The Man of the Forest (unabridged: Dorn of the Mountains) (1917)

18 Jun
The Notch of the White Mountains

The Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch), 1839 – National Gallery of Art Artist: Thomas Cole

The Country Gentleman October 20 1917 – January 26 1918
Grosset & Dunlap, 1920
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine June 1949
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine (Australia) March 1951, December 1957
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine (UK) v1 #2 195? (Galactic Central)

My version is the Norwegian translation of The Man of the Forest (To Tapre Piker) – the old version, but not the original as Zane Grey intended it. Even though I have not read it, I  recommend you get the original – Dorn of the Mountains. Dorn of the Mountains appeared first as a 15 episode serial in The Country Gentleman in 1917. The writing that had been added and removed in Man of the Forest was restored to Dorn of the Mountains.

Greed is once again the theme of Zane Grey’s novel. At least I think it is, as it is about one rancher (Beasley) wanting another man’s (Al Auchincloss) ranch and willing to do anything to get it. Romance is, of course, the other theme although some of the romantic attention is extremely unwanted. Unwanted attention comes from Harve Riggs who seems to think that he is God’s gift to Helen.

Helen is the older sister of the two women, Helen and Bo Raynor, coming West to help their dying uncle with his ranch. Auchincloss’ rivals do not want them to appear at the ranch. Snake Anson and his gang are hired by Beasley to kidnap the two girls and hide them. This is the plot the forester Milt overhears.

The Mountain Pass, 1900, by Thomas Hill

The Mountain Pass, 1900, by Thomas Hill

Milt Dale, or Dorn (thorn in German) as he is known as in Dorn of the Mountains, loved the life of a hunter/trapper in the wilds of the White Mountains in Arizona. One need only gaze at the painting by Thomas Cole to understand its appeal. By chance that life brought him into earshot of the kidnapping plans and he runs to the rescue.

Helen caught her breath. She divined that some peril menaced her. She looked steadily, with all a woman’s keenness, into this man’s face. The moment was one of the fateful decisions she knew the West had in store for her. Her future and that of Bo’s were now to be dependent upon her judgments. It was a hard moment and, though she shivered inwardly, she welcomed the initial and inevitable step. This man Dale, by his dress of buckskin, must be either scout or hunter. His size, his action, the tone of his voice had been reassuring. But Helen must decide from what she saw in his face whether or not to trust him. And that face was clear bronze, unlined, unshadowed, like a tranquil mask, clean-cut, strong-jawed, with eyes of wonderful transparent gray.

“Yes, I’ll trust you,” she said. “Get in, and let us hurry. Then you can explain.”

“All ready, Bill. Send ’em along,” called Dale.

He had to stoop to enter the stage, and, once in, he appeared to fill that side upon which he sat. Then the driver cracked his whip; the stage lurched and began to roll; the motley crowd was left behind. Helen awakened to the reality, as she saw Bo staring with big eyes at the hunter, that a stranger adventure than she had ever dreamed of had began with the rattling roll of that old stage-coach.

Dale laid off his sombrero and leaned forward, holding his rifle between his knees. The light shone better upon his features now that he was bareheaded. Helen had never seen a face like that, which at first glance appeared darkly bronzed and hard, and then became clear, cold, aloof, still, intense. She wished she might see a smile upon it. And now that the die was cast she could not tell why she had trusted it. There was singular force in it, but she did not recognize what kind of force. One instant she thought it was stern, and the next that it was sweet, and again that it was neither.

Wolf pack hunting bisonI believe most of the romance novels by Zane Grey were also about greed. Greed can be thought to be our instincts at work in our attempt to pass our genes on to the next generation. Zane Grey did not say that, I did. But it seems as if Zane Grey might not have disagreed too much with me on that matter. The Man of the Forest has a strong message of the importance of our environment like most of his stories. We should not let our instinct for hoarding/survival take control of our duty to conserve the Earth.

“Sometimes two or more wolves will run a deer, an’ while one of them rests the other will drive the deer around to his pardner, who’ll, take up the chase. That way they run the deer down. Cruel it is, but nature, an’ no worse than snow an’ ice that starve deer, or a fox that kills turkey-chicks breakin’ out of the egg, or ravens that pick the eyes out of new-born lambs an’ wait till they die. An’ for that matter, men are crueler than beasts of prey, for men add to nature, an’ have more than instincts.”

But having the ability to reason does not necessarily mean that we will do so. If we all tried to be logical and earth-friendly in our thinking, the world would be a very different place to live today. Probably not better for a Norwegian like myself, but very much better for the folks who live by the Gulf of Mexico, the tar-sands of Canada, the citizens of Iraq, Syria and Sudan, and the people who are slaving away in the diamond mines of South Africa.


The Man of the Forest on Gutenberg

Dorn of the Mountains (about 50 pages longer)







  • 1922: Metsien mies (Finnish)
  • 1926: To tapre piker (Norwegian)
  • 1930: Der Mann aus dem Walde (German)
  • 1975: Arvet (Swedish)
  • 1976: Einsames Camp (German)
  • 1995: Mannen fra skogene (Norwegian)
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Posted by on 2014-06-18 in Books


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