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Hugh Glass: The Truth Behind the Revenant Legend
Every man there knew Hugh Glass was a gone ‘coon.’ They had only to look at what little the she-grizzly’s 3-inch claws had left of the old trapper. At least what they could make out through the blood, which was everywhere. To look at his shredded scalp…face…chest…arm…hand. To see how she’d chewed into his shoulder and back. They had only to listen to the blood bubble from the rip in his throat with his every breath. What astonished them was that he breathed at all. Again. And yet again.
Tough as they’d found the old coon (a term mountain men used to describe themselves) to be that summer of 1823 as they challenged the Upper Missouri tribes to reach the beaver streams, Major Andrew Henry and his nine trappers would have been incredulous if they’d known how indestructible Glass and his story have proved to be. That he would become the subject of controversy would not have surprised them. That some men would call him a liar and accuse him of slandering a gallant comrade might have puzzled them. The notion that Hugh Glass was about to crawl into American legend, to become an epic hero of story and poem, would have made them laugh.
He was going to die. Any minute now. Any fool could see that.
Hostile natives had already finished off 17 of their brigade. Arikara (also known as Ree) Indians had killed 15 in a June 2 attack that forced them off their Missouri River keelboats and–that route to the mountains closed–set them trudging west up the Grand River valley. August was two-thirds gone, yet several of them still nursed scars from that battle, including Old Glass, who’d taken a ball in his thigh. That hadn’t stopped him, but the grizzly had finally done him in.
He was old compared to most of his fellow mountain men. Nearing or in his early 40s, Glass was old enough to be the father of young men like Jim Bridger , who was beginning his second year as a trapper. But they called him ‘old’ with a measure of affection and respect. He was a loner, who often insisted on going his own way. His willful foray up the draw for ripe plums, which had ended in ‘Old Ephraim’s’ embrace, was typical. But his skill and courage had served them all well. Tall and powerfully built, he wasn’t a man to run from a fight.
One or two of the somber group that ringed his dying ground thought Glass deserved to lose this battle. He’d exposed them all to greater risk. The U.S. Army had made a sham of punishing the Arikara village for the devastating June attack. If a couple of frustrated trappers hadn’t torched the Arikara village on their own, the Rees could have laughed in their faces. They were uncowed and on the prod. Henry had ordered his small crew to stick close together as they hurried cross-country toward his fur post on the Yellowstone River. He allowed only two designated hunters and wanted no unnecessary gunfire.
Yet even with those precautions, they’d lost two more men in a recent night attack. Two others suffered wounds. When the attacking warriors proved to be usually friendly Mandans, the trappers knew the Ree contempt was spreading–Assiniboines, Sioux and Hidatsas could well emulate the Blackfeet, who already considered any white man fair game. To draw attention could be to die. The gunshots needed to finish the grizzly and her two yearlings echoed through the gully. So, too, did the screams of Glass. They had to get their 18th fatality underground and move. Now!
But this corpse was still breathing.
Others, watching, remembered Glass’ quick and effective response to the Arikara guns. Afterward, he’d nursed the wounded, especially young John Gardner. Knowing he was dying, Gardner had entrusted Glass with his last message to his family back in Virginia. Somewhere in his shadowy past, Glass had gained enough education to express himself clearly and gracefully in writing. He had proved more than equal to this sensitive task.
‘My painful duty it is to tell you of the deth of y[ou]r son…,’ Glass wrote the young man’s father. ‘He lived a short while after he was shot and asked me to inform you of his sad fate. We brought him to the ship where he soon died. Mr. Smith a young man of our company made a powerful prayer wh[ich] moved us all greatly and I am persuaded John died in peace….’
But the scribe himself would not oblige and follow. They tore strips from shirts and bound up his wounds as best they could, sure he’d be dead by morning. When the sun woke them, though, he still breathed.
The saga of Hugh Glass must be pieced together from accounts written by several of his contemporaries, each with varying details. Respected mountain man George C. Yount recorded in his memoirs that he talked with Glass directly, as well as with a trapper named Allen (Hiram Allen was one of Major Henry’s 1823 brigade) and a later Glass cohort of record named Dutton.
Allen recalled that Major Henry ordered branches cut for a litter and that they carried the groaning, blood-wrapped man two days or more. Whatever distance, it was too little, too painful and it took too long. Near the forks of the Grand River (in present-day South Dakota), the trappers reached a grove of trees that sheltered a spring-fed stream, and Henry faced facts. He could lose all his men trying to prolong the life of one already as good as dead.
They’d leave Glass here to recover, if he could, or die in peace. But the major needed two volunteers to stay until the expected happened and give Hugh a decent burial. It couldn’t be long. Then they could catch up. The company would pay each a bonus worth several month’s wages. He waited. Neither trapper Allen nor the experienced Moses Harris found the bonus worth risking his scalp for. There was dead silence.
Finally a man spoke up and then another–John S. Fitzgerald and 19-year-old Jim Bridger. Although he was the youngest of them all, Bridger had to support both himself and his younger sister with his wages. Whether inspired by practicality, compassion, or youthful optimism born of inexperience, Bridger accepted the charge. Before either could change his mind, Henry and the other seven hurried away.
Fitzgerald and Bridger were alone, except for the blood-caked, wheezing apparition at their feet. They could do nothing for him except administer a few drops of water and wave off the flies. Dusk came, then dark, then dawn. Every hour increased their risk. They could do nothing for themselves except watch anxiously for Indian sign and dig the grave so all was ready. Another day, another night. Their odds of catching up with the others shrank.
Through yet another sunrise Hugh Glass’ wispy breaths bound them to their dangerous camp as efficiently as a spider’s silk bound captured flies. And as fatally. Fitzgerald began to argue for moving on. The man was in his death sweats, but it was taking him forever. They’d stayed far longer than Henry expected, risked far more. It was time to save themselves. No one would blame them.
Eventually the younger man agreed. Quickly they collected their gear. But as Fitzgerald packed up, he proved he was intent on saving something more than his life. He also wanted both the bonus and his reputation. That required they tell Henry that Old Glass was dead and buried. And in the grave, Glass had no use for a rifle. Or powder and shot. Or his knife. Or his possibles sack with flint and steel. If they didn’t take all his fixins, someone was sure to ask why. In the mountains, you didn’t waste valuable gear on a corpse.
If Bridger was repelled by applying such logic to a corpse that not only was warm but also still drew breath and moaned now and again, he failed to raise convincing arguments against it. They moved the invalid to within reach of water and, certain his days of needing anything more were done, walked away, carrying every tool Hugh Glass possessed.
What they could not take away from him was more vital–his grit, his fury at their treachery, his will to survive and get revenge. The mind inside the battered head was on fire with fever, and he sank in and out of consciousness. He was close to death, but he’d been there before, and fortune had never left him completely on his own hook. He’d lived through scrapes those cowards had never dreamed of.
His trail should have ended half a dozen years earlier in that Pawnee village. He could remember the heat from his partner’s body after their Skidi Pawnee captors hung him up, shot hundreds of pine slivers into his skin and turned him into a human torch. Glass was to be the next sacrifice to the morning star. But when his turn came, something inspired him to fish a packet of vermilion from his pocket and calmly present it to the chief. The unexpected gift of the rare and valued red powder transformed this white man from a sacrifice into a favored son. He’d learned a lot in his years with the Pawnees.
Now, Glass faced an even greater survival test. In lucid moments, he reached for water, and as he became more aware he stripped buffalo berries from an overhanging bush. Crushing them in a palm full of water, he managed to get some down his damaged throat. For several days he could do no more. Then fortune found him, and he woke to see a torpid rattlesnake nearby. Glass stretched for a sharp-edged rock and killed the snake. Using the rock, or perhaps his razor (accounts vary), he shakily skinned the rattler and chopped the raw meat fine enough to get it down.
Gaining strength from the meat, he decided it was time. He rolled to his knees, but quickly discovered he could not stand. To follow his betrayers west over rough, rising country was not possible. But he had one good arm, one good leg. The nearest help would be back on the Missouri at the French fur post of Fort Kiowa. He began to crawl downstream. He put a yard, than another, behind him. When one of his feeble, quivering limbs collapsed, he rested until it could hold his weight again. Then crawled on.
His nose was close to the clay, but that’s where his food was also. Pawneelike, he dug for breadroot and robbed nests of eggs. When he came across a buffalo carcass, he hunted bones green enough, cracked them open and scraped and sucked the nourishing marrow. The yards stretched to rods, then a mile, then two a day. Focusing on what was possible, he refused to believe his goal was impossible–even though the fur post lay 250 miles away.
When a wolf pack downed a buffalo calf near where he crouched, he hungrily watched them devour about half the animal. He then bluffed the wolves away from the remains and gratefully gulped down whatever bits of liver, guts and heart they’d missed. The flesh was rich with blood; he needed all he could get. For the next few days he ate, rested, grew stronger. His torn back, which he could not reach to clean, festered and became infested with maggots. His other wounds were gradually draining, scabbing over, beginning to heal. When he headed on, it was on two feet–again a man.
Before he reached the Missouri, nights were sharp with October’s frost. Somewhere along the river, perhaps on a sidetrip north to scavenge for corn in fields the Arikaras had abandoned, he met up with a party of Sioux on the move. In a good-natured mood, the Sioux took the tenacious cripple in, cleaned his back wound and helped him downriver to Fort Kiowa.
Glass took only a day or two to tell his story of betrayal and recruit his strength. The French company was sending a pirogue up the Missouri as far as the Mandan villages, hoping to reopen the long-established trade. Glass signed for a new outfit, gratefully hefting the new rifle that would give him vengeance, and hitched a ride. They’d put him that much nearer Fort Henry at the mouth of the Yellowstone.
Glass eagerly anticipated a confrontation upriver with his betrayers, but the French trappers were on edge. The Mandans had let Rees resettle in their unused adjacent village. Whose side were the Mandans on now? Did they offer trade or a trap? On October 15, 1823, the French leader wrote his last will and testament.
Of the seven men in that boat, only Hugh Glass and interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau reached the villages alive. Charbonneau, possibly anticipating trouble, had gone on ahead, and fortune had again nudged Hugh. He was ashore hunting at the critical moment Arikaras attacked the pirogue. Even then it was a close thing, for he did stumble into a group of Rees. He was losing his hobbling race for cover when one or two Mandan warriors chose to cheat the Rees of their prey and whisked Glass up on horseback and away to safety.
It was November 20 and safety was relative. Glass was still determined to reach Henry’s post. The Columbia Fur Company manned tiny Fort Tilton between the again-friendly Mandans and the unpredictable Rees, but the Rees kept them well corralled. The traders were amazed at Glass’ story, but if he insisted on going farther, the only help they could offer was to ferry him to the east side of the river where he was less apt to run into Rees. The 250-mile trek to the Yellowstone’s mouth, where Fort Henry sheltered his quarry, he had to make on his own.
He was used to that. But arcing northwest, he faced into numbing arctic winds and needed every skill to find food enough to keep his body going. He trudged riverbottom when he could, ranged the gale-swept buttes when he had to. The days had totaled nearly a month when he looked across the confluence and saw the walls of Fort Henry. He rafted over on two logs tied together with bark, but as he approached he must have realized the chimneys were smokeless, the corral empty, the stockade cold and deserted. Whatever despair he felt, it was not long before he moved on to more useful action. Finding sign that Major Henry and his men had headed south up the Yellowstone, he doggedly followed.
The year 1823 was giving way to 1824 when Glass staggered up to the pickets of the new stockade the major had built at the mouth of the Bighorn River. No cannon boomed a welcome. No one threw open the gate. The men inside, warm and woozy from passing the New Year’s keg, focused in disbelief on the emaciated ruin. What could be only a gaunt, frozen corpse walked into their midst carrying a rifle. Terror gripped their hearts. But only for a moment. This corpse talked. Identified himself. Incredible as it was, he was Old Hugh Glass. Tension melted into relief, celebration, a barrage of questions.
Except for one man. Young Jim Bridger still stood frozen in shock and fear. Then, as the questions were answered, he became shamefaced. By the time Glass’ recital peaked at the betrayal that had goaded him more than 1,000 miles–the vengeance he had struggled so far to enjoy–the young trapper was such a piteous sight that Glass could not bring himself to cock his rifle. Whatever words Glass actually used, his meaning was clear. Bridger knew he’d done wrong. His punishment would come from his own conscience. He was forgiven. John Fitzgerald–older, more treacherous — was another issue altogether. Glass still had some vengeance on his mind. Fitzgerald was the one who had convinced young Bridger to leave him–bear-battered but still breathing–at the Grand River. Where was that gutless varmint?
It was Glass’ turn to be rocked. Fitzgerald was gone. He’d quit the mountains and left in mid-November with Moses Harris and a third trapper. They’d been rowing down the Missouri as Glass was coming up. Somewhere along the way, the betrayer, who still held Glass’ treasured rifle, had crossed his path unseen. Fitzgerald was probably at Fort Atkinson by now.
On February 28, 1824, Glass started on his trail again, an eager volunteer to carry an express back to the States. He and a trapper named Dutton traveled with E. More, A. Chapman, and a man named Marsh south to the Platte River, where they built one or two bullboats. They pushed off, intending to boat down the Platte to the Missouri and Fort Atkinson. Seeing a large Pawnee encampment at the mouth of the Laramie River, they stopped to barter for food. Dutton waited in a boat with the guns while Glass and the others went to parley with Glass’ old friends. But they had hardly sat down when Glass caught a word or two spoken with a strange inflection. These were not Pawnees, but their cousins–whose village lay in ashes back on the Missouri.
‘These are Rickarees!’ Glass shouted. The men dived for the door and scattered, running, then swimming for their lives. On the far bank, Glass scrambled behind some rocks, from where he saw Moore and Chapman cut down. He lost track of the others. He hunkered down and waited for dark, then slipped away. Again alone he turned toward the Missouri, 400 miles east.
Sometime in May, Dutton and Marsh reached Fort Atkinson, where they reported sadly that their party of five had been attacked on the Platte by Arikaras, who’d killed Moore, Chapman and Glass.
They had underestimated Old Glass again. ‘Although I had lost my rifle and all my plunder, I felt quite rich when I found my knife, flint and steel in my shot pouch,’ he said later. ‘These little fixins make a man feel right peart when he is three or four hundred miles from anybody or any place.’ Unarmed, he decided to leave the Platte and veer north to Fort Kiowa, where he arrived early in June. A few days later he was at Fort Atkinson, telling his story and demanding Fitzgerald’s head and the rifle Fitzgerald had stolen from him.
Fitzgerald was indeed there, but he had enlisted in April, and the Army declined to let a civilian execute a soldier. Glass had to be satisfied with the knowledge he’d shamed his betrayer, a purse collected by sympathetic troopers, and the solid weight of his rifle again in his hand.
Before long, Glass joined a trading party heading for Santa Fe, and for nine more years he continued as a free trapper, always independent, living life on his own terms. Early in 1833, the Arikaras finally succeeded in ending that life when they caught him and two other trappers walking down the iced-over Yellowstone. When it was over, the Rees rode away, triumphantly bearing his long-cherished rifle. Had good fortune finally turned her head? Or, with age slowing his reactions and the end of the trapping era approaching, had she done him one last favor?
This article was written by Nancy M. Peterson and originally appeared in the June 2000 issue of Wild West .
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The Revenant (2015)
Yes. The Revenant true story confirms that this is one of the few facts about Hugh Glass that we do know for sure. He was a frontiersman and fur trapper. In 1823, he signed up for an expedition backed by General William Henry Ashley and Major Andrew Henry, who together founded the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1822 (Henry is portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson in The Revenant ). Ashley had placed an ad in the Missouri Gazette & Public Advertiser in search of "enterprising young men." It was during this fur-trapping expedition that Hugh Glass was attacked by a grizzly bear, an event that turned Glass's story into Frontier legend. How much of the legend is true is uncertain, as the story was often embellished with each retelling. -Telegraph.co.uk Like in the movie, Hugh Glass was a skilled fur trapper and frontiersman. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Glass in The Revenant .
No. Following the fight with the Arikara tribe, the expedition's backers, William Ashley and Andrew Henry, not Hugh Glass, ordered the fur trappers to leave their boats and go by foot/horse into the mountains. -HistoryBuff.com
Little is known about the life of the real Hugh Glass prior to the 1823 bear attack. Most is conjecture, including his marriage to a Native American woman, with whom he supposedly fell in love after being captured by and living with Pawnee Indians for several years. As his legend grew, so did his elaborate backstory, which also included him being kidnapped by French-American pirate Jean Lafitte, a fate he allegedly escaped after a couple years by jumping ship and swimming ashore near what is now Galveston, Texas. We do know that Glass was an experienced frontiersman and a skilled hunter, but where and how he acquired those talents is anyone's guess. -HistoryBuff.com Though Hugh Glass's marriage to a Pawnee Indian is often retold with the legend, no public or private documents exist to confirm the marriage. The reality is that very little is known about Glass's life prior to the bear attack.
Yes, although no eyewitness account exists, The Revenant true story reveals that it happened in the summer of 1823, five months after Glass joined a South Dakota fur-trapping expedition funded by Major Andrew Henry and William Henry Ashley. The mauling took place near the banks of the Grand River when Glass unexpectedly came upon a grizzly bear and her two cubs. The mother bear ripped his scalp, punctured his throat, broke his leg, and left him with numerous gashes. His fellow hunters heard his cries and rushed to help, using more than one bullet to drop the bear. -Telegraph.co.uk The real Hugh Glass was attacked by a bear in August of 1823.
No, at least none have been found. We do know that Hugh Glass was literate from a surviving letter he wrote to the parents of fellow fur trapper John Gardner, who was killed during an 1823 encounter with the hostile Arikara tribe ( History Net ). The papers of some of his bosses document him as being a difficult employee to rein in. However, he left little else behind to accurately document his life, and no direct eyewitness account of the bear attack exists. The story of the attack first appeared publicly in an 1825 Philadelphia literary journal, written by a local lawyer in search of literary success. It spread across the United States in newspapers and other journals, quickly becoming Frontier legend. Glass's story became the subject of the 1915 poem "The Song of Hugh Glass" by John Neihardt and at least a half dozen books. Irish actor Richard Harris portrayed Glass in the trippy 1970 film Man in the Wilderness , which also starred John Huston. -HistoryBuff.com This drawing of a grizzly bear attacking Hugh Glass appeared in the July 2, 1922 edition of The Milwaukee Journal . It accompanied an article about the "frontier adventures of Hugh Glass" that unfolded a century earlier.
Fox, the studio behind The Revenant , has strongly denied that there was ever a graphic rape scene involving DiCaprio's character and a bear. The controversial story, titled "DiCaprio Raped by Bear in Fox Movie," first appeared on the Drudge Report several weeks before the film's release. However, it appears that the news report was possibly sensationalized a bit. The source, an article on Showbiz 411 , states the following, "The bear flips Glass over on his belly and molests him- dry humps him actually- as he nearly devours him." This doesn't seem to make sense since the bear was understood to have been a she, not a he.
Yes. Believing that Hugh Glass had received mortal wounds during his encounter with the bear, the expedition's leaders paid two men to stay behind until Glass died. This was done in order to give him a Christian burial. These men were John Fitzgerald and the younger Jim Bridger, portrayed in the movie by Tom Hardy and Will Poulter. They stayed with Glass for several days (the exact number varies). After seeing that his body was refusing to die, The Revenant true story confirms that they placed him in a shallow grave, collected his weapons, and headed off to rejoin the expedition. -Telegraph.co.uk Like in The Revenant movie, the real Hugh Glass was left for dead by John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger.
No, at least not all of it. Despite the entire film appearing to unfold in the winter, the bear attack actually happened in the summer. -HistoryBuff.com
Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu made it clear from the beginning that computer-generated imagery would not be used as a stand in for remote locations. He also insisted on shooting in natural light. " If we ended up in greenscreen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of sh*t," he told The Hollywood Reporter . As a result, some members of the crew left the filming, unable to handle the harsh environments, which included temperatures of -13F (-25C) ( T elegraph.co.uk ). Filming took place in British Columbia, Alberta, Montana and southern Argentina.
No. In The Revenant movie, the murder of Glass's mixed-race son by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) prompts him to embark on a journey for revenge. This part of the movie is pure fiction, as there is no evidence that Glass had any children at all, much less a son who was slain before his eyes. -HistoryBuff.com John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) killing Hugh Glass's son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) in the movie is pure fiction. The real Glass did not have any children.
Prior to the film's release, actor Leonardo DiCaprio made headlines when he said that he slept in an animal carcass and ate raw bison liver to help embody the character. While sleeping in an animal carcass is not an entirely uncommon survival tactic (adventurer Bear Grylls slept in a deer carcass and crawled inside a camel carcass on his show Man vs. Wild ), whether the real Hugh Glass did this or not is not known, but it certainly adds to the legend (most versions of the story mention Glass eating animal carcasses, which is more likely). Other more outrageous details surrounding Glass's journey to survive have appeared in various tellings of his story. They include a grizzly bear licking maggots from Glass's wounds and Glass killing and eating a rattlesnake. The latter is certainly possible, but there's little doubt the other is the result of Glass's story being spun a few too many times.
As the legend surrounding Hugh Glass grew, so did the distance of his six-week-long crawl, jumping from 80 miles to 100 miles to 200 miles. Most tellings of his story embrace the latter, no doubt because it makes for a better tale. -Telegraph.co.uk
No. In researching The Revenant true story, we learned that Hugh Glass did catch up to John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger, the men who abandoned him, but he forgave them instead of exacting violent revenge. It should be noted again that in real life these men never killed Glass's son, so forgiveness would have come more easily. The real Hugh Glass forgave John Fitzgerald instead of unleashing violent revenge. Tom Hardy (pictured) portrays Fitzgerald in The Revenant movie.
In the simplest terms, a "revenant" is a dead spirit that comes back to life to terrorize the living. In terms of the movie, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) survives the bear attack, crawls from the shallow grave he was left in, and metaphorically comes back to life to terrorize those who betrayed him, later stating, "I ain't afraid to die anymore. I done it already."
Little is known about Hugh Glass's later years, but we do know that he worked as a hunter at the mouth of the Yellowstone River, employed by Fort Union. -Daily Mail Online Other than fictionalized accounts, we know little about the real Hugh Glass's life prior to the 1823 bear attack that made him famous. His later years are equally ambiguous. Leonardo DiCaprio (left) and Hugh Glass (right).
Yes. According to a report in The Milwaukee Journal , a visitor at Fort Union shared such an account of Hugh Glass's death. "Old Glass with two companions had gone to Fort Cass to hunt bear on the Yellowstone, and as they were crossing the river on the ice, all three were shot and scalped by a war party of 30 Aricaras." -Daily Mail Online
The Revenant interview below features Leonardo DiCaprio discussing the film's grueling shoot.
- The Revenant Official Movie Website
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The Real Story of ‘The Revenant’ Is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the Movie
Hugh Glass, the protagonist of the story, never was chased off a cliff, cut a dead horse open for warmth or had a half-Pawnee son. But the frontiersman played by DiCaprio lived a life even more fantastical than any film.
By Steve Friedman
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This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe .
Before a grizzly tore a hunk of meat from his rump and lobbed it to her squalling cubs, Hugh Glass was just a middle-aged pirate who had abandoned ship, then dodged two tribes of cannibals only to witness his friend being roasted alive. And then things turned really nasty.
That’s the story, anyway. But it’s not the one told in The Revenant , the Alejandro G. Inarritu-directed Oscar favorite, in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s Glass is chased off a cliff, recalls his Pawnee wife, eats raw buffalo liver — and mainly, drags his grizzly-ravaged body hundreds of miles through a wintry frontier, driven by bloodlust for the men who had left him to die.
The real Glass, however, made much of his journey in late summer. And he had no Pawnee wife. Even the liver is not a sure thing.
To separate mythology from biography, it helps to remember that the film is based in part on a 2002 work of fiction, which itself is based in part on the three earliest written and largely forgotten accounts of Glass’ adventures. None of those authors knew Glass, and one of them, a novelist, wrote the forgettable sequel Monte Cristo’s Daughter . Thucydides , these guys were not. But their accounts, as well as letters, testimony, trapper memoirs and a rich oral history, are what is left regarding Glass’ life.
Based on those sources, this much is certain: Glass was alive, he survived a grizzly attack and he died. There is no evidence he had a Native American wife or girlfriend, or that he had a son by a Native American woman, or that he plunged off a cliff on a horse, or that he gutted and climbed into a dead horse to stay warm or for any other reason.
Glass lived in Pennsylvania, where he might have had a wife and two sons whom he abandoned. He was a sea captain already in his 30s when pirates attacked his ship off the coast of what is now Texas in 1819. The pirate captain offered Glass a choice: Join their crew, or join the scores of bleeding, gutted, naked, screaming and drowning men, women and children bobbing in the choppy waters below. Glass joined.
After a year of pillaging, kidnapping, killing and the like, Glass and another pirate jumped overboard and swam toward Campeche (now Galveston), the primitive headquarters of Jean Lafitte , who, it turned out, was Glass’ pirate boss’ boss. The two deserters slunk north toward St. Louis, the westernmost locus of American civilization. They took special care to avoid, to the east, the Karankawa , notorious for eating settlers (tribesmen called the dish “long pig”). The duo couldn’t stray too far west, though, because there dwelled the slightly pickier Tonkawas , who included only severed human hands and feet in their diet (to ingest extra strength and speed).
On they pressed, away from these man-eating tribes and Lafitte’s band of murderers and toward Comanche, Kiowa and Osage, the former two scary, the latter really scary (the Osage eschewed scalping in favor of decapitation). When Glass and his pal ultimately were captured, 1,000 miles after emerging from the water, it was by Pawnee, which should have provided a measure of relief. Alas, the Loup branch of the Pawnee regularly offered human sacrifices to the god of the morning star — usually young girls from the village. But an exception was made for a couple guys who represented the vanguard of an invading, land-grabbing, genocidal force.
A gang of Pawnee stripped and tied Glass’ friend to a stake. As Glass watched, they stuck slivers of resinous pine into his friend’s flesh, then lit them. When it was Glass’ turn, he bowed before the chief, then reached into his pocket and produced a vial of cinnabar, the flaky red mineral then found in Texas and used around the world for makeup and pottery. War paint, too. The chief was impressed by the gift, as well as the sangfroid with which the white man presented it. Somehow, the pirate turned mutineer turned fugitive escaped the flaming porcupine treatment and became an honorary Pawnee.
Other than omitting a futile attempt by Glass to climb a tree and an early on-target gunshot, the grizzly attack depicted in ‘The Revenant’ largely is accurate.
He learned lance throwing, tomahawk chopping, and how to break and suck the marrow from buffalo bones. He ate his share of dog (don’t judge). It was during this period that he likely procured his legendary and beloved rifle, the mighty and thunderous .54 caliber Hawken to which Glass grew profoundly attached and that later would cause him so much trouble.
After two years, in January 1823, Glass headed east with the chief to meet with the U.S. Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis. Afterward, the chief returned to lead his tribe while Glass stayed in town. He answered an ad placed in the Missouri Republican by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, which was seeking 100 men to pack up and leave fancy duds, womenfolk and saloons behind to head into the Rocky Mountains. There, for $200 annually, they would trap beaver.
Men who didn’t respond to the ad were enlisted from “grog shops and other sinks of degradation,” according to a recruiter. Many would go on to form the sweaty, calloused core of the country’s mid-19th century trapping force. It was risky, hard labor that favored the ornery. So maybe it’s unsurprising that the trappers tended to be some of the more profane, violent, nature-despoiling, aboriginal land-trespassing, wildlife-poaching, gun-toting cusses ever to range the Rockies.
The party, led by Gen. William Ashley, set out on the Missouri River in early March, and except for one man falling overboard and drowning the first day, and three others being blown to bits when someone lit a pipe too close to a pile of explosives, the trip began smoothly. At least until Ashley went ashore to talk business with the Arikara (aka the Rees). Could Chief Grey Eyes and his warriors, by reputation suspicious and at times murderous regarding trespassers, spare 50 horses? Why yes, Chief Grey Eyes replied, as long as Ashley could spare a few kegs of gunpowder. A deal was struck, goods exchanged and most of the crew set up camp on a sandbar near the Arikara village. They would continue downriver in the morning.
All went without incident that evening, notwithstanding the throat-slitting of young Aaron Stephens, one of the many trappers who had visited the Ree village to celebrate the procurement of horses by fornicating with a village maiden.
The Rees attacked in the morning, wounding Glass and killing 15 of his companions. Which brings us to the film’s first scene, with Leo dodging arrows and barely making it to the boat that took the trappers downriver to safety.
The film skips over the counterattack and subsequent siege of a Ree village that involved Ashley’s men, another trapping party led by a Lt. Andrew Henry, 250 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Sioux, who harbored a deep and abiding antipathy for the Ree. It was the first military encounter between the U.S. and Native Americans in the West, and relations pretty much went downhill from there.
How 'the revenant's' vfx team brought that bear to life.
John Fitzgerald and the teenager named Bridger did volunteer to stay with Glass until he died, and they did betray him, but the famed trapper’s quest ended without bloody vengeance in the mountains. In real life, Glass mostly just wanted his rifle back.
But back to the film — namely, that grizzly attack: Glass left Ashley’s group to join Henry’s (don’t ask), and early in the journey, Henry sent two of his now roughly 30-strong group to hunt some meat, telling the rest, including Glass, to stay put. But our protagonist had never liked orders. Also, he hankered for some berries.
He was standing in a berry patch when Ol’ Ephraim — that’s what mountain men back then called grizzlies, even females — charged. Glass shot her with his rifle. It was a good shot, but Ol’ Ephraim kept charging. Glass ran to a tree, but as he began to climb, O.E. grabbed him, threw him to the ground and tore some meat out of his rear. She tossed the meal to her cubs, who probably had never tasted man before (odds are they liked it). Then Ol’ Ephraim returned her attention to Glass. She raked her claws across his back, bit him about the head and shook him like a rag doll. Glass moved in close and slashed the bear repeatedly with his knife. He tried to yell, but what came out was a kind of high-pitched gargling, as his throat had been torn open and was gushing blood.
The grizzly fell, dead either by Glass’ shot or by those fired by two hunters who had heard the commotion. Fellow trappers bound Glass’ wounds as best they could, using sweaty, soiled pieces of fabric ripped from their shirts. The next morning, having abandoned their boat, the group marched on, carrying Glass on a litter made from branches.
It slowed them down. They knew hostiles were nearby. On the fifth day or so, Henry offered cash (accounts vary between $80 and $400) to any two men who would stay with Glass until he died, then meet the others at his namesake Fort Henry.
One volunteer, an otherwise forgettable figure, was named John Fitzgerald. The other was a teenager named Bridger. They kept Glass comfortable and waited for him to die.
After five days, though, the men had a talk (which Glass reportedly later told another trapper he’d overheard). No one had expected Glass to live this long, and no one would want the pair to stay. Glass was going to die anyway, Fitzgerald told the kid. It was only a matter of time before Ree or Cheyenne found them. And besides, they had already earned their money. The two men left Glass next to a nearby stream, underneath a berry bush. Just in case.
Fitzgerald and Bridger took Glass’ rifle, knife, tomahawk and flint; if they showed up empty-handed, Henry would have asked where the weapons were, and they wouldn’t get paid.
'The Revenant' Producer on the Bear Scene That Took on "Myths of Its Own"
In the film, Glass has a half-Pawnee son whose murder fuels his fierce pursuit of justice. There’s only one minor problem: Glass never had a half-Pawnee son.
But Fitzgerald never tried to suffocate Glass, as he does in the film, nor did he murder Glass’ beloved half-Pawnee son — mostly because Glass didn’t have a beloved half-Pawnee son. But seeking vengeance against a child killer is box-office gold.
The two minders set out for Fort Henry, and while the film depicts their journey as perilous and semi-epic, it was neither. They arrived two days after the others, displayed Glass’ armaments and collected their reward. While the duo’s conduct was dastardly by modern sensibilities, leaving their sure-to-die comrade wasn’t what got mountain men talking. They were a hard lot with an affinity for risk management. Heinous and unforgiveable to mountain men, however, was taking a man’s only means of survival — his tools.
As for what happens next — Glass’ solitary crawl to Fort Kiowa, which comprises the bulk of The Revenant — all we have to go on is the savaged trapper’s testimony, as passed on to a bunch of lying, hard-drinking louts with nicknames like Pegleg and Liver-Eating, who, in turn, relayed the account to reporters and writers of not much greater repute.
Still, one can ascertain with high probability a few things: One of Glass’ legs was broken, and his throat had been mangled so terribly that he’d never speak in the same voice again. He would lie next to the stream for five days, subsisting on a large rattlesnake he killed with a sharp stone. (Filmgoers might have gone for the rattlesnake eating. Go figure.)
He did crawl, and then crawled some more, and after that, he limped. The film got that right.
He did not get chased off a cliff, nor did he crawl inside a horse carcass for warmth. He did not meet a Native American with a sly sense of humor who tossed him a buffalo liver. Perhaps he ate some liver on his sojourn, but the truth is, he ate far more dog. Dog eating was not such a big deal back then. The Comanche thought it was disgusting, true, but it was a staple of the Sioux diet. The Kickapoo revered dogs, believing they had spirits like humans and lived in heaven after death. The Kickapoo bottle-fed their dogs, kept their paws from the dusty ground, washed and swaddled and sang to them. They also ate puppy stew.
But enough with the dog-eating. What about the buffalo? Glass did, in fact, eat a calf that was being worked over by wolves. And yes, if the wolves hadn’t gotten to it first, he probably ate the liver. And he did shoo the wolves away, but he waited till he saw they had eaten their fill.
Did he burn with rage and seethe with the compulsion to seek justice, to kill the men who had betrayed him, as the film depicts? You bet he did.
'The Revenant': Film Review
Three books on the life of Hugh Glass were written long before Michael Punke’s 2002 novel, The Revenant, including the closest thing to a historical account, ‘The Saga of Hugh Glass,’ which was published in 1976.
But not for child murder — he just wanted his gun back. His beloved and trustworthy Hawken. And if he had to crawl and limp 350 miles to kill the bastard who stole it, so be it. The film doesn’t get into the whole man-rifle bond too much. It also doesn’t mention the few days Glass spent with some friendly Sioux, who welcomed him to their village, where they cleaned the maggots from his back wound and poured vegetable juice on it.
Glass kept walking. After many weeks, he joined six French traders at Fort Kiowa, who he thought might drop him off near Fort Tilton, where he suspected the rifle thieves would be. After six weeks he parted ways with the Frenchmen. Just a mile later, they were butchered by Ree. Some Ree spotted Glass and gave chase, but a Mandan on horseback swept in, pulled him aboard and took him to his village. Mandans generally didn’t like Ree. The Mandan villagers made a big deal over him. For supper? Man’s best friend.
Glass then decided to go to Fort Henry, about 400 miles back in the direction from which he’d come. He never floated downstream in frigid water (it would have killed him), but he did stop at a fort to ask after his two sworn enemies and to catch up on mountain man gossip. There was another Ree attack that he managed to survive. There was a stretch where he subsisted on more bison calf, but now, stronger, he simply walked into a vast herd, ran down a calf, killed it, cooked it and ate it.
Can you blame Inarritu for leaving out so much? Who wants to see a dog-and-calf buffet? Who would believe a guy went through all that trouble for a rifle? Too many miles, too many Ree attacks, too many arrows. The film already runs two hours and 36 minutes.
Glass eventually found Bridger at Fort Henry, and Bridger thought he was a ghost. Instead of killing him, Glass lectured the kid and told him he knew Fitzgerald had persuaded him to leave. Then Glass invoked God and told Bridger to behave better in the future.
Revenant ‘s Glass finally tracks down Fitzgerald, wounds him, then floats him downstream to a gang of Ree, who finish the job. But that’s not what really happened. When Glass arrived at Fort Atkinson in 1824, after another long trek, he learned that while Fitzgerald was indeed present, he had enlisted in the Army. A captain named Bennet Riley informed Glass that he could not kill a soldier — if he did, he’d be tried for murder. When Riley heard Glass’ story, he offered to fetch Glass’ beloved rifle back. What a reunion it must have been.
The film’s final shot is of a terribly wronged but righteous man, peering with grit and hard-won wisdom into a forbidding but conquerable wilderness. Not even a Texas state school board would quibble with that vision of how the West was won. If you like Manifest Destiny, this ending is for you.
Another popular version of the Glass legend has him suffering and crawling, but instead of dispatching his arch-enemy, he finds himself swollen with empathy and love, and turns his chiseled, manly cheek and forgives Fitzgerald, as he did Bridger. This too syncs with our notions of how the West was won, or conquered, or not exactly stolen. Forgiveness works about as well as vengeance, as long as you get other stuff right.
What actually happened was more complex. Glass tried his hand at trading in New Mexico, didn’t like it and went back to trapping. Then Europeans developed a taste for cloth hats, and the trapping business dried up. Wagon trains started coming, too, and along with them women, children, dogs whose owners objected to them becoming a source of protein. Civilization.
Fitzgerald was never heard from again. Bridger went on to establish, in 1842 in southwestern Wyoming, the first resupply post for settlers on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails, opening up the path west and effectively ending the era of the mountain man. And the ne plus ultra of those unruly, undisciplined, comfort-spurning creatures?
Glass endured, as the world he knew best faded away. He took a job with a new fur company. He trapped some himself. He told stories about the old days, including some juicy ones about grizzlies and rattlesnakes. Some say his greatest talent was in creating and polishing the Legend of Hugh Glass.
In the winter of 1832-33, Glass was living at Fort Cass, a new garrison built near the junction of the Yellowstone and Bighorn rivers. He worked as a hunter, procuring meat for the trappers of the American Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor. One cold morning in the spring of 1833, he and two other hunters left the fort looking to kill a bear or two. They hadn’t walked far, and it was considered safe territory. As they made their way across the frozen Yellowstone River, 30 Ree on horseback surrounded them.
They took Glass’ clothes, his gear. Then they scalped him.
Nothing heroic about his death. Nothing tied to the American dream or the nobility of pioneers. Glass had grown overconfident. He had grown careless. He had grown old.
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The true story behind “The Revenant” is even crazier than the movie
By now, many of us have at least seen the trailer for The Revenant , with Leonardo DiCaprio cast as Hugh Glass, a fur trapper and hunter who embarks on a mission for vengeance after being left for dead by his cohorts in the wake of a bear attack. As it turns out, Hugh Glass was a real guy who had a pivotal role in the westward expansion of the fur trade, and by extension, America. And he was even more of a badass than we see in the movie—though not for the reasons you might expect.
The lucrative fur trade was a driving force behind American exploration, as Eric Jay Dolin explains in his chronicle , Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America . When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on their 1804 expedition to explore the land he acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, two of his objectives were to discover 1) what items Native Americans may accept in trade for pelts, and 2) whether a navigable, all-water route might connect the Pacific to the fur posts of the Missouri River.
Lewis and Clark did not find such a route. Instead, they found the Rocky Mountains, which gave rise to a new class of fur trader: the mountain man.
Dolin estimates only a few thousand men pursued this risky path. It was a wild, violent existence that required rugged self-reliance, but had its romance as well. Mountain men spent autumns and springs trapping, and winters camping—often in groups together with their wives and families—and summers selling at rendezvous, where they’d often drink and gamble away their earnings. (While in the wild they subsisted on what today we might call an intense paleo diet, sometimes consuming upwards of 10 pounds of meat per day , and replacing bread with dépouille , smoked straps of fat taken from either side of a buffalo’s spine.)
Among the toughest of the mountain men were the free trappers. Rather than contracting with a fur company to provide supplies and salary in exchange for all their pelts, these traders struck out on their own. They assumed all the risk for their journey, using their own horses, guns, and gear, and selling their furs to the highest bidder. According to mountain man Joseph Meek, the free trader “took what route he thought fit, hunted and trapped when and where he chose; traded with the Indians … dressed flauntingly, and generally had an Indian wife and half-breed children.”
Eventually, Glass became a representative of free traders. In the late 1820s, the New York-based John Jacob Astor—arguably the world’s most powerful fur trader—had an eye on western expansion. It was Glass who convinced his emissary, Kenneth McKenzie, that there were mountain men in the Rockies eager to do business with Astor’s company.
“This was all the coaxing McKenzie needed,” Dolin wrote. “In 1829 the American Fur Company, at McKenzie’s urging, sent a party of trappers and goods into the mountains. Astor had finally entered the Rocky Mountain Trade.”
But before Glass could make his mark on history as a spokesman for free traders, he had to become a legendary mountain man—which is what we see dramatized in The Revenant.
A grizzly ordeal
As Dolin wrote, mountain men were “forced to confront a lawless world where violence lurked at every bend.” It’s hard to imagine anything making them shake in their boots—except, perhaps, for a grizzly bear. Similar to the way surfers today call sharks “the man in a gray suit,” trappers referred to grizzly bears “Old Ephraim.”
In 1823, Glass met Old Ephraim, in an encounter that made him one of the most famous of mountain men. He had already had a rough trip , having been shot in a battle with the Arikara tribe—called “Rees,” as those who have seen the movie may remember—on the shores of the Missouri River.
The losses in battle caused Glass’s trapping party to split up, and Glass to join a team of men and horses heading west over land. Glass ventured hunting ahead of his group, in the Grand River Valley of present-day South Dakota. There, he encountered a female grizzly with her cubs. According to Dolin, before Glass could prepare his rifle, the bear reared up, grabbed him by his throat and shoulder, slammed him on the ground, and “bit off a chunk of his flesh, and turned to feed it to her cubs.”
Glass’s cohorts arrived in time to kill the bear, but not before Glass was beaten, bruised, and bleeding profusely. The group’s leader, Rocky Mountain Fur Company founder Andrew Henry, determined moving Glass was not an option. He offered a reward to two men—veteran woodsman John Fitzgerald and, accounts suggest , a 19-year-old named James Bridger—to keep vigil over the hunter until he passed away, and give him a proper burial.
Left for dead
But Hugh Glass wouldn’t die. After five days, the men abandoned him, and took Glass’s tomahawk, knife, flint, and beloved hunting rifle with them—essentially sabotaging any hope for survival. They returned to their party and lied, saying Glass was dead and had a proper burial.
Glass, meanwhile, began to recover his strength. He foraged for berries and insects and drank spring water for at least 10 days, until he found a pack of wolves eating a buffalo calf, and scared them away (as you do). Fueled by buffalo protein and the promise of vengeance, Glass made it to the nearest trading post—some 350 miles from where he had been left—and kept moving in pursuit of his abandoners.
After several more Arikara attacks, Glass finally found Fitzgerald, one of the men who had left him for dead, by then was enlisted in the army. Glass knew punishment would be swift if he murdered a soldier, so he reasoned with Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, recovered his stolen rifle, and moved on.
Some would say that Glass’s greatest legacy was one that The Revenant didn’t respect.
“Not only had Hugh done a great thing in crawling back to safety after he was almost killed, but after he had figured out who had deserted him, he chased them down, caught them, and then … let them go,” Frederick Manfred, the late author of the 1954 biographical novel Lord Grizzly , said in a South Dakota Historical Society account . “That was an act that put him above Achilles. In fact, Hugh Glass had performed his heroics while completely alone. Achilles always had a contingent of Greek warriors nearby.”
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John Fitzgerald (The Revenant)
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Jonathan "John" Fitzgerald (or also known by his surname Fitzgerald for short) is the main antagonist of the 2015 survival drama movie The Revenant , based on the true events.
He was portrayed by Tom Hardy , who also played Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis , Charles Bronson in Bronson, Bane from The Dark Knight Rises and Venom in Sony's Spider-Man Universe.
- 1.1 Crossing the Line
- 1.3 Hunted down
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History [ ]
John Fitzgerald is a member of a group of trappers and hunters hunting for pelts in the unsettled wilderness in 1823. Their group is attacked by Arikara Indians, with many casualties.
During the retreat, he saves the life of the young Jim Bridger who is almost drowned by an Arikara. Fitzgerald and a handful of trappers escape by raft, though their leader Henry expects that they are still pursued by the Arikara. Despite Fitzgerald's urge to stay on the river, the group continues the journey inland as advised by experienced hunter Hugh Glass. After the people got on the shore, Fitzgerald continuously expresses his discontent with the current situation. He then tries to provoke Glass, referring to the Indian heritage of his son. However, Fitzgerald is ordered to stand down by Henry.
Fitzgerald volunteers to stay behind.
When Glass is severely injured after having been mauled by a grizzly bear while hunting for food, he is found by his group soon after. While most worry and try to save Glass, Fitzgerald instead remarks that he should never have shot at the bear as now the forest is crawling with Arikara Indians who got drawn to the place by the noise. Fitzgerald is almost beaten by the other trappers and leaves the others to tend to Glass' wounds. Talking to the men who share his concerns, Fitzgerald states that the proper thing to do would be putting Glass out of his misery.
While the trappers make camp, the leader of the Arikara meets with French trappers, with whom his tribe frequently trades. He demands and gets horses to pursue his hunt, telling the french that they are following Glass's group because the white men stole his daughter.
With Glass too weak to walk, the trappers are forced to carry him on a makeshift litter. When they have to cross a mountain, they are unable to lift Glass. There, Fitzgerald finally persuades Henry into mercy-killing Glass. However, Henry is unable to kill him and instead offers a reward out of the company's coffers to the two men who will remain behind with Glass to see it through. Glass' son volunteers, as do Jim and Fitzgerald, who claim that as his pelts were lost, he has to find a way to make up for the lost money. Before leaving, Henry tells Fitzgerald to take good care of Henry and to give him a proper burial when time, as Glass has earned it. Fitzgerald promises it and the trapper group leaves, leaving Fitzgerald behind with Glass and his son.
Crossing the Line [ ]
Fitzgerald is held at bay by Glass' son, moments before killing him.
The next day, Fitzgerald digs a hole into the frozen ground to bury Glass in. While waiting for Glass to die, he talks to him, wondering why Glass is still clinging to life. He then tells Glass that he will kill him if he wishes and tells him to express this desire by blinking. When Glass, eventually forced to do so, blinks, Fitzgerald begins suffocating him but is grabbed and pushed away by Glass's son. The boy aims his rifle at Fitzgerald while calling for Jim, who is at the river and cannot hear him. Fitzgerald disarms him and tells him to stay quiet, as the Indians could be close and hear them. Glass's son keeps screaming, calling Jim for aid and also telling Fitzgerald that he will be hanged for what he did to his father. In his panic, Fitzgerald stabs the boy. Realizing what he did, he drags the body away before Jim's return. When Jim finally returns and asks where the boy is, Fitzgerald says that he thought that he was with Jim.
At night, Fitzgerald wakes up Jim, telling him the Indians are closing up to them and tells him to pack his things. Not intending to leave Glass behind, Jim tells Fitzgerald that they have to take him with them. Fitzgerald then drags Glass to the hole he dug previously and starts covering him with dirt. When Jim tells Fitzgerald that he can't bury Glass because he is still alive, Fitzgerald advises Jim, in that case, to shoot him before running away. Panicking, Jim tells Glass that he is sorry, leaving him his water bottle before running after Fitzgerald.
While camping on their way back to the group, Fitzgerald tells Jim to get going as a dozen Indians are after them. Jim gets suspicious, as Fitzgerald talked about 20 Indians before. When Fitzgerald tells him that he did not take the time to count them all when he encountered them at the creek, Jim asks him what he was doing at the creek, because Jim already brought up plenty of water. Realizing that Fitzgerald lied to him about the Indians, Jim holds his rifle at Fitzgerald's head. After admitting that he did not see a single Indian, he disarms Jim and pins him on the found in one swift move. He tells Jim that if it wasn't for him, Jim would have died at the attack on their camp and holsters the weapon and initiates their departure.
Unbeknownst to them, Glass survived and, while still weak, intends to get revenge for his sons' murder.
Fitzgerald and Jim arrive at a village, where the Indian inhabitants are all dead. When Jim sees a woman still alive in one of the huts he doesn't tell Fitzgerald, who previously spoke about his hate for Indians, instead of leaving a bit of food behind for her.
Fitzgerald asks about his payment.
Eventually, Fitzgerald and Jim make their way back to civilization. Fitzgerald tells Jim to be proud of himself. At the company's office, Fitzgerald is paid his 300 dollars by Henry. Jim, who is absolutely unhappy, leaves the office without accepting the money Henry offers him. Fitzgerald states that they have been through a lot, but also praises Jim's bravery during their travel.
At the settlement, Fitzgerald talks to Henry while they are at the saloon, asking him when they are getting paid for the pelts they hunted before they were ambushed by the Indians, given that they hunted these pelts and it wasn't their fault they had to leave them behind. Henry tells him that he is waiting for the captain and his army to arrive to return upstream and shoot "some civilization" into the Indians and to get back the pelts and that no one will be paid until then. Fitzgerald responds by saying that Henry has a safe that is probably full of cash, implying that Henry could pay him here and now. Henry reminds him that he signed a contract and that the safe isn't full of cash anymore, as it is short about 300 dollars. Inebriated and angry Fitzgerald leaves the saloon.
After a survivor from the French camp, where Glass killed many men and stole a horse, arrives at the settlement, carrying the water pouch Jim gave Glass before leaving, Fitzgerald finds out that Glass might still be alive. When some settlers led by Henry ride out to investigate, they find Glass, weak but alive. Knowing that Fitzgerald lied to him Henry rides back to the settlement, searching for Fitzgerald. However, he comes too late, Fitzgerald has already fled from the settlement, having emptied Henry's safe. When the rest of the men return, Henry severely beats Jim for lying and treason and then has him imprisoned. However, Glass later speaks for Jim, telling Henry that Fitzgerald lied to the boy as well. Glass then asks for a horse and a gun, intending to pursue Fitzgerald. Henry tells him that he needs food and rest and says that he will pursue Fitzgerald instead. Claiming that they would never Fitzgerald without him as he now is afraid and would have made for the woods, Glass persuades Henry into taking him with him.
Hunted down [ ]
Fitzgerald ambushes Captain Henry
The next day, Glass and Henry ride out to hunt down Fitzgerald. However, while Glass is scouting the area, Fitzgerald ambushes Henry, coming out from behind a rock, his rifle aimed at Henry. Henry tells him that he will be brought back to the fort and be tried for murder, to which Fitzgerald replies that he is not too keen about that. Henry then draws his gun. While in the forest, Glass is alarmed when he hears a gunshot and returns for Henry, only to find the captain lying dead in the snow scalped. Waiting for his other enemy, Fitzgerald eventually sees Glass's horse riding through the plain below him, with Henry's horse ties to his, the captain's body hanging over it. Fitzgerald takes a shot at the rider, who slumps to the ground, but when he rides down to check whether Glass is really dead he sees that the rider was in truth the corpse of Henry, held up by the aid of a branch. Glass, however, was posing as the deceased captain and shoots Fitzgerald in the shoulder.
Fitzgerald and Glass about to fight.
Wounded, Fitzgerald makes a run for the woods, pursued by Glass. When eventually both men lose their weapons and catch up to each other, both are too weak to run anymore. Fitzgerald tries to reason with Glass, telling him that he only killed his son because his screams would have gotten everybody killed. Glass refuses to believe Fitzgerald and confronts him about killing his son. Fitzgerald coldly disregards Hawk, expressing no remorse, and enraging Glass further. The two men engage in a fight, Fitzgerald armed with his knife and Glass armed with an ax. Though Fitzgerald manages to stab Glass in the knee and bites off part of his ear, he is eventually stabbed in the stomach with his own knife. He pulls it out and uses it to pin down Glass' hand, but Glass buries his ax in Fitzgerald's stomach and proceeds to throttle him. However, when a group of Arikara arrive at the other side of the river, Glass remembers what an Indian, with whom he traveled together, told him - that revenge lies in god's hands. He then pushes Fitzgerald into the river, watching as the flow carried him towards the Arikara, who fished Fitzgerald out of the water and proceeded to the scalp and kill him, avenging Glass' son and Henry. His corpse is later washed away by the river.
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- The Revenant was the second movie in which Hardy worked with Leonardo DiCaprio, the first being Inception .
- Tom Hardy was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Fitzgerald.
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The Real Grizzly Man: The Amazing True Story Behind Leonardo DiCaprio's Character in 'The Revenant'
Hugh Glass, the real-life mountain man Leonardo DiCaprio plays in The Revenant , fought off a bear and survived against the odds
The legend of Hugh Glass, the 19th-century mountain man who inspired Leonardo DiCaprio ‘s character in the Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA-winning The Revenant, began with one short sentence that would captivate America’s imagination for centuries to come.
Daniel Potts, who worked with Glass at the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, wrote a letter to his friends in 1824 about an unnamed man who, after narrowly surviving a skirmish with a Native American war party, “was allso tore nearly all to peases by a White Bear and was left by the way without any gun who afterwards recover’d.”
While Potts never mentions Glass by name in the letter, that sentence formed the backbone for what became one of the most popular and enduring tales of the time. But separating the facts from the myths about Glass’s ordeal – assuming it ever happened in the first place – has been a matter of debate among scholars.
“We know Hugh Glass existed and we’re pretty sure he got mauled by a grizzly bear,” University of Notre Dame history professor Jon Coleman tells PEOPLE. But beyond that brief description in Potts’ letter, Coleman says, “we don’t know anything verifiable.”
The mystery surrounding Glass, from his life to how he survived the attack, “might be why it’s become such a fabulous story,” Coleman explains. “There was plenty of room for invention from the very start.” Any additional details from the story beyond Potts’ letter come from second- and third-hand sources of varying reliability.
Warning: The following contains spoilers about the plot of The Revenant .
What is certain is that in 1823, a group of traders from the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were attacked by the Arikara Native Americans near the Missouri River in present-day South Dakota. The battle, reenacted in the beginning of The Revenant , killed roughly 15 fur traders and sent the rest into retreat.
After the battle, Glass, then 43, was supposedly sent ahead of the survivors to hunt for food and soon found himself face to face with a grizzly bear. “He managed to kill the grizzly but as far as his friends were concerned it killed him right back,” Bruce Bradley, author of Hugh Glass , tells PEOPLE. “The bear had ripped his scalp half off, tore his throat open, ripped his back to shreds with its claws, broke his right leg, bit off a chunk of his right buttock and chewed up his left arm.”
Convinced Glass would die from his injuries, and worried the Arikara were in pursuit, the men asked for two volunteers to stay behind and prepare a burial. The two volunteers are popularly believed to have been John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy in the film, and an 18-year-old blacksmith named Jim Bridger, who would go on to become one of the most famous mountain men of the time. <img class="size-article-wide wp-image-2388298" src=" http://peoplev6.alley.ws/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/revenant.jpg" ; alt=" THE REVENANT ” width=”2000″ height=”1333″> Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the real-life 19th century mountain man Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a bear and left for dead while fur trapping in South Dakota. After recovering from his injuries, Glass walked 300 miles back to civilization to seek his revenge. The two are said to have stayed with Glass for five days before Fitzgerald convinced a reluctant Bridger to leave him behind, fearing they’d be killed too if found by the natives. When Glass finally woke up, he was alone, badly wounded and lost in the cold wilderness.
Fitzgerald and Bridger left Glass with nothing to defend himself. “In those days no one would leave tools lying around for Native Americans to use so they had to take his rifle, his knife, his tomahawk, anything he would’ve needed to survive,” Bradley explains.
The author reckons Glass began his roughly 300-mile trek from around what is now Wellen, South Dakota to the nearest fort, Fort Kiowa, not far from modern day Chamberlain, South Dakota. He set out on or about Aug. 23, 1823 and completed the journey around Oct. 11.
Along the way, Glass most likely relied on the contents of an emergency supply pouch, called a possibles pouch, and subsisted on everything from berries to rattle snake meat to buffalo marrow. Bradley believes Glass picked up survival skills from living with the Pawnee tribe, but Coleman contends he could find no evidence of Glass living with the Native Americans.
After arriving in Fort Kiowa, Glass rested for several days before making his way to Fort Henry, where he finally encountered Bridger. “When he got there, Jim Bridger was so eaten up with guilt that he thought Glass was a ghost, that’s where ‘the revenant’ [a term for someone who returns from the dead] comes from,” Bradley explains.
VIDEO: Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy Shine in The Revenant’
But after “beating him up a little bit,” Bradley says, Glass decided to forgive Bridger on account of his youth, and instead turned his sights on Fitzgerald. By that point, however, Fitzgerald had returned to civilization, and upon learning that Glass was alive and coming after him, he joined the Army.
When Glass finally caught up with Fitzgerald, “the Army wasn’t about to let him get away with killing government property,” Bradley says. “They did make Fitzgerald give him his rifle back, which was a big deal in those days.”
What happened to Glass next, like most of his life story, is largely unknown. He was eventually killed, supposedly by the Arikaras, near the Missouri River in 1833.
As for the historical accuracy of Alejandro Gonzélez Iñérritu’s upcoming film, Coleman and Bradley are already skeptical about one plot point revealed in the trailers. “We see this whole back history where Glass was living with the Pawnees,” Coleman says. “He has a Pawnee wife and they have a child who gets killed by Fitzgerald and that’s the primary reason why he wants his revenge – that’s all an invention of the filmmakers.”
“I think that would’ve made its way into history had it actually happened,” Bradley agrees. “It changes the whole story quite a bit I think, because in reality he ended up letting Fitzgerald go, which I’m not sure he would’ve done if the man had murdered his child.”
Still, based on what they’ve seen, both historians believe I rritu has captured the atmosphere of the time. “I think they did a good job of recreating what it is was like to be a fur trapper working in the 1820s,” Coleman says. “The main thing they get right is just how brutal it was.”
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The Revenant Ending and Real History Explained
We examine what the The Revenant ending's final moments mean and what role the real history of Hugh Glass played in the film.
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This article contains The Revenant spoilers.
In the last two years, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has delivered a pair of visionary films that’ve made a grizzly bear-sized impact on the cinematic conversation. 2014’s Birdman was an ode to pretension, ambition, and all those other wonderful virtues that drive artists mad. Nimble and talky with its theatrical levity, Birdman is quite clearly the inverse of The Revenant , a stoic and often wordless musing on man’s primal urges—including revenge—when cast against a primordial and uncaring world. Ostensibly an intimate story of suffering, The Revenant takes on a biblical scope when Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are doing battle in the backdrop of a budding avalanche.
However, there is more in common with these two movies than merely their ability to play as awards voter catnip ( Birdman nearly swept the Oscars and if the Golden Globes of 2016 are any indication, The Revenant might repeat the trend). In fact, one of the most striking similarities is their preference for ambiguity and open-ended finality.
Buy The Revenant: A Story of Revenge by Michael Punke on Amazon.
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After seeing The Revenant twice now in the last two months—and with two different sets of people—I can confirm that there have been wildly different interpretations about the closing scene and just what Hugh Glass’ final audible breaths mean for both the character and his place in history.
But I suspect the whole meaning of the nigh three-hour film’s conclusion is explained right at the start of the picture.
As Long as You Can Still Grab Breath
The very first lines of dialogue in The Revenant are spoken by Leonardo DiCaprio with a Pawnee affection, yet their meaning remains crystal clear. “It’s okay son, I know you want this to be over. I’m right here. I will be right here. But you don’t give up. You hear me? As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe… keep breathing.”
These early words spoken by Hugh Glass to Hawk, his half-Pawnee son, are crucial to understanding the movie. In the immediacy, it introduces the theme of the story, as well as Glass’ love for a son whose mother was taken away by other white men. But it, more than any desire for revenge, is the true driving force for Glass’ stunning survival instinct.
And it comes just as much into play at the end of the film after Hugh Glass has hunted down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and cornered him by a slushy creek. The most iconic scene in The Revenant, which is destined to become a classic moment of big screen brutality, is of course when the grizzly bear mauls Hugh Glass half to death in an agonizing steadicam shot that goes on for several minutes (plus an eternity). Yet, the final knockdown, drag out brawl between Glass and Fitzgerald is just as merciless.
Bones are smashed, fingers cut off, and hands impaled. By all accounts, both men appear mortally wounded, albeit Fitzgerald more so. Hence why he can barely protest when Glass sends his broken body down river like it’s a raft borne of flesh and leaking blood. Glass does this because he seems to have taken to heart the advice of his Pawnee savior from the midway point of the film. He is on course to suffer the fate of all tragic revengers if he personally takes Fitzgerald’s life.
… Plus it’s kind of a vicious boon that Fitzgerald despises Native Americans more than anything else. While Fitzgerald could keep a brave face and proudly mock Glass to his dying breath, the idea of the “savages” that took his scalp would now finish the job is akin to feeding an arachnophobe to a den of black widows.
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Yet, it’s after this moment that the ambiguity settles in. Just as Fitzgerald said before he died, “Well you enjoy it Glass, because there ain’t anything that’ll bring your boy back.” And indeed, with his revenge complete, Glass appears frightfully wounded and far from the safety of a fort. Thus there appears nothing left to him when the ghostly visage of his dead wife appears, apparently beckoning him toward the eternal.
The closing images of the film are of Hugh Glass watching in utter despair as she turns away from his snow-encrusted beard and walks into the distance while he keeps breathing. He keeps breathing even after the credits have begun.
Admittedly, one interpretation of this ending, which is entirely valid, is that Glass follows his long lost love to find peace with her and their murdered son, Hawk. The idea of an avenger finding peace in death after his revenge is complete remains a familiar and comforting ending every bit as satisfying as the often grimmer alternative of self- annihilation. Maximus was relieved to find his wife and son waiting for him on the fields of Elysium, and Mel Gibson’s version of William Wallace greeted Catherine McCormack’s Murron almost as readily as Gibson jumps at scenes of glorified torture.
However, I do not think Iñárritu is going for something nearly as reassuring or appeasing as that sort of bittersweet closer. There is no uplift for Hugh Glass as the fierce cold continues to rot his body and soul. There is only the sound of his breathing. That is because he does not die. Hugh Glass lives on in this perpetually unfair mortal coil while his wife, much like the indigenous people she represents, fades away. The wilderness he has soiled with his and Fitzgerald’s blood, and their petty human concerns, will also one day fade away because of Glass’ people—but Glass and his kind keep breathing.
He is a survivalist at heart, and he did not survive grizzly bears, frozen river rapids, French gunfire, and an odyssey of snow only to give up because his revenge is quenched.
Rather, Glass will keep breathing even after the credits end, even if it means he is utterly alone. He still has fight and for better or worse it’s left him as the last man standing in a storyline ultimately filled with ghosts.
What About the Real Hugh Glass?
Then again, perhaps studying the real Hugh Glass might give audiences some clues about what the ending meant for this character…. Or not.
If one gives even a cursory glance into the real life events that inspired The Revenant , the word “inspired” quickly proves key. While there was a Hugh Glass who was mauled by a grizzly bear during Gen. William Henry Ashley’s expedition of 1823 in the Dakota Territory, the details almost immediately begin to blur. For starters, instead of the frightful cold pictured in Iñárritu’s film, the attack occurred during the summer of 1823 in August. Secondly, other details are muddied, such as Thomas Fitzgerald (not John) and Jim Bridger being Glass’ pallbearers.
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Indeed, there is plenty of academic skepticism of whether the young lad who was said to have joined Fitzgerald in leaving Glass for dead was even Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), a famous mountain man in his own right. The only primary accounts of Glass’ mauling from 1823—which did indeed come after Andrew Henry’s party was attacked by Arikara (or “Ree”) Indians—belonged to James Clyman and Daniel Potts. Clyman recorded that Glass “went off of the line of march one afternoon and met with a large grissly Bear… he attempted to climb a tree but the bear caught him and hauled to the ground tearing and lacerating his body in fearful rate.”
Potts meanwhile stated, “One man was also tore nearly all to peases by a White Bear and was left by the way without any gun who afterwards recovr’d.”
While Glass most certainly did nurse himself back to health and crawled his way over some 200 miles to Fort Kiowa, it wasn’t until 1825 that the first newspaper account added the detail that not only was he left in the wilderness after the mauling, but that also two men had volunteered to wait behind and bury him, and then didn’t (Thomas Fitzgerald and an unnamed youth, as according to Philip St. Cooke’s 1830 account).
Whatever the case might be, no version of this story prior to this film includes the poetic horror of a murdered son. While Glass was certainly left for dead and unarmed after the grizzly mauling, and likely by two compatriots who lied about his passing, the creation of Hawk (Glass’ half-Pawnee son played by Forrest Goodluck in the film) was wholly invented for The Revenant . But it sure makes revenge more necessary, doesn’t it?
According to the most widely accepted version of events, Glass finished nursing himself back to health at Fort Kiowa (which he reached in part with the help of the Sioux). He then hunted Jim Bridger and Thomas Fitzgerald down to Fort Henry but only found a young Bridger there, who begged Glass’ forgiveness. Given that Bridger would have only been 19-years-old then, and that Glass blamed Fitzgerald for pressuring the young lad into abandoning him, Glass forgave Bridger. He then spent months returned to Henry’s company before following Fitzgerald to Fort Atkinson the following summer (in modern day Nebraska).
He had planned to kill Fitzgerald, but upon finding his prey had enlisted into the U.S. Army, he realized that murdering Fitzgerald would be a crime punishable by death. Ergo, he let Fitzgerald live and only demanded that the man return his Hawken rifle to him.
Glass did in fact die from a battle though… 10 years later in 1833 when he was employed as a hunter for Fort Union and was killed during a skirmish with Arikara Indians. Gen. William Henry Ashley—whom Domhnall Gleeson’s Capt. Henry is also partially based on—meanwhile, did not die in a frozen tundra during a shootout with a man named Fitzgerald (nor did the real Andrew Henry). In fact, he went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Missouri for five years before a failed bid for the state’s governorship. He died of pneumonia in 1836.
Ultimately, The Revenant takes very little from actual history and should be viewed on its own terms: an Alejandro G. Iñárritu fever dream about clashing cultures and a cruelly beautiful natural world displaced by our own prejudices. It’s a vision so strong that it even keeps breathing after the final frame.
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This article was first published on Jan. 13, 2016.
David Crow | @DCrowsNest
David Crow is the movies editor at Den of Geek. He has long been proud of his geek credentials. Raised on cinema classics that ranged from…
The Revenant Ending And How It Differs From History
By now, many of us have seen Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ’s latest powerhouse film, The Revenant , and we can safely say we’ve never felt dirtier. It’s a dire and unrelenting, yet profoundly beautiful movie about fur trapper Hugh Glass’ desperate fight for survival and revenge in the American frontier. Despite the disgusting and brutal nature of the film, people seem to have genuinely gravitated towards it. In its expansion to wide release, The Revenant has already made an estimated $38 million at the box office, making it Leonardo DiCaprio ’s fourth biggest opening ever, and Inarritu’s all-time best frame.
As unlikely as it may seem, The Revenant is in fact based upon a real story. Many of the treacherous events that befall Glass throughout the film actually took place, but as we all know, Hollywood does love to play fast and loose with the phrase "based on a true story." Given the vague, and possibly embellished accounts of what happened to Glass out in the wilderness, how much of The Revenant is fact, and how much of it is fiction? Join us as we sift through the details to find the truth, and determine whether, or not the truth even matters.
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Revenant . If you have not yet seen the movie, we recommend clicking away to another one of our fantastic articles.
What Happened In The Movie
Set against the harsh backdrop of the American frontier during the early 19th century, The Revenant follows expert tracker Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he and his Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) guide a fur trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domnhnall Gleeson). After witnessing the majority of their expedition violently murdered at the hands of a Native American tribe, Glass finds himself brutally mauled by a bear while scouting in the woods. Unwilling to care for Glass’ situation or his survival, party member John Fitzgerald ( Tom Hardy ) murders Hawk in front of Glass and leaves the tracker for dead in the wilderness – lying about Glass’ fate when he returns to their home at Fort Kiowa and forcing fellow party member Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) to corroborate his story.
Unbeknownst to Fitzgerald and Bridger, Glass survives their attempt to bury him alive and begins a rage-fueled journey for revenge that sees him brave hunger, Native attacks, and various other treacherous elements to get the man who murdered his son. Throughout Glass’ journey, he experiences haunting flashbacks of his dead Pawnee wife that remind him to keep fighting as long as he can breathe. After being subjected to just about every type of hell imaginable, Glass finally makes it back to the trapping outpost, at which point the truth begins to come out, causing Fitzgerald to flee with Henry’s money. Glass forgives Bridger, and eventually tracks Fitzgerald down in the wilderness where the two men engage in a vicious brawl - shooting, slashing, and beating each other to within an inch of their lives. Gaining the upper hand, Glass opts not to kill Fitzgerald, but sends him downriver into the hands of a hateful Native tribe from which they spent the film running. The final moments of The Revenant see Glass still barely breathing among the trees, as he watches the specter of his dead love wander away into the wilderness. The credits roll, and all the audience is left with is the sound of Glass’ breath. Riveting stuff for sure, but let’s see how it compares with reality…
What History Tells Us
Going by the significant research of the website HughGlass.Org , The Revenant actually gets a surprising amount of Hugh Glass’ story correct when we consider just how amazing it is. According to trapper’s journals and Native American stories passed down for generations, the real Hugh Glass did in fact suffer major injuries at the hands of a grizzly bear , and was indeed left for dead by John Fitzgerald. However, Glass’ real journey for revenge stemmed more from the simple fact that he was left for dead, and his fellow trapper stole his prized rifle from him. This is because the real Glass did not have a Pawnee son whom Fitzgerald murdered. The film also condenses Glass’ trek for the sake of brevity, and in reality the trapper and frontiersmen didn’t actually catch up with his treacherous companion until months later – discovering that he had enlisted himself in the army. As a result of Fitzgerald’s status as a government employee, Glass was forbidden from exacting any sort of violent justice against his enemy. Instead, his prized rifle was returned to him, and officials who learned about his ordeal compensated him roughly $300.
Following the events portrayed in The Revenant , the real Hugh Glass went on to live a full life by continuing his work as a fur trapper. He moved around from territory to territory, and during this time he survived several more dangerous ordeals - including having an arrow shot through his back by a Native American in New Mexico. A full decade after the events of shown in The Revenant , it is generally believed that Glass met his demise at the hands of the Arikara tribe – native to the Dakota Territory.
Which Do You Prefer?
The artistic licenses taken by The Revenant open up an interesting question for us to examine: which story do you prefer? As it stands, the ending of the movie leaves the fate of DiCaprio’s Glass somewhat ambiguous: he has achieved his goal of revenge, and he’s on death’s doorstep in the middle of the wilderness, but we don’t necessarily see him die. By contrast, the real Glass is believed to have lived for at least a decade following the events that unfold in The Revenant . Both of these versions lend themselves to amazing storytelling, so how should we interpret the film?
On one hand, having Glass die at the end of the film feels like a fitting way to cap off the film’s story. He achieves the one thing that compels him to stand up and leave his dead son’s body: getting revenge against Fitzgerald in the desolate, snowy mountains. Glass states that he no longer fears death because he has already died before; he’s a man whose mind and loved ones have already crossed over to the other side, so the fulfillment of his revenge is the last thing he needs to do before he can join them. It’s the sort of mentality previously cinematically presented in Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, which frames survival more as a matter of dying with one’s boots on, rather than literally prolonging one's life. From this point of view, it could be easily argued that DiCaprio’s version of Glass has earned the respite of death, and breathes his last breaths during the credits.
On the other hand – even if we ignore the real life fact that Glass made it out alive – Glass’ survival seems somewhat essential in order to hammer home the theme of the movie. The last thing we as an audience hear as the credits roll is Glass’ breath, weak but persistent, emphasizing his own begrudging commitment to the film’s theme of survival. A mentality is presented repeatedly throughout the film that as long as we have the physical capacity to draw breath, we must endeavor to keep doing so. He wants so badly to join the love of his life by the time the credits roll, but she walks away from him into the woods because they both know his time has not come yet
The film provides no concrete explanation to these profound questions, and as a result we as the audience are left debating the events we have just witnessed. Perhaps that’s the beauty of a film such as The Revenant - it’s lack of answers forces us to think, and as a result we learn a thing or two about the way we view the world. Now if you'll excuse me I am going to go take another shower because I still have some Revenant on me.
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Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.
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The Revenant Ending, Explained
In its purest form, cinema is supposed to enthrall its audience by transporting them into its make-belief worlds and the characters that inhabit them through visual and auditory stimulations. ‘The Revenant,’ Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (‘Birdman’) revisionist western drama film based on the 2002 namesake novel by Michael Punke, goes a step further. It is so meticulous and evocative in its depiction of its characters’ struggles and urgency that the audience can feel them against their own skin and bones.
With the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (‘Gravity’) and co-scriptwriter Mark L. Smith (‘Martyrs’), Iñárritu has achieved something uniquely remarkable with ‘The Revenant,’ creating a film that is relentlessly gritty and dark in its portrayal of the American frontier. Yet, it bleeds with vivid beauty and the color of its setting in each scene. The film tells the story of fur trapper Hugh Glass ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) and his quest for vengeance against the man who killed his son and left him to die. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘The Revenant.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Revenant Plot Synopsis
The film is set in late 1823 in the seemingly limitless snowy territory of the present-day Dakotas. Glass and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are part of a fur-trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) up the Missouri River. Danger lurks in the background, just beyond what naked eyes can see, taking the shape of the natives, local fauna, or nature itself.
As the trappers get ready to relocate to the next hotspot, they are ambushed by an Arikara war party searching for their chief’s abducted daughter, Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o). As the horror of a systematic slaughter unfolds around them, Glass, Hawk, and other survivors manage to escape their brutal attackers via a riverboat.
Accurately concluding that they will fall into the Arikara hands if they continue to travel by boat, Glass leads the survivors through the winter-struck landscape to Fort Kiowa. This means that the trappers have to leave most of the pelts they gathered during the expedition behind. It ends up creating a rift between Glass and fellow seasoned trapper John Fitzgerald ( Tom Hardy ).
While out on patrol, Glass is savagely mauled by a grizzly bear. On the verge of death, Glass is left by Captain Henry under the care of Hawk, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), with the clear instructions that if Glass were to die, Fitzgerald must ensure that Glass has received a proper burial to earn the $300 that Henry promises him (Fitzgerald).
However, with the threat of the Arikara still looming over them and Glass showing no sign of dying, Fitzgerald decides to take matters into his own hands and tries to suffocate Glass. When Hawk intervenes, Fitzgerald kills the boy and hides his body. He later convinces Bridger that the Arikara are coming, and if they want to survive, they must leave Glass behind.
Back at Fort Kiowa, Fitzgerald tells the story of his choosing to Henry, with Bridger being reluctantly complicit in at least one of Fitzgerald’s crimes. However, what none of them ever think can be possible happens. From somewhere deep within him, Glass finds the desire to survive. He makes the arduous trek back to Fort Kiowa on his own, crawling, walking, and riding the hundreds of miles of distance with a rare single-mindedness of a man seeking justice and vengeance.
The Revenant Ending: Does Glass Get His Revenge Against Fitzgerald?
Yes, to a degree. Of course, Iñárritu isn’t Quentin Tarantino, and ‘The Revenant’ isn’t ‘Kill Bill.’ There is no melodrama or sensationalism in the violence that takes place at the end of the former movie. Instead, it is cold, detached, and beautiful in its profound savagery, like the rest of the film.
Early in the film, Iñárritu establishes the sheer dichotomy between his protagonist and antagonist simply by demonstrating their respective views on Native Americans. Those views guide their choices, and later, fatally culminate for one of them. Glass had a Pawnee wife, who was killed along with the rest of her tribe in an attack by the US Army.
He is still haunted by visions of his wife and a mountain of skulls. Despite the evident competition with the natives for resources, Glass doesn’t necessarily harbor any ill-will towards them. When he discovers that the Pawnee refugee, who saved his life, has been hanged by French hunters, he takes a brief detour from his main path of revenge, killing most of the hunters and freeing Powaqa.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Fitzgerald. During his service in the Army, a tribe of Native Americans partially scalped him, which has filled Fitzgerald with immense hatred for them. This becomes glaringly evident in his treatment of Hawk. Ultimately, understanding the reasons behind these two individuals’ actions can offer us a window to grasp the ending.
If Fitzgerald is propelled forward by greed and self-preservation, Glass’ desire to continue living stems from his endless love for his son. Beyond vengeance, this is what keeps him alive in the harshest environment imaginable. In the climactic scene, when Glass has the vengeance he so desires within his reach, he recalls the words of his Pawnee savior, “Revenge is in the Creator’s hands.”
Those words resonate within him as he sends Fitzgerald downriver to the Arikara. With the wounds he has received during their vicious fight, Fitzgerald is not likely to survive the night. After all, he doesn’t have anyone who might have inspired the kind of desperation that Glass displays while surviving in the American Wilderness. So, it doesn’t ultimately matter what the Arikara decide. However, it is fundamentally ironic that, of all people, Fitzgerald gets his fate decided by Native Americans. And that, as Glass likely sees it, is vengeance in its truest sense.
What is Going to Happen to Glass? Will He Live On?
After Elk Dog (Duane Howard), the Arikara chieftain, kills and scalps Fitzgerald, they cross the river. In that particular moment, Glass is unsure about his fate. He has spent the past few weeks running away from the Arikara as he has chasing after Fitzgerald. But, now that he has his revenge, he waits for the Arikara with a surreal indifference. It is revealed that Powaqa is back with her tribe. She probably told her father what happened with the French hunters. The Arikara pass by Glass, and the hint of respect they show him before vanishing into the white surroundings is their way of offering gratitude.
After the Arikara’s departure, Glass drags himself into the mountains. For the first time, he finds himself truly alone and aimless. And he can’t feed the fire of vengeance any longer to keep himself going. “You came all this way for revenge, huh?” Fitzgerald asks him before dying. “Well you enjoy it Glass, because there ain’t nothing gonna bring your boy back.”
The film becomes ambiguous at this point. Glass sees another vision of his wife, which might indicate that he will soon die and join his family in the afterlife. However, he continues to breathe loudly and strongly as the credits begin rolling, showing that he still might have some willingness to live. If the latter is true, then the determined survivalist will find a way to make it back to the town.
Read More: Is The Revenant Based on a True Story?
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‘The Revenant’ True Story: Fact vs. Fiction About Hugh Glass In Leonardo DiCaprio-Tom Hardy Movie
After seeing Leonardo DiCaprio’s visceral performance in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” some viewers left the theater wondering whether the film was really “inspired by true events.” As many are aware, Hollywood typically blurs the line between fiction and truth. So what really happened to American frontiersman Hugh Glass?
First, the movie “The Revenant” is based off the 2002 Michael Punke novel of the same name. The book is centered on the alleged true story of a man named Hugh Glass, a trapper and guide with the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. who traveled hundreds of miles through the Western frontier to seek vengeance on fellow trapper John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy. Before noting what Hollywood didn’t get right, let’s start with what is true, as per American Cowboy and Time:
1. Hugh Glass really was mauled by a grizzly bear. The trapper was gathering berries when he came across a bear and her two cubs. He wounded her with his one-shot pistol, but the bullet apparently didn’t faze her. Glass yelled for help as he repeatedly stabbed her. By the time his crew arrived and killed the beast, Glass was profusely bleeding and barely alive.
2. Glass was really left for dead by John Fitzgerald. The trappers didn’t think he would make it through the night, but when he survived, Captain Andrew Henry, the leader of the group, offered to pay two men $40 each to stay with Glass until he died. That amount of money at the time was equal to two or three months pay. Trappers Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger agreed to stay with Glass until he expired and then catch up with the rest of the brigade. A week later, Glass was still alive, and Fitzgerald was worried they wouldn’t catch up to the rest of the trappers. He convinced Bridger to leave Glass behind, and they took all his possessions.
3. Glass ate the meat of a buffalo calf that was attacked by a pack of wolves. Glass scared away the wolves by yelling and devoured the animal’s flesh and organs until the meat went rancid. Then he continued his journey to salvation, which was a trading post called Fort Kiowa more than 100 miles away.
4. He made it back to the fort alive. Glass arrived at Fort Kiowa after surviving seven weeks in the wilderness. People at the fort were shocked he was still alive, and Glass vowed to get vengeance on Fitzgerald.
That’s about where the similarities end. Here are some of the most important parts Hollywood took liberties with:
5. He didn’t have a son. In the film, the death of Glass’ son Hawk — at the hands of Fitzgerald — is what prompts him to overcome all odds and hunt down his foe. As for Hawk’s mother, she’s not mentioned in the legend of Hugh Glass either. Iñárritu spends a lot of time focusing on Glass' dreams about his dead wife, but she probably didn’t exist.
6. A Native American didn’t save Glass. The film shows Glass feasting on the buffalo calf with a Native American Indian whose family was killed by the Sioux. Even though they speak the same language, they don’t share much dialogue. But one of the most uplifting moments in the film happens when they catch snowflakes on their tongue.
7. Glass didn’t sleep inside a horse. Even though he had to be worried about being attacked by Arikara Indians, he wasn’t actually attacked. That also means he and his horse didn’t fall off a cliff, nor was he forced to gut the animal and sleep in its carcass to survive the night.
8. He didn’t get his revenge on Fitzgerald. It was Glass’ plan to kill Fitzgerald, but his plot was foiled when he learned the trapper quit and joined the Army — that meant he was a federal employee and could not be killed. In the film, Glass didn’t kill Fitzgerald either, but he had the opportunity and instead left him for dead.
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The Revenant (I) (2015)
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Hugh Glass, the True Story of “The Revenant”
- The true story behind "The Revenant"—Hugh Glass’s tale of survival and revenge.
- Ron Soodalter
- October 21, 2015
- Reading Time: 5 minutes
Inspired by true events, The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, tells the story of survival and revenge on the frontier. Read on to learn about the real story of Hugh Glass, the man who inspired it all.
Stories abound of the prodigious experiences of the mountain men—the larger-than-life fur trappers and wilderness explorers of the early 19th century. None, however, surpasses the saga of Hugh Glass’s remarkable fight for life after surviving a grizzly bear attack. It is one of the most fantastic tales to emerge from the entire Westward Movement. In fact, it inspired the recent Leonardo diCaprio film, The Revenant . Hollywood took liberties with the story, but as near as oral tradition can be trusted, what follows is the real story of Hugh Glass, the true story of The Revenant.
Glass’s life before becoming a mountain man is shrouded in mystery. Some versions have him sailing as a pirate under the notorious Jean Lafitte. It is a known fact, however, that he joined the Ashley-Henry fur-trapping brigade when he was around 40, older than middle-aged for his time. The Ashley-Henry party left St. Louis in the spring of 1823, making its way up the Missouri River to the “Shining Mountains”—the Rockies—in search of beaver pelts. Within a short time, they were set upon by a party of Arikara, leaving 15 of their number dead and “Old Hugh,” as Glass was called, wounded in the leg.
By summer, the trappers were proceeding cautiously overland, their eyes peeled for signs of hostiles. And there were other perils in the mountains that threatened to snuff out a man’s life, and grizzlies—“Old Ephraim,” as the trappers termed them—ranked high on the list. A full-grown grizzly stood upwards of 12 feet tall, and weighed some three-quarters of a ton. Even if a man survived a bear attack, he was usually left with physical reminders of the encounter. The legendary Jedediah Smith himself had come out second-best in a contest with an angry grizzly, leaving him with several broken ribs, and much of his scalp and one ear hanging by a strip of skin. He calmly supervised the reassembling of his face with rawhide stitches, but he would bear the reminders of the encounter till his death.
At this juncture, the lack of documentation means we’re relying on oral tradition for the rest of the story. According to legend, Hugh Glass—his leg now healed—was scouting ahead of the brigade near the forks of the Grand River, when he entered a thicket to hunt for berries. He immediately stumbled upon a sow grizzly and her two cubs. As the bear reared upright and charged, Glass fired directly into her chest. His single-shot weapon now useless, he took to his feet, but the bear—apparently unfazed by the shot—swiftly overtook him, and brought her claws down on the hapless trapper.
Although he hacked away with his knife, he was no match for the creature. By the time Glass’s comrades came to his aid, the animal had slashed his face to the bone, and opened long, gaping wounds on his arms, legs, and torso. The trappers fired several balls into the creature, finally bringing it down beside the inert Glass.
Glass was barely alive. His breathing was labored, and he was bleeding profusely from a number of grave wounds. The other trappers made him as comfortable as they could, expecting him to expire at any moment. However, when he survived the night—and the next few days—without any perceptible improvement, Major Henry decided that the party had to move on, to avoid the possibility of Indian attack. He offered to pay two men $40 each—the equivalent of two or three months’ pay—to remain with Glass until he died, and to then catch up with the rest of the party.
The two men who accepted the job were John Fitzgerald, a seasoned trapper, and a youth named Jim Bridger. As their fellows moved out, the two set up a cold camp, settled into their buffalo robes, and waited for the old man to die. But Glass held on, breathing fitfully. After nearly a week, Fitzgerald grew desperate to catch up to the brigade. He convinced young Bridger that there was nothing to be gained by further endangering their lives, and—after taking Glass’s rifle, knife, and all his “possibles—they left him to die alone.
Incredibly, Glass regained consciousness. He rallied enough to realize his situation, and after dragging himself to water at a nearby spring, and snagging a few buffalo berries from a low-hanging bush, he began to drag his torn body towards salvation—which, in this case, was Fort Kiowa, a trading post some 250 miles distant. He had neither the means nor the strength to hunt for food, so he sustained himself on roots and the rotting meat of old kills he came upon as he crawled through the dry, scrubby plains of present-day South Dakota. At one point, he found a rattlesnake sated and swollen from a recent kill, and after smashing its head with a rock, soaked the meat in water and fed himself.
Glass calculated he was covering a mile a day at a crawl, and knew that he had to do better if he was to survive. He stood for the first time since the bear attack after seeing a pack of wolves bring down and feed on a buffalo calf. Realizing that without its meat he would die, he struggled to his feet and, leaning on a long stick, screamed at the wolves until they left their kill. Glass stayed alongside the calf for several days, gorging on its organs and flesh, gradually regaining some of his strength. When the meat turned so rancid that it was no longer edible, Glass continued on his journey, walking upright and making 10 miles a day.
On his trek, he narrowly escaped death in a buffalo stampede, and was nearly discovered by a passing band of Arikara. Incredibly, after seven weeks in the wilderness, he staggered into Fort Kiowa, to the amazement of the fort trader. Keeping him alive against all odds was the unquenchable urge to live, his wilderness skills, and the unflagging desire for vengeance. He was determined to exact retribution from the two men who had taken all he possessed and left him to die in the wild.
After further recuperation, Hugh joined an expedition to the Mandan villages, where he was told that the Ashley-Henry company was wintering at Fort Henry. Knowing that Fitzgerald and Bridger would number among the party, he set off for the fort in mid-December. On New Year’s Eve, as a storm raged outside the walls, the reveling trappers within responded to a muffled pounding on the gate. They opened it to a wraithlike, ice-encrusted, nearly frozen Hugh Glass.
The holiday merriment ceased abruptly as Glass rasped, “Where’s Fitzgerald and Bridger?”
He was told that Fitzgerald had quit and joined the Army as a scout, which made him a federal employee, and untouchable. For Glass to kill him now would be to invite his own execution. Bridger, however, was skulking in a corner, overcome with guilt and shame. Seeing how young the boy was, and allowing for the fact that he had been strongly influenced by Fitzgerald, Glass spared the youth’s life—after giving him a hearty chewing-out. Jim Bridger took the lesson to heart, and went on to become one of most celebrated trappers, guides, and scouts in the West.
Hugh Glass returned to his trapper’s life, and his legend spread throughout the nation. The account was, no doubt, improved upon over time, reflecting the old Western maxim, “Any story you can’t improve on just ain’t worth the tellin’!” Old Hugh ultimately “went under” 10 years later, in an Arikara attack. His old enemies finally killed and scalped the old trapper, but not before his name had found an honored place in the pantheon of Western legends.
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Elite investor John Paulson claims in a new lawsuit that his ex-business partner duped him out of millions to fund Louis Vuitton shopping sprees and Las Vegas parties
- John Paulson is suing his former Puerto Rico business partner.
- Fahad Ghaffar fraudulently billed the elite investor for $3.4 million, per a lawsuit filed Monday.
- Ghaffar used the scheme to fund his shopping at Chanel and partying in Las Vegas, Paulson alleges.
John Paulson is suing his former business partner in Puerto Rico, alleging that he and several family members duped the investor out of millions of dollars to fund luxury shopping sprees, Las Vegas parties, and other expenditures.
The hedge fund manager, with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion , said in a lawsuit filed in San Juan on Monday that Fahad Ghaffar had siphoned $3.4 million out of Paulson's operations and used the money to finance his lavish lifestyle.
"Though Fahad touted himself a loyal member of the Paulson team and a philanthropist, nothing could be further from the truth," Paulson's lawyers wrote.
"For years he and his co-conspirators siphoned off value from the Paulson Entities at every turn, betraying Paulson's trust and biting the hand that had fed them," they added. "Fahad's greed corrupted the business decisions he was supposed to make for Paulson's benefit, betraying the confidence Paulson had placed in him with shocking ease."
Paulson claims that Ghaffar conspired with his wife, father-in-law, brother, two sisters, and a personal assistant to commit racketeering and fraud, and is seeking just under $190 million in damages.
The lawsuit claims that in 2021, Ghaffar spent $102,000 in Louis Vuitton stores on the luxury island of Saint Barthélemy, which he charged to Paulson as a business expense.
He allegedly splurged $45,000 at a Chanel boutique in New York City, and splashed another $20,000 in a single night of partying at the Omnia nightclub in Las Vegas, per Monday's filing.
The two men are currently locked in a bitter legal feud. Ghaffar sued Paulson earlier this month, claiming he'd been cheated out of a 50% stake in a luxury car dealership.
Paulson's wife and Ghaffar have both also accused Paulson of using his Puerto Rico businesses to hide billions of dollars' worth of assets from her during their divorce .
Ghaffar was an "unemployed small-time commercial real estate investor" who "begged for the opportunity to work for" Paulson & Co in 2013, the lawsuit alleges. Ghaffar joined the firm as a junior analyst and eventually rose to become a senior manager in Puerto Rico.
Ghaffar could not be reached for comment. His attorney didn't immediately reply to an Insider request for comment, sent outside normal working hours.
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