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Book Review: Stickeen by John Muir

Reviewed by William Frederic Badè


This little story exhibits at its best the mature literary art of John Muir. It is a leaf from the large book of his experience as an explorer. Even one who has not had first-hand acquaintance with glaciers, forests, and mountains cannot read this story of adventure without a speeding pulse.

The setting of the tale could scarcely have been more dramatic. A fierce storm on a great glacier of the Alaskan Fairweather Range, the "ice-cliffs towering above the shrinking forest," an exploratory excursion over the ice-falls, the barrier of an abysmal crevasse encountered at night-fall in returning, the perilous crossing by an ice-briade - these are materials worthy of Muir's pen.

The only actors in the drama are John Muir and Stickeen. the latter is a dog, named for an Alaskan tribe of Indians. Odd, independent, reserved on ordinary occasions, the presence of an awful danger suddenly brings to the surface unsuspected sagacity and emotion. "Who could have suspected the capacity of this dull, enduring little fellow for all that most stirs our mortal frame?

It is safe to say that henceforward Stickeen ranks among the immortals. The many thousands who now hail with joy the too infrequent products of John Muir's pen, will place this sketch beside the water-ouzel as one of the finest of his animal portraits. No better recommendation could be given.


Source: Sierra Club Bulletin, Vol. VII. No. 2, June, 1909, p. 138.


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