Joy Adamson William Percy - Essay

William Percy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Born Free is] a unique and illuminating study in animal psychology. (p. 9)

[Elsa's history in Born Free] provides a record of absorbing interest depicting the gradual development of a controlled character which few would have credited as possible in the case of an animal potentially as dangerous as any in the world. That such a creature when in a highly excited state, with her blood up after a long struggle with a bull buffalo, and while still on top of it, should have permitted a man to walk up to her and cut the dying beast's throat to satisfy his religious scruples, and then lend her assistance in pulling the carcass out of a river, is an astonishing tribute no less to her intelligence than to her self-control.

If the most fanciful author of animal stories of the nineteenth century had drawn the imaginary character of a lioness acting in that manner it would assuredly have been ridiculed as altogether "out of character" and too improbable to carry conviction—and yet Elsa's record shows that it is no more than sober fact.

If in her development Elsa has made her own commentary both on the "anthropomorphism" of the nineteenth century and on the "science" of the twentieth, she has not lived in vain. (pp. 9-10)

William Percy, in his preface to Born Free by Joy Adamson (© 1960 by Joy Adamson; reprinted by permission of Pantheon Books, a Division of Random House, Inc.), Pantheon Books, 1960, pp. 9-10.