Wahb by Ernest Thompson Seton
The Biography of a Grizzly

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Synopsis


First published more than a century ago, The Biography of a Grizzly recounts the life of a fictitious bear named Wahb who lived and died in the Greater Yellowstone region. This new edition combines Ernest Thompson Seton’s classic tale and original illustrations with historical and scientific context for Wahb’s story, providing a thorough understanding of the setting, cultural connections, biology, and ecology of Seton’s best-known book.

By the time The Biography of a Grizzly was published in 1900, grizzly bears had been hunted out of much of their historical range in North America. The characterization of Wahb, along with Seton’s other anthropomorphic tales of American wildlife, helped to change public perceptions and promote conservation. As editors Jeremy M. Johnston and Charles R. Preston remind us, however, Seton’s approach to writing about animals put him at the center of the “Nature-Faker” controversy of the early twentieth century, when John Burroughs and Theodore Roosevelt, among others, denounced sentimental representations of wildlife.

The editors address conservation scientists’ continuing concerns about inaccurate depictions of nature in popular culture. Despite its anthropomorphism, Seton’s paradoxical book imparts a good deal of insightful and accurate natural history, even as its exaggerations shaped early-twentieth-century public opinion on conservation in often counterproductive ways. By complicating Seton’s enthralling tale with scientific observations of grizzly behavior in the wild, Johnston and Preston evaluate the story’s accuracy and bring the story of Yellowstone grizzlies into the present day.

Preserving the 1900 edition’s original design and illustrations, Wahb brings new understanding to an American classic, updating the book for current and future generations.
 

About Ernest Thompson Seton

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Ernest Thompson Seton was an artist and author. He was born in South Shields, England on August 14, 1860. Seton studied art at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in London. His 1898 collection of stories, Wild Animals I Have Known, led to the publication of more than forty other books. Seton lectured widely and established a youth group called the Woodcraft Indians that combined his love of the outdoors and his artistic talent. The activities of the Woodcraft Indians directly led to the formation of the Boy Scouts of America, which Seton co-founded in 1910. He was the author of the first Scout Manual. The Canadian Broadcasting Company has produced two film tributes of Seton, Keeper of the Wind in 1974 and Seton's Manitoba in 1984. Seton died on October 23, 1946. Jeremy M. Johnston is Curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Western American History, and Managing Editor of The Papers of William F. Cody at the McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming. Charles R. Preston is the Willis McDonald, IV, Senior Curator of Natural Science at the Draper Natural History Museum, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming. His publications include Golden Eagle: Sovereign of the Skies (with G. Leppart, photographer) and An Expedition Guide to the Nature of Yellowstone and the Draper Museum of Natural History.
 
Published July 31, 2015 by University of Oklahoma Press. 240 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction