The Naming of Albert Johnson Summary

Rudy Wiebe


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“The Naming of Albert Johnson” is based on a mysterious, silent, and real person known to millions in the early 1930’s as the Mad Trapper of Rat River. (Wiebe published a novel in 1980, The Mad Trapper, that amplifies this story.) After he shoots a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the trapper becomes the object of a relentless chase. He becomes the first man in history to cross the forbidding Richardson Mountains in the dead of winter. No one ever discovered his real name, but he came to be known as Albert Johnson. Johnson is a self-exiled, wordless, solitary figure who shuns any human contact. He survives by his skills as a trapper in the Northwest Territories. When a Mountie, who is investigating thefts from Indian traplines, approaches him, the trapper shoots without hesitation. The pursuit is on.

Wiebe tells this first-rate adventure story from Johnson’s point of view, a clever strategy, for it increases the likelihood of reader sympathy with the lone villain, who might otherwise be without dimension as character. The villain turns out to be no ordinary mortal. Words do not define him, but an indomitable will and force do. He pits himself against a large posse of Mounties with more than forty dogs. They dynamite his cabin, but he escapes.

With superhuman courage and strength he outruns them through mountain passes where no human has ever ventured in winter. With animal cunning he outsmarts the dog teams, the...

(The entire section is 474 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dueck, Allan. “Rudy Wiebe’s Approach to Historical Fiction.” In Canadian Novel. Vol. 1 in Here and Now, edited by John Moss. Toronto: NC Press, 1978.

Keith, W. J. Epic Fiction: The Art of Rudy Wiebe. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1981.

Keith, W. J., ed. A Voice in the Land: Essays by and About Rudy Wiebe. Edmonton, Alta.: NeWest Press, 1981.

Korkka, Jane. “Representation of Aboriginal Peoples in Rudy Wiebe’s Fiction: The Temptations of Big Bear and A Discovery of Strangers.” In Walking a Tightrope: Aboriginal People and Their Representations, edited by Ute Lischke and David T. MacNab. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005.

Morley, Patricia. The Comedians: Hugh Hood and Rudy Wiebe. Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1976.

Nischik, Reingard M., ed. The Canadian Short Story: Interpretations. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2007.

Solecki, Sam. “Giant Fictions and Large Meanings: The Novels of Rudy Wiebe.” Canadian Forum 60 (March, 1981): 5-8, 13.

Whaley, Susan. Rudy Wiebe and His Works. Toronto: ECW Press, 1983.

Wylie, Herb. Speaking in the Past Tense: Canadian Novelists on Writing Historical Fiction. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007.