Mowat is one of Canada's most widely read authors. His books have been translated into more than 50 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world. His works are bitterly attacked by some, highly praised by others; few readers remain neutral. His subject is frequently the defense of the natural world: his famous Never Cry Wolf (1963) is credited with changing the stereotypically negative perception of WOLVES as vicious killers. Sea of Slaughter (1984) chronicles the destruction of species in the North Atlantic. His Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey (1987) is a biography of the well-known primatologist.
Mowat is considered a "natural" storyteller; he is also a brilliant stylist. No matter what the context, his narratives and anecdotes are fast-paced and compelling; his tone is graceful, personal, and conversational. Commitments to ideals inspire verbal fireworks; enthusiasms evoke poetic descriptions and vivid images; antipathies produce ridicule, lampoons and at times, evangelical condemnation.
Many works are AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL: The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (1957) and Owls in the Family (1961) are comic recollections of his youth; The Regiment (1961) and And No Birds Sang (1979) deal with his experiences in the SECOND WORLD WAR. Three books centre on his 8-year residency in Burgeo, Nfld: The Rock within the Sea (1968) presents his seafaring neighbours as heroic because uncorrupted by modern technology; The Boat Who Wouldn't Float (1969, LEACOCK MEDAL 1970) reflects his later disillusion; A Whale for the Killing (1972) transforms the wanton shooting of a trapped WHALE into a symbolic tragedy. The highly ironic My Discovery of America (1985) speculates on the reasons he was placed in the American "lookout book" for undesirables and refused entry into the US in 1985.
Farley Mowat's novels for young readers, including The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (1957) and Owls in the Family (1961), are classics of CANADIAN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE. Lost in the Barrens (1956) won the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD and is a masterpiece that incorporates many of the themes central to his adult works. On the surface an adventure story, its structure is allegorical: 2 youths - a Toronto-bred Caucasian and a CREE - are able to survive an arctic winter for a time by sharing their skills, but eventually their insufficient knowledge of the NORTH nearly dooms them; they can be rescued only by an Inuit boy whose knowledge supplements their own.
Mowat, now a resident of Port Hope, Ont, continues to be a prolific and occasionally controversial author. Rescue the Earth: Conversations (1990) continues his advocacy on ecological issues. Two volumes of autobiography, My Father's Son (1992) and Born Naked (1993), provide an intimate glimpse into family relationships and elaborate on his war experience. The Farfarers (1998) is another volume of speculative history. Mowat returns to his early Northern forays in High Latitudes: An Arctic Journey (2002), which relates his 1966 trek across Northern Canada, and No Man's River (2004), an account of his 1947 Arctic adventure. The highly acclaimed film The Snow Walker (2003) is based on his short story "Walk Well My Brother."
In the 2000s Mowat turned his pen to further memoirs: Bay of Spirits: a Love Story (2006), recounts his time in Newfoundland; Otherwise (2008) describes his childhood, wartime service and the travels to the North that forged his purpose and inspired his literary career; and Eastern Passage (2010) recalls his life in the 1940s and 1950s, as he rose to fame as a writer and reshaped his life, moving from Ontario to a seagoing life in Newfoundland.
Farley Mowat has been honoured in varying manners: he was made an Officer of the ORDER OF CANADA in 1981. In 2002 The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named their ship RV Farley Mowat to recognize his activism against the whaling industry. Farley Mowat Public School in Barrhaven, near Ottawa, opened in 2006.
Author GERALD J. RUBIO Rev: KAREN GRANDY
Links to Other Sites
Farley Mowat at 87
A profile of legendary Canadian author Farley Mowat from Quill & Quire.
Watch a vintage profile of author Farley Mowat from the CBC TV program "Telescope."
Brief author profile and synopses of books by acclaimed Canadian writer Farley Mowat. From McClelland & Stewart.
Tale-telling Mowat says writing days are over
An article about iconic Canadian author Farley Mowat. From thestar.com.
About a series of documentary films featuring three of Canada's most acclaimed authors: Margaret Atwood, Farley Mowat, and W.O. Mitchell. From the National Film Board of Canada website.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...