective closure of the Missouri between Fort Brazeau & the Mandan villages. Somewhere between here and there are 900 Arikara warriors, newly entrenched, no doubt, & with new motive to foil all attempts up the Missouri.
Colonel Leavenworth has returned to garrison at Fort Atkinson, where he no doubt will pass the winter in front of a warm hearth, carefully mulling his options. I do not intend to wait for him. Our venture, as you know, can ill-afford the loss of eight months.
Ashley stopped to read his text, unhappy with its dour tone. The letter reflected his anger, but did not convey his predominant emotion—a bedrock optimism, an unwavering faith in his own ability to succeed. God had placed him in a garden of infinite bounty, a Land of Goshen in which any man could prosper if only he had the courage and the fortitude to try. Ashley's weaknesses, which he confessed forthrightly, were simply barriers to be overcome by some creative combination of his strengths. Ashley expected setbacks, but he would not tolerate failure.
We must turn this misfortune to our benefit, press on while our competitors take pause. With the Missouri effectively closed, I have decided to send two groups West by alternate route. Captain Henry I have already dispatched up the Grand River. He will ascend the Grand as far as possible and make his way back to Fort Union. Jedidiah Smith will lead a second troop up the Platte, his target the waters of the Great Basin.
You no doubt share my intense frustration at our delay. We must now move boldly to recapture lost time. I have instructed Henry and Smith that they shall not return to St. Louis with their harvest in the Spring. Rather, we shall go to them—rendezvous in the field to exchange their furs for fresh supplies. We can save four months this way, & repay at least some portion of our debt to the clock. Meanwhile, I propose a new fur troop be raised in St. Louis & dispatched in the Spring, led by me personally.
The remnants of the candle sputtered and spit foul black smoke. Ashley looked up, suddenly aware of the hour, of his deep fatigue. He dipped the quill and returned to his correspondence, writing firmly and quickly now as he drew his report to its conclusion:
I urge you to communicate to our syndicate—in strongest possible terms—my complete confidence in the inevitable success of our endeavor. A great bounty has been laid by Providence before us, & we must not fail to summon the courage to claim our rightful share.
Your Very Humble Servant, William H. Ashley
Two days later, August 16, 1823, Kiowa Brazeau's keelboat arrived from St. Louis. William Ashley provisioned his men and sent them west on the same day. The first rendezvous was set for the summer of 1824, the location to be communicated through couriers.
Without understanding fully the significance of his decisions, William H. Ashley had invented the system that would define the era.CHAPTER 2
AUGUST 23, 1823
ELEVEN MEN HUNKERED in the camp with no fire. The camp took advantage of a slight embankment on the Grand River, but the plain afforded little contour to conceal their position. A fire would have signaled their presence for miles, and stealth was the trappers' best ally against another attack. Most of the men used the last hour of daylight to clean rifles, repair moccasins, or eat. The boy had been asleep from the moment they stopped, a crumpled tangle of long limbs and ill-shod clothing.
The men fell into clusters of three or four, huddled against the bank or pressed against a rock or clump of sage, as if these minor protusions might offer protection.
The usual banter of camp had been dampened by the calamity on the Missouri, and then extinguished altogether by the second attack only three nights before. When they spoke at all they spoke in hushed and pensive tones, respectful of the comrades who lay dead in their trail, heedful of the dangers still before them.
"Do you think he suffered, Hugh? I can't get it out of my head that he was suffering away, all that time."
Hugh Glass looked up at the man, William Anderson, who had posed the question. Glass thought for a while before he answered, "I don't think your brother suffered."
"He was the oldest. When we left Kentucky, our folks told him to look after me. Didn't say a word to me. Wouldn't have occurred to them."
"You did your best for your brother, Will. It's a hard truth, but he was dead when that ball hit him three days ago."
A new voice spoke from the shadows near the bank. "Wish we'd have buried him then, instead of dragging him for two days." The speaker perched on his haunches, and in the growing darkness his face showed little feature except a dark beard and a white scar. The scar started near the corner of his mouth and curved down and around like a fishhook. Its prominence was magnified by the fact that no hair grew on the tissue, cutting a permanent sneer through his beard. His right hand worked the stout blade of a skinning knife over a whetstone as he spoke, mixing his words with a slow, rasping scrape.
"Keep your mouth shut, Fitzgerald, or I swear on my brother's grave I'll rip out your bloody tongue."
"Your brother's grave? Not much of a grave now, was it?"
The men within earshot paid sudden attention, surprised at this conduct, even from Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald felt the attention, and it encouraged him. "More just a pile of rocks. You think he's still in there, moldering away?" Fitzgerald paused for a moment, so that the only sound was the scraping of the blade on the stone. "I doubt it—speaking for myself." Again he waited, calibrating the effect of his words as he spoke them. "Course, could be the rocks kept the varmints off. But I think the coyotes are dragging little bits of him across ..."
Anderson lunged at Fitzgerald with both hands extended.
Fitzgerald brought his leg up sharply as he rose to meet the attack, his shin catching Anderson full-force in the groin. The kick folded Anderson in two, as if some hidden cord drew his neck to his knees. Fitzgerald drove his knee into the helpless man's face and Anderson flipped backward.
Fitzgerald moved spryly for someone his size, pouncing to pin his knee against the chest of the gasping, bleeding man. He put the skinning knife to Anderson's throat. "You want to go join your brother?" Fitzgerald pressed the knife so that the blade drew a thin line of blood.
"Fitzgerald," Glass said in an even but authoritative tone. "That's enough."
Fitzgerald looked up. He contemplated an answer to Glass's challenge, while noting with satisfaction the ring of men that now surrounded him, witnesses to Anderson's pathetic position. Better to claim victory, he decided. He'd see to Glass another day. Fitzgerald removed the blade from Anderson's throat and rammed the knife into the beaded sheath on his belt. "Don't start things you can't finish, Anderson. Next time I'll finish it for you."
Captain Andrew Henry pushed his way through the circle of spectators. He grabbed Fitzgerald from behind and ripped him backward, pushing him hard into the embankment. "One more fight and you're out, Fitzgerald." Henry pointed beyond the perimeter of the camp to the distant horizon. "If you've got an extra store of piss you can go try making it on your own."
The captain looked around him at the rest of the men. "We'll cover forty miles tomorrow. You're wasting time if you're not asleep already. Now, who's taking first watch?" No one stepped forward. Henry's eyes came to rest on the boy, oblivious to the commotion. Henry took a handful of determined steps to the crumpled form. "Get up, Bridger."
The boy sprang up, wide-eyed as he grasped, bewildered, for his gun. The rusted trading musket had been an advance on his salary, along with a yellowed powder horn and a handful of flints.
"I want you a hundred yards downstream. Find a high spot along the bank. Pig, the same thing upstream. Fitzgerald, Anderson—you'll take the second watch."
Fitzgerald had stood watch the night before. For a moment it appeared he would protest the distribution of labor. He thought better of it, sulking instead to the edge of the camp. The boy, still disoriented, half stumbled across the rocks that spilled along the river's edge, disappearing into the cobalt blackness that encroached on the brigade.
The man they called "Pig" was born Phineous Gilmore on a dirt-poor farm in Kentucky. No mystery surrounded his nickname: he was enormous and he was filthy. Pig smelled so bad it confused people. When they encountered his reek, they looked around him for the source, so implausible did it seem that the odor could emanate from a human. Even the trappers, who placed no particular premium on cleanliness, did their best to keep Pig downwind. After hoisting himself slowly to his feet, Pig slung his rifle over his shoulder and ambled upstream.
Less than an hour passed before the daylight receded completely. Glass watched as Captain Henry returned from a nervous check of the sentries. He picked his way by moonlight among the sleeping men, and Glass realized that he and Henry were the only men awake. The captain chose the ground next to Glass, leaning against his rifle as he eased his large frame to the ground. Repose took the weight off his tired feet, but failed to relieve the pressure he felt most heavily.
"I want you and Black Harris to scout tomorrow," said Captain Henry. Glass looked up, disappointed that he could not respond to the beckoning call of sleep.
"Find something to shoot in late afternoon. We'll risk a fire." Henry lowered his voice, as if making a confession. "We're way behind, Hugh." Henry gave every indication that he intended to talk for a while. Glass reached for his rifle. If he couldn't sleep, he might as well tend his weapon. He had doused it in a river crossing that afternoon and wanted to apply fresh grease to the trigger works.
"Cold'll set in hard by early December," continued the captain. "We'll need two weeks to lay in a supply of meat. If we're not on the Yellowstone before October we'll have no fall hunt."
If Captain Henry was racked by internal doubt, his commanding physical presence betrayed no infirmity. The band of leather fringe on his deerskin tunic cut a swath across his broad shoulders and chest, remnants of his former profession as a lead miner in the Saint Genevieve district of Missouri. He was narrow at the waist, where a thick leather belt held a brace of pistols and a large knife. His breeches were doeskin to the knee, and from there down red wool. The captain's pants had been specially tailored in St. Louis and were a badge of his wilderness experience. Leather provided excellent protection, but wading made it heavy and cold. Wool, by contrast, dried quickly and retained heat even when wet.
If the brigade he led was motley, Henry at least drew satisfaction from the fact they called him "captain." In truth, of course, Henry knew the title was an artifice. His band of trappers had nothing to do with the military, and scant respect for any institution. Still, Henry was the only man among them to have trod and trapped the Three Forks. If title meant little, experience was the coin of the realm.
The captain paused, waiting for acknowledgment from Glass. Glass looked up from his rifle. It was a brief look, because he had unscrewed the elegantly scrolled guard that covered the rifle's twin triggers. He cupped the two screws carefully in his hand, afraid of dropping them in the dark.
The glance sufficed, enough to encourage Henry to continue. "Did I ever tell you about Drouillard?"
"You know who he was?"
"George Drouillard—Corps of Discovery?"
Henry nodded his head. "Lewis and Clark man, one of their best—a scout and a hunter. In 1809 he signed up with a group I led—he led, really—to the Three Forks. We had a hundred men, but Drouillard and Colter was the only ones who'd ever been there.
"We found beaver thick as mosquitoes. Barely had to trap 'em—could go out with a club. But we ran into trouble with the Blackfeet from the start. Five men killed before two weeks was up. We had to fort up, couldn't send out trapping parties.
"Drouillard holed up there with the rest of us for about a week before he said he was tired of sitting still. He went out the next day and came back a week later with twenty plews."
Glass paid the captain his full attention. Every citizen of St. Louis knew some version of Drouillard's story, but Glass had never heard a first-person account.
"He did that twice, went out and came back with a pack of plews. Last thing he said before he left the third time was, 'Third time's charmed.' He rode off and we heard two gunshots about half an hour later—one from his rifle and one from his pistol. Second shot must have been him shooting his horse, trying to make a barrier. That's where we found him behind his horse. There must have been twenty arrows between him and the horse. Blackfeet left the arrows in, wanted to send us a message. They hacked him up, too—cut off his head."
The captain paused again, scraping at the dirt in front of him with a pointed stick. "I keep thinking about him."
Glass searched for words of reassurance. Before he could say anything the captain asked, "How long do you figure this river's gonna keep running west?"
Excerpted from The Revenant by Michael Punke. Copyright © 2002 Michael Punke. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
September 1, 1823,
1. August 21, 1823,
2. August 23, 1823,
3. August 24, 1823,
4. August 28, 1823,
5. August 30, 1823,
6. August 31, 1823,
7. September 2, 1823—Morning,
8. September 2, 1823—Afternoon,
9. September 8, 1823,
10. September 15, 1823,
11. September 16, 1823,
12. September 17, 1823,
13. October 5, 1823,
14. October 6, 1823,
15. October 9, 1823,
16. November 29, 1823,
17. December 5, 1823,
18. December 6, 1823,
19. December 8, 1823,
20. December 15, 1823,
21. December 31, 1823,
22. February 27, 1824,
23. March 6, 1824,
24. March 7, 1824,
25. March 28, 1824,
26. April 14, 1824,
27. April 28, 1824,
28. May 7, 1824,
Also by Michael Punke,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I received this book, an Advanced Readers copy and a Goodreads Giveaway, from Picador USA. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of reading this excellent book. I am already very impressed with both story and characters. I found this novel one you cannot put down. I have a vague recollection of hearing of the trials and tribulations of Mr. Glass in the far away long ago, but this book is not something I will forget. Excellently written, the beauty of the country shines through, as does the joy and hardships of living and traveling in the 1820's frontier of the Missouri River basin. The character of Hugh Glass is obvious, as is the humanity lacking in the bad guys. And I felt the ending very appropriate. Give this a read, please. You will not be disappointed. It is a book I will add to my keepers, to read again. And I will see the movie, though I don't often bother when the book is this good.
As stories of revenge go, they are seldom as fulfilling as one might hope. Still, there are enough points of entertaining prose to merit its full read.
Very interesting book from start to finish, I can't wait to see how the movie compares.
Or I should probably say a dull story with a disappointing ending. This book was an "easy read" probably due to the lack of character development and scenario descriptions. The author needed to spend more time expanding on the motivations which drove the characters.
This is the same story as Man in the Wilderness starring Richard Harris. There are also many other books and stories about this. There is absolutely nothing original about this book.
This story of revenge is one of the most engaging I've ever read. The subject is left to die a horrifying death and not only manages to survive (thanks to a youngster who is mistaken for doing the evil)but travels downriver to resupply and come back in the middle of a Midwestern winter to extract vengeance. I won't give away the story or ending but will say that the end is a tad surprising and satisfying.
At first I did not think that the book would be able to hold my interest. After the first chapter, it captured my undivded attention. I finished the book within a matter of days. It sparked my adventerous side of me and placed me back into the mindset when I was boy growing up always wanting to play in the woods. It is a definite read for someone who has an adventerous side and or in the complexities of western exploration in the early 1800s. As far as keeping the details enticing, the climax's execution was unexpected. The ending will leave you wanting more, as well as, leaving you content.
Keep in mind, this is historical fiction - good book, thinking it will tie in nicely with movie
I have never read a book of this genre. But when I read the review, the story line intrigued. Without saying too much about the story, it is based on true fact. Main character Hugh Glass did really exist and he was mauled by a bear and left to die. "Revenant" - the definition is someone who returns from the dead. The story is very well written. Thoroughly enjoyable. And a grat read.
I loved it. If more books were like this I would read more. I feel like most books are written with women in mind, but this book wasn't so I really appreciated that.
Not the type of book I usually read but it was a good easy read...glad I bought it.
Having seen the movie on the big screen, can't wait to read the book that inspired the studios to adaptation. Although the movie moved fast and the background and characters seem to bring a sense of realism, the book will give you a complete sense of the story what the author intends to say. A good read?!
Fast-paced and gritty.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book which I read after seeing the movie . The movie barely scratched the surface of the adventures of Hugh Glass' life. Another lesson to never judge a book by its movie & I really liked the movie!
I enjoyed this book greatly
While I found Michal Punke's Revenant entertaining. I was very disappointed in the lack of development for characters as well the intricasies of the story line. I would have loved to hear more of the back story of the wild and varied crew members that traveled up stream with Glass. Life in the forts and trading posts could easily have been expanded upon. But my biggest disappointment was with the story's denouement that I found very anti-climatic and hurried
This book was awesome to read and I really enjojyed knowing what it was like to live in the eighteen hundreds. To be honest though the movie sucked compared to the book.
Michael Punke did an awesome job of writing fictional history woven around the lives of actual historical figures. He describes the obstacles the early fur traders had to overcome all the way down to the harsh winters. Revenant: A person who has supposedly returned from the dead and that is what Hugh Glass is after being mauled by a Grizzly and left for dead. He crawls across part of the country till he slowly heals. Revenge consumes his heart. The Revenant is Hugh's story. It also a story of the people that come across his path. Some are fictional and many including Hugh himself are real. Michael Punke did an awesome job weaving a captivating story. The reader feels Hugh's pain and gets involved with his struggle. I recommend this book to anyone who likes history whether fictional or non-fictional. I look forward to reading more of Michael Punke's books and can't wait for this one to come out in a movie.
Man did I fly through this book! I could hardly put the darn thing down! I have talked to some people and read other reviews of this title and the reviews are strangely mixed. The oddest I felt were comments saying that the book was "boring" or "slow". ??? I don't know if it was just me but this book was the exact opposite of that. Something was always happening. When there was a lull in the action, like any good western, you could feel the story building to another climax again. All said, if you love western books, movies, TV, etc., this is for you.
Michael Punke's 2002 novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, isn't one that I would have noticed or picked up were it not for the 2015 award winning film of the same name. And that would have been a shame, as it's a he** of a good read. What surprised me even more is that it's based on factual historical events and persons. (At the end of the book, I went online to suss out the real story - absolutely fascinating reading) 1823 America. Hugh Glass is one of the best trackers and frontiersmen around, working for The Rocky Mountain Fur Company. When he is severely mauled by a bear, his compatriots carry him as far as they can in the winter mountains. Company Commander Captain Henry pays two men - Fitzgerald and Bridger - to stay with Glass until he dies, then bury him properly. But Fitzgerald has different ideas..... he decides that staying with Glass isn't worth his while. He forces young Bridger to leave Glass to die on his own and the two take off. But not before they steal Glass's gun and knife, leaving him alone and exposed to the elements. And here's where the revenge part comes into play......Glass is as tough as nails and bent on revenge. And he wants his gun back. What follows is a nail biting fight for his life as Glass begins crawling towards the fort two hundred miles away where Fitzgerald and Bridger are to meet up with the rest of the company. Punke has brought in many factual events and people - the conflicts between the native tribes and the white men who have come to trap and settle their land. The wilderness and the men living in it are brilliantly described, but it is Hugh Glass who captures the reader. The injustice done to him and his single minded desire to seek revenge on Fitzgerald will have the reader on the edge of their seat, urging him to take one more breath, one more step forward until..... As I said not my usual fare, but I absolutely loved it. Punke is an absolutely wonderful writer. Read an excerpt of The Revenant.
I really enjoyed this book. The only problem was the author really dropped the ball with the ending. If all of it were true I could understand, but since it wasn't, a much better climax would of really made this 5 star reading.
Very good book. It was hard to put down. A great story of survival and revenge and a great story to tell. A great recollection of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in Missouri, the way the land was, and the Indians who occupied the land along with us. I hope the movie is as good as the book. It was an excellent read and I highly recommend it!
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge is a historical fiction novel themed with survival and of course, revenge. The author Michael Punke incorporated some pretty raw scenes in this story that kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat. There was a parallel and secondary non-wilderness story that I was less than enthusiastic about but all parts were important for the historical component and created a well-rounded tale. After some research about the nonfictional 19th century main character Hugh Glass, I found that Mr. Punke put his own spin on certain aspects of his documented story. After reading the real-life ending to Hugh Glass's angry journey, I don't blame Mr. Punke for writing some of his own details for readers. However, Hollywood's adaptation is another story. The film may have been inspired by Mr. Punke's novel but it varies significantly in many areas. I enjoyed The Revenant and am glad I read it. As always, I appreciate it when a work of "fiction" leads me to learn more about the real-life journeys of those who came before us. If you are interested in the historically documented events of Hugh Glass's life, click HERE for an online article titled The True Story Behind The Revenant, as Told in 1939. description My favorite quote: "He stopped, awestruck. Fusing heaven to earth, the Big Horn Mountains stood before him. A few clouds swirled around the highest peaks, furthering the illusion of a wall reaching forever upward. His eyes watered from the glare of the sun against snow, but he could not look away...His awe of the mountains grew in the days that followed, as the Yellowstone River led him nearer and nearer. Their great mass was a marker, a benchmark fixed against time itself. Others might feel disquiet at the notion of something so much larger than themselves. But for Glass, there was a sense of sacrament that flowed from the mountains like a font, an immortality that made his quotidian pains seem inconsequential."