Natives in the Jungle
March 25, 2011
Description of the jungle natives in the FitJ supplement is minimal. There are hooks and bits of info that can be pursued to bring the natives into the spotlight, but the FitJ supplement puts the spotlight on The Jungle itself. Judges and players are encouraged to use their own knowledge of various native cultures, or even tropes, to fill in the gaps if necessary. While my own conception of The Jungle’s natives is dotted with Filipino influences, it is more informed by Native American culture and history.
The Native American cultures were numerous and varied, as are the books and movies that portray them. Some of these portrayals are more biased than others, and some are not to be taken seriously, but there are many that hint at the richness, strengths, and weaknesses of these cultures. Here are some of my favorites:
The Journals of Lewis and Clark, edited by DeVoto. Unless you are willing to read the nearly 5000 pages of the full journals, this DeVoto edition is the one to get. For me, the most memorable thing about this account of the expedition’s journey across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains, and to the Pacific Ocean and back is the descriptions of the many different tribes encountered.
Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson by Thorp and Bunker. Politically incorrect to the extreme and of questionable historic quality, the tales of Liver-Eating Johnson are nonetheless an important piece of Weird American Mythology. Liver-Eating’s hatred of the Indians is obvious but, when all is said and done, so is his respect for them. The movie Jeremiah Johnson (1972, starring Robert Redford, directed by Sydney Pollack) is partially based on this saga.
Black Robe (1991) A Canadian movie directed by Bruce Beresford. The greatest “D&D movie” of all time? I think so, and I’m not even a big fan of clerics. I also interpret it to be an accurate portrayal of the natives and Europeans of the 17th century in what is now Quebec, Canada.