|Genre||Biography/True travel essay|
|January 13, 1996|
|LC Class||CT9971.M38 K73 1997|
|Preceded by||Eiger Dreams|
|Followed by||Into Thin Air|
Into the Wild is a 1996 non-fiction book written by Jon Krakauer. It is an expansion of a 9,000-word article by Krakauer on Chris McCandless titled "Death of an Innocent", which appeared in the January 1993 issue of Outside .The book was adapted to a film of the same name in 2007, directed by Sean Penn with Emile Hirsch starring as McCandless. Into the Wild is an international bestseller which has been printed in 30 languages and 173 editions and formats. The book is widely used as high school and college reading curriculum. Into the Wild has been lauded by many reviewers, and in 2019 was listed by Slate as one of the 50 best nonfiction works of the past quarter-century.
Despite its critical acclaim, the accuracy of the book has been disputed by some individuals involved in McCandless' story, and commentators such as Alaskan reporter Craig Medred. Medred covers a large number of items in the book that are questionable, most of which stem from the extremely limited detail in McCandless' journal. He concludes that Krakauer had to infer or invent much of McCandless' experiences. Krakauer was criticized for presenting his speculation as fact. Additionally, weather records refute some of the dramatic weather events presented in the story.
Christopher Johnson McCandless grew up in suburban Annandale, Virginia. After graduating in May 1990 with high grades from Emory University, McCandless ceased communicating with his family, gave away his college fund of $24,500 to Oxfam, and began traveling across the Western United States, later abandoning his 1982 Datsun B210 after a flash flood.
On April 28, 1992, McCandless hitchhiked to the Stampede Trail in Alaska. There he headed down the snow-covered trail to begin an odyssey with only 10 pounds (4500 g) of rice, a .22 caliber rifle, several boxes of rifle rounds, a camera, and a small selection of reading material—including a field guide to the region's edible plants, Tana'ina Plantlore. He declined an acquaintance's offer to buy him sturdier clothing and better supplies. McCandless perished sometime around the week of August 18, 1992, after surviving for 113 days.
On September 6, 1992, Christopher McCandless's body was found in an abandoned bus at Coordinates: on the Stampede Trail in Alaska. One year later, author Jon Krakauer retraced McCandless's steps during the two years between college graduation and his demise in Alaska. McCandless shed his legal name early in his journey, adopting the moniker "Alexander Supertramp", after W.H. Davies. He spent time in Carthage, South Dakota, laboring for months in a grain elevator owned by Wayne Westerberg before hitchhiking to Alaska in April 1992. Krakauer interprets McCandless's intensely ascetic personality as possibly influenced by the writings of Henry David Thoreau and McCandless's favorite writer, Jack London. He explores the similarities between McCandless's experiences and motivations, and his own as a young man, recounting in detail Krakauer's own attempt to climb Devils Thumb in Alaska. Krakauer also relates the stories of some other young men who vanished into the wilderness, such as Everett Ruess and Carl McCunn. In addition, he describes at some length the grief and puzzlement of McCandless's parents, sister Carine, and friends.
McCandless survived for approximately 113 days in the Alaskan wilderness, foraging for edible roots and berries, shooting an assortment of game—including a moose—and keeping a journal. Although he planned to hike to the coast, the boggy terrain of summer proved too difficult, and he decided instead to camp in a derelict camping bus left behind by a road construction company. In July he tried to leave, only to find the route blocked by the Teklanika river raging with snow-melt. On July 30, McCandless wrote a journal entry which read, "Extremely Weak. Fault Of Pot[ato] Seed".Based on this entry, Krakauer hypothesized that McCandless had been eating what he thought was the roots of an edible plant, Hedysarum alpinum , commonly known as wild Eskimo potato, which are sweet and nourishing in the spring but become too tough to eat in the summer, perhaps forcing McCandless to eat the H. alpinum's seeds instead. Krakauer first speculated that the seeds were actually from Hedysarum mackenzii , or wild sweet pea, instead of the Eskimo potato, which contained a poisonous alkaloid, possibly swainsonine (the toxic chemical in locoweed) or something similar. In addition to neurological symptoms, such as weakness and loss of coordination, the poison causes starvation by blocking nutrient metabolism in the body. However, Krakauer later suggested that McCandless had not confused the two plants and had in fact actually eaten H. alpinum. Krakauer had the H. alpinum seeds tested for toxins and, through tests on Hendysarum alpinum, it was discovered that it contained an unidentifiable form of toxin.
According to Krakauer, a well-nourished person might consume the seeds and survive because the body can use its stores of glucose and amino acids to rid itself of the poison. Since McCandless lived on a diet of rice, lean meat, and wild plants and had less than 10% body fat when he died, Krakauer hypothesized that McCandless was likely unable to fend off the toxins. However, when the Eskimo potatoes from the area around the bus were later tested in a laboratory of the University of Alaska Fairbanks by Dr. Thomas Clausen, toxins were not found. Krakauer later modified his hypothesis, suggesting that mold of the variety Rhizoctonia leguminicola may have caused McCandless's death. Rhizoctonia leguminicola is known to cause digestion problems in livestock, and may have contributed to McCandless's impending starvation. Krakauer hypothesised that the bag in which Chris kept the potato seeds was damp and the seeds thus became moldy. If McCandless had eaten seeds that contained this mold, he could have become sick, and Krakauer suggests that he thus became unable to get out of bed and so starved. His basis for the mold hypothesis is a photograph that shows seeds in a bag. Following chemical analysis of the seeds, Krakauer now believes that the seeds themselves are poisonous.
In March 2015, Krakauer co-authored a scientific analysis of the Hedysarum alpinum seeds McCandless ate. The report found relatively high levels of L-canavanine (an antimetabolite toxic to mammals) in the H. alpinum seeds and concluded "it is highly likely that the consumption of H. alpinum seeds contributed to the death of Chris McCandless."
Into the Wild addresses the issues of how to be accepted into society, and how finding oneself sometimes conflicts with being an active member in society.Most critics agree that Chris McCandless left to find some sort of enlightenment. He also tries to find his way in the wild with minimal material possessions, because "it made the journey more enjoyable." His extreme risk-taking was the calling which eventually led to his downfall.
McCandless was influenced by transcendentalism and the need to "revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience."
A film adaptation was released in September 2007, directed by Sean Penn and starring Emile Hirsch as McCandless.
McCandless's story is also the subject of the documentary by Ron Lamothe named The Call of the Wild (2007). In his study of McCandless's death, Lamothe concludes that McCandless ran out of supplies and game, and starved to death, instead of being poisoned by eating the seeds of the wild potato.
The Christopher Johnson McCandless Memorial Foundation, headed by McCandless's parents Billie and Walt, with the editorial and writing input of family and friends, released the book and DVD Back to the Wild: The Photographs & Writings of Christopher McCandless (2010). The material includes hundreds of McCandless's previously unseen pictures and journal entries. Jon Krakauer has written a piece in the book's introduction, while Hal Holbrook—who appeared in the Penn film—narrates the DVD.
The bus that McCandless died in became a tourist attraction after the book became popular. The bus was removed on June 18, 2020 because tourists were endangering themselves in the Alaskan wilderness. Members of the Alaska National Guard airlifted the bus to an undisclosed location,and then on September 24, 2020, the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks announced the permanent display of the bus.
The Denali Borough is a borough located in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2020 census the population of the borough was 1,619, down from 1,826 in 2010. The borough seat and most populated community is Healy, and its only incorporated place is Anderson. The borough was incorporated in December 1990.
Denali National Park and Preserve, formerly known as Mount McKinley National Park, is an American national park and preserve located in Interior Alaska, centered on Denali, the highest mountain in North America. The park and contiguous preserve encompass 6,045,153 acres which is larger than the state of New Hampshire. On December 2, 1980, 2,146,580-acre Denali Wilderness was established within the park. Denali's landscape is a mix of forest at the lowest elevations, including deciduous taiga, with tundra at middle elevations, and glaciers, snow, and bare rock at the highest elevations. The longest glacier is the Kahiltna Glacier. Wintertime activities include dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The park received 594,660 recreational visitors in 2018.
Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer. He is the author of bestselling non-fiction books—Into the Wild; Into Thin Air; Under the Banner of Heaven; and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman—as well as numerous magazine articles. He was a member of an ill-fated expedition to summit Mount Everest in 1996, one of the deadliest disasters in the history of climbing Everest.
Christopher Johnson McCandless, also known by his pseudonym "Alexander Supertramp", was an American adventurer who sought an increasingly nomadic lifestyle as he grew up. McCandless is the subject of Into the Wild, a nonfiction book by Jon Krakauer that was later made into a full-length feature film.
Neurolathyrism, is a neurological disease of humans, caused by eating certain legumes of the genus Lathyrus. This disease is mainly associated with the consumption of Lathyrus sativus and to a lesser degree with Lathyrus cicera, Lathyrus ochrus and Lathyrus clymenum containing the toxin ODAP.
Timothy Treadwell was an American bear enthusiast, environmentalist, and documentary filmmaker and founder of the bear-protection organization Grizzly People. He lived among coastal brown bears, which he called grizzly bears, in Katmai National Park in Alaska for 13 summers.
L-(+)-(S)-Canavanine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid found in certain leguminous plants. It is structurally related to the proteinogenic α-amino acid L-arginine, the sole difference being the replacement of a methylene bridge in arginine with an oxa group in canavanine. Canavanine is accumulated primarily in the seeds of the organisms which produce it, where it serves both as a highly deleterious defensive compound against herbivores and a vital source of nitrogen for the growing embryo. The related L-canaline is similar to ornithine.
The Stampede Trail is a remote road and trail located in the Denali Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. Apart from a paved or maintained gravel road for 8 miles (13 km) between Eight Mile Lake and the trail's eastern end, the route consists of a primitive and at times dangerous hiking or ATV trail following the path of the original road, which has deteriorated over the years. The route ends at an abandoned antimony mine atalong Stampede Creek, a couple miles past Stampede Airport's grass airstrip.
Everett Ruess was an American artist, poet, and writer. He carried out solo explorations of the High Sierra, the California coast, and the deserts of the American Southwest. In 1934, he disappeared while traveling through a remote area of Utah; his fate remains unknown.
Hedysarum (sweetvetch) is a genus of the botanical family Fabaceae, consisting of about 200 species of annual or perennial herbs in Asia, Europe, North Africa, and North America.
Lillian Alling was an Eastern European immigrant to the United States, who in the 1920s attempted a return by foot to her homeland. Her four-year-long journey started in New York, and went westward across Canada, then north through British Columbia, the Yukon, and then west again through Alaska. Whether she successfully crossed the Bering Strait to Russia is unknown.
Into the Wild is a 2007 American biographical adventure drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Sean Penn. It is an adaptation of the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name written by Jon Krakauer and tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a man who hiked across North America into the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s. The film stars Emile Hirsch as McCandless, Marcia Gay Harden as his mother, William Hurt as his father, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, and Hal Holbrook.
The Teklanika River is a 91-mile (146 km) tributary of the Nenana River in the U.S. state of Alaska. The Nenana is a tributary of the Tanana River, which is part of the Yukon River drainage in the central interior region of the state. Flowing northward from headwaters at the Cantwell Glacier in the Alaska Range, the Teklanika drains an area widely visited by tourists to Denali National Park and Preserve. The park's only road crosses the river at milepost 31 and a National Park campground is located on its eastern bank at milepost 29.
The University of Alaska Museum of the North is a cultural and historical museum on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.
"Guaranteed" is a song written and performed by Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder from the Into the Wild soundtrack (2007). It is the final track on the album, and also features a hidden track of "Guaranteed" after about two minutes of silence following the regular version of "Guaranteed".
The Call of the Wild is a 2007 documentary film by the independent filmmaker Ron Lamothe. The premise details the odyssey of Christopher McCandless as Lamothe takes a road trip across North America to the places McCandless visited. Within the film, Lamothe reaches conclusions about McCandless' death which contradict both Sean Penn's film Into the Wild (2007) and Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild (1996), on which Penn's film was based.
Ed Wardle is a Scottish television producer, director, camera operator, and adventurer.
The Eskimo potato is a type of edible plant that grows in the northern areas of Canada and Alaska. The plant's scientific name is variously attributed as either Claytonia tuberosa or Hedysarum alpinum. Both species have a range in the northern area of North America, have edible roots, and have been documented to have been used as a food source by Inuit peoples. Due to its nutritional qualities, the eskimo potato is one of many edible foods listed in survival guides, such as the US Army's field manual Survival, and is used in modern times to subsist in nature.
Into the Wild may refer to:
Hedysarum alpinum is a species of flowering plant in the legume family known by the common name alpine sweetvetch. It is called masu in the Iñupiaq language. It has a circumpolar distribution, occurring throughout the northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America it is widespread in Canada and the northernmost United States, including Alaska.