Wilderness & Survival Stories

Of all the conflicts in literature, Man vs. Nature remains one of the most interesting and exciting. Brian hunting with a handmade bow and arrows; Robinson Crusoe finding God in a savage tropical landscape; Humphrey shelling his softness for strength on Wolf Larsen's ship; even the Swiss Family Robinson turning a jungle into a home—all of these stories not only quench our thirst for adventure, they reveal both the wild and the cultural impulses in the human heart.

Human beings, after all, can become very wild very rapidly. Adam was made in a Garden, after all, and his limbs were shaped out of dirt, and the breath God gave him was snorted right out of the divine nostrils. But God didn't leave man beast-like in the wilds to just eat, mate, and die like the rest of the animals. God created man in his image, to imitate him in culturing what was wild, bringing out of chaos order and beauty.

This is essentially the plot of every Man vs. Nature story. Man, thrown into battle with implacable landscapes, naturally turns his will and ability to subduing them. He cannot simply remain a wild thing; of course he must adapt, but he must also force nature to adapt to him, to accept the innate lordship of man and to serve him even as it fights him.

The miracle is that, finding Nature resistant to his culturalizing impulse, man also discovers Creation to be loving, almost mother-like in its protective impulses. While there's an element of pagan mysticism in the scene, who can forget Brian's realization in Hatchet that his fate and existence is overwhelmingly bound up with the lake from which he drinks? Nature kills, but Nature also preserves, retaining without consciousness an element of the original life-giving purpose for which God made it.

But the warmth of Nature mustn't be turned into more than it is—it mustn't be worshipped. It is merely a mirror of God's power of life and death, a picture of his unfathomable greatness and his particular care and love. And again, Nature is not God, and God is not Nature. Nature depends on God, the Creator of all things, and as such it reveals his glory even as it brings men in for a closer look, a look which will invariably change the onlooker.

There are plenty of great wilderness survival stories that aren't explicitly or even implicitly Christian. But the good ones all explore man's relationship to the elements in a way that doesn't overstate Nature's power or man's ability to overcome it, and do so in a way that is exciting and fascinating rather than ploddingly philosophical (like this brief essay). Those listed below are among the best we've found, and many of them are included in our lists of favorite books.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

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Wilderness & Survival Stories
32 Items found Print
Balto and the Great Race
Totally True Adventures
by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
1st Printing from Random House Books for Young Readers
for 1st-3rd grade
in Animal Stories (Location: FIC-ANI)
$3.99
Black Star, Bright Dawn
by Scott O'Dell
from Sandpiper Books
for 7th-9th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$5.59
Call it Courage
by Armstrong Sperry
from Aladdin Paperbacks
Realistic Fiction for 2nd-6th grade
1941 Newbery Medal winner
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$4.79
Death Walk
by Walt Morey
1st edition from Blue Heron Publishing
for 10-12trh grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Gold Rush Dogs
by Claire Rudolf Murphy, Jane G. Haigh
from Alaska Northwest Books
for 4th-9th grade
in California Gold Rush (Location: G4C-HIS)
$5.50 (1 in stock)
Hatchet
by Gary Paulsen
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 4th-8th grade
1998 Newbery Honor Book
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$7.19
Hitch
by Jeanette Ingold
from Harcourt
Realistic Fiction for 10th-12th grade
in Realistic Fiction (Location: FIC-REA)
$6.39
Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O'Dell
Anv from Sandpiper Books
Realistic Fiction for 5th-8th grade
1961 Newbery Medal winner
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$6.39
Julie of the Wolves
"Julie" Trilogy Book 1
by Jean Craighead George
from HarperCollins
Adventure for 7th-10th grade
1973 Newbery Medal winner
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$5.59 $3.00 (3 in stock)
Kensuke's Kingdom
by Michael Morpurgo
from Scholastic Inc.
for 4th-7th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$4.79 $3.00 (1 in stock)
Long Walk
by Slavomir Rawicz
New edition from Lyons Press
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Mary on Horseback
by Rosemary Wells
from Puffin Books
for 4th-6th grade
in Realistic Fiction (Location: FIC-REA)
$3.99
My Side of the Mountain
by Jean Craighead George
from Puffin Books
Adventure for 4th-8th grade
1960 Newbery Honor Book
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$6.39
My Side of the Mountain Series
by Jean Craighead George
from Puffin Books
Adventure for 4th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Peak
by Roland Smith
1st edition from Harcourt Children's Books
for 4th-7th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Robinson Crusoe
Junior Deluxe Editions
by Daniel Defoe
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 6th-12th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
1st edition from Atheneum
for 6th-10th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe, illustrated by N.C. Wyeth and Louis & Frederick Rhead
from Dilithium Press, Ltd.
for 4th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 10th-Adult
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe, James Baldwin
from Calvert School
for 3rd-6th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Robinson Crusoe (retold)
by James Baldwin
from Yesterday's Classics
for 2nd-4th grade
in Yesterday's Classics (Location: L5A-FIC)
$9.99
Survival
Usborne Beginners Plus
by Henry Brook
from Usborne
for 3rd-6th grade
in Usborne Beginners (Location: O3F)
Swiss Family Robinson
by Johann David Wyss
from Sterling Publishing Co.
for 6th-9th grade
in Sterling Classics (Location: FIC-STE)
$11.96
Swiss Family Robinson
by Johann Wyss
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 4th-9th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
The Martian
by Andy Weir
Reprint from Broadway Books
for 11th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$12.00
Three Months Under the Snow
by J. J. Porchat
from Inheritance Publications
Realistic Fiction for 3rd-6th grade
in Realistic Fiction (Location: FIC-REA)
Two Little Savages
by Ernest Thompson Seton
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Walkabout
by James Marshall
reprint from Puffin Books
for 6th-10th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Walkabout
by James Marshall
from New York Review of Books
for 7th-10th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$10.39
Walking the Trail
by Jerry Ellis
First Edition from Delacorte Press
for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: NLIT7-20)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Week in the Woods
by Andrew Clements
from Atheneum
for 4th-6th grade
in Realistic Fiction (Location: FIC-REA)
$2.00 (1 in stock)
Who Was Ernest Shackleton?
by James Buckley
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 3rd-6th grade
in Who Was? biographies (Location: N6D)
$5.99