The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Abel Guevez de Argensola, a member of a wealthy Venezuelan family, joins a conspiracy to overthrow the government. When the plot is discovered, he is forced to flee into the wilderness of Guyana. After months of illness and misfortune, he settles in the village of an Indian chief named Runi. Near the village is a forest in which lives a supernatural creature who kills hunters.

Undaunted, Abel enters the forest and discovers abundant wildlife. A melodious, birdlike voice follows him as he explores. One day, he comes upon a young woman lying by a stream. Her small, delicate form and resplendent beauty captivate him. They meet when he hurls a stone at a snake and she comes to defend it. Her dark hair falls in a cloud on her shoulders and arms; her skin is pearly white, sometimes lustrous and iridescent. When he is bitten by the snake, he leaps off a precipice in a panic and falls unconscious. He wakes in the hut of an old man named Nuflo, who lives with the young woman. Abel learns that Rima, the luminescent creature with the mysterious voice, will not allow harm to come to any living creature in the forest.

Rima and Abel seal their mutual love by promising to do everything to please each other. She wants, most of all, to find her mother’s people. Nuflo is persuaded to take Rima to Riolama, where her mother died. On the journey, he tells Abel the story of Rima’s origin. Seventeen years earlier, Nuflo and other members of an outlaw band found...

(The entire section is 533 words.)

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Ytaioa (ee-TI-oh-ah). Solitary hill situated in the savanna region west of Parahuari, whose lower slopes protect a densely forested oblong basin. In the heart of this forest—the “green mansions” of the novel’s title—the wanderer Abel finds a kind of natural paradise which contrasts as sharply with the Native American village in the neighboring Parahuari hills as with the turbulent civilization he had earlier fled. It is a vivid place, roofed by the crowns of tall trees and lavishly furnished with ferns, mosses, creepers, and shrubs. The shade of the canopy creates a perpetual twilight, full of the music of birdsong.

Rima is the incarnate spirit of this forest, integrated into its lush ecology more fully and more intimately than would ever be possible for the corrupt Native Americans of Parahuari or for refugees from civilization like Abel and the old man who passes himself off as her grandfather. The rain forest is, in this metaphorical reckoning, the edenic garden which humankind’s ancestors deserted when they fell into the bad habits exhibited by savage Native Americans and technologically sophisticated colonists alike. Unfortunately, it remains a wild place, subject to the harsher vagaries of nature, as Abel discovers when he is bitten by one of its serpents. It is, however, the consequences of that bite that allow him to forge a more intimate relationship with Rima.

Abel takes Rima up the slopes of Ytaioa...

(The entire section is 601 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Frederick, John T. William Henry Hudson. New York: Twayne, 1972. Explores the plausibility of the character Rima in relation to the humanity of the other characters.

Haymaker, Richard E. From Pampas to Hedgerows and Downs: A Study of W. H. Hudson. New York: Bookman Associates, 1954. Presents Rima as more of a passion than an actual individual. Explores Hudson’s tragic vision in the context of Rima’s death.

Miller, David. W. H. Hudson and the Elusive Paradise. London: Macmillan, 1990. Contains a chapter discussing the symbolic/mythopoetic elements such as landscape, snake and bird, darkness, and the character Rima.

Ronner, Amy D. W. H. Hudson: The Man, the Novelist, the Naturalist. New York: AMS Press, 1986. Explores the concept of humanity fusing with spirit as seen in Abel’s relationship with Rima.

Shrubsall, Dennis. W. H. Hudson, Writer and Naturalist. Tisbury, England: Compton Press, 1978. Contains an exploration of the origins of Green Mansions.