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Literature: Dersu Uzala
The title character.

Dersu Uzala (Дерсу Узала) is a nonfiction book written by Vladimir Arsenyev, a Russian officer sent on a series of exploration missions in the Siberian Far East at the turn of the 20th century. The book is named after an indigenous nomadic hunter whom Arsenyev befriended, and whose life was one of primal symbiosis with the harsh environment.

The book was made into a movie on two occasions, the second and more famous adaptation being that of Akira Kurosawa in 1975.


Contains examples of:

  • Badass Grandpa: You can tell from the picture above.
  • Bamboo Technology: Save for his rifle, Dersu has no modern gear at all (and his rifle is described as being an antique he inherited from his father). With just a knife and what nature has to offer, however, he can craft pretty much anything he might need. Many times with actual bamboo, not uncommon in the taiga.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal, if unconventional, example. When Dersu returns to the wild for the last time Arseniev insists on giving him his Winchester rifle. The rifle is missing when Dersu's body is found later, implying that he was murdered for it.
  • Crazy Survivalist: At least once the Russians laughs of what they consider Dersu's excessive zeal on fire making or camping. Needless to say, he's always right, so the others soon learn to shut up and start digging/lumbering/actually doing something.
  • The Empire: Russia.
  • The Film of the Book: Two of them, one Russian and the other Japanese-Russian, made by Akira Kurosawa and a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for the history of cinema.
  • Going Native: The result of enduring several expeditions into the wild for Arseniev.
  • The Lost Woods: The primeval forest of eastern Siberia.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: The original candidate for the role of Nanai Dersu Uzala was Japanese Toshiro Mifune, and in the end Maxim Munzuk, a Tuvan, got the role.
  • Magical Manchukuo Asian: Though actually of Nanai ascent, Dersu sometimes fits the role accordingly, seeing the interconnectedness of all things, living in complete harmony with the environment, performing some shamanic medicine and addressing to all living things as "men". By extension, he might fall in the Crying Indian trope as well. Usually for good reasons.
  • Mighty Whitey: Averted. Arseniev repeatedly acknowledges how much he had learnt from Dersu and how it would have been absolutely impossible to navigate or even survive through the taiga without his guide.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: In 1922, when the furthest reaches of Siberia were finally annexed to the Soviet Union, Arseniev choosed to stay in Vladivostok and become a Soviet citizen, even if he was hardly a communist.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Dersu is extremely loyal, and will accept orders from the leader of the expedition even against his advice.
  • Nature Hero: Dersu is the quintessential wild mountain man, more at ease in the deepest wilderness than anywhere civilized. As such, he saves the lives of Arsenyev and his men on two occasions.
  • Odd Friendship: Between the young Russian officer and the grizzled native.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Arseniev, who was a quite literate man and also a hardened officer.
  • Scenery Porn: Arseniev is quite good at describing the unspoiled beauty of the Siberian taiga. Kurosawa's movie takes it Up to Eleven and explodes with these, all of them Egregious.
  • Snow Means Death: Or at least it would have been for Arseniev, if he didn't had Dersu at hand.
  • Troubled Production: As no Japanese studio wanted to fund Kurosawa, he had to work with a Soviet one, Mosfilm. And during the extended 3-year production, basically everything conspired against him.
  • Tsarist Russia: though the Tsar is really, really far away.
  • What Could Have Been: The Soviet producers initially wanted to cast Kurosawa's frequent collaborator, Toshiro Mifune, in the role of Dersu, but he refused due to scheduling conflicts and an acrimonious falling-out they had with Kurosawa in 1965. In the end a Soviet actor Maxim Munzuk got the title role.


Red BeardCreator/Akira KurosawaKagemusha
Diamond Sword, Wooden SwordRussian LiteratureDoctor Pavlysh
The Decline of the WestLiterature of the 1920sDoctor Dolittle
DeparturesJapanese FilmsFrankenstein Conquers The World
The Decline of the WestNon-Fiction LiteratureThe Devil's Dictionary
d'Artagnan And Three MusketeersRussian FilmsThe Diamond Arm
Dead RingersCreator/The Criterion CollectionDesign For Living
Deep RedFilms of the 1970sDoc Savage

alternative title(s): Dersu Uzala; Dersu Uzala
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