Farley Mowat was born in Belleville, Ontario, on May 12, 1921, to Helen and Angus Mowat, both of Scottish ancestry. Farley was an adventurous child and a dedicated reader by age six. When Angus moved his family to Windsor in 1930, Farley was complementing James Fenimore Cooper and Ernest Thompson Seton with rambles around the city’s hobo jungles and collections of wildlife (for example, Limpopo, a six-inch Florida alligator) and moths. A romantic move to Saskatchewan in a ship’s cabin mounted on a Model T truck and a trip to Vancouver Island were followed in 1936 by an expedition to the Arctic with the ornithologist Frank Farley, his great-uncle, who taught him to collect bird nests and eggs on the tundra. Farley met his first Indians on this trip and was shocked by the brutal rifle assaults on the friendly whales around Churchill. In 1937, the Mowats resettled near Toronto, where Farley devoted much time to studying birds as a prelude to a two-month field trip to Saskatchewan to undertake an ornithological survey.
Mowat grew up fast during World War II, when he served as a brigade intelligence officer engaged in hard combat in Sicily and Italy. Discharged in 1946, he enrolled at the University of Toronto and in 1947 accompanied Francis Harper, a Pennsylvania biologist, to Canada’s Keewatin District. Returning to Toronto that fall, Mowat married Frances Elizabeth Thornhill, a classmate. The trip with Harper inspired the first half of People of the Deer (1952), and a second trip, in 1948, partially funded by the Dominion Wildlife Service, exposed him to the suffering among the Ihalmiut that he was to recount in The Desperate People (1959). His long absences damaged his marriage, and in 1951, after two years in Palgrave, Ontario, in a house without running water, Fran...
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In a century that saw a rapid loss of habitat for both people and animals, Mowat stood up for those pushed to the margin by technology and population explosion. His name joins those of Rachel Carson and Dian Fossey, among others, who attempted to forestall the damage done by a sometimes blind and indifferent civilization.
Farley McGill Mowat (MOH-aht) was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, on May 12, 1921, to Angus and Helen Thomson Mowat. After completing his public school education in Ontario, he joined the Canadian army in 1939, rising to the rank of captain in the infantry and serving overseas during World War II. In 1945, Mowat returned to Canada and received his B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1949. That year, he married Frances Elizabeth Thornhill, with whom he had two children, Robert Alexander and David Peter; the marriage ended in divorce, and Mowat married Claire Angel Wheeler in 1961. He and his wife settled in Port Hope, Ontario, during the winter and in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, during the summer.
The author of more than thirty books ranging from autobiography to children’s literature, Mowat began his writing career as a result of his conflict with his employer, the Canadian government. After returning from military service, he accepted a job as a biological researcher for the Dominion Wildlife Service in the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve in northern Canada to observe what effects the wolves had on the caribou herds. While there, Mowat became friends with a small Eskimo tribe, the Ihalmiut, who called themselves the People of the Deer because the caribou provided them with food, clothing, and shelter. In response to what Mowat perceived as the Canadian government’s negligent attitude toward these people, he began a crusade to help them preserve their heritage, a campaign that not only failed but also cost him his job. Mowat’s first book, People of the Deer (1952; revised, 1975), chronicles his experiences, and its sequel, The Desperate People (1959; revised, 1975), describes the Ihalmiut’s defeat. Both books were later revised and reissued to temper what some critics saw as misrepresentations of natural and social history. In 1954, People of the Deer won the Anisfield-Wolfe Award for its contribution to interracial relations.
People of the Deer begins Mowat’s career-long engagement with issues relating to the far north country of Canada; he views himself as more of a storyteller than a naturalist, despite what he considers to be misguided attempts to categorize him as such. Mowat seeks to explore the complicated relationships between species: wolf and humankind, caribou and Eskimo, and the hunter and the hunted.
A summer spent in Churchill, Manitoba, with his uncle, western Canadian ornithologist Frank Farley, first introduced the author to the beauties of the Canadian north country; this tundra world is a place to which Mowat returns again and again in his writing. Besides People of the Deer and The Desperate People, Mowat pursues this...
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