Follow TV Tropes


Literature / My Side of the Mountain

Go To
A boy named Sam Gribley runs away from his home in New York to live in the Catskill Mountains. The book documents his time up in the Catskills, and is a detailed and fairly realistic take on how to go about wilderness survival.

Written by Jean Craighead George in 1959, it received a Newbery Honor, and was adapted into a somewhat-obscure film ten years later. As of now there are four sequels to My Side of the Mountain: the direct sequel On the Far Side of the Mountain (with no relation to Gary Larson's comic), and the three sequels told from the perspective of falcons, Frightful's Mountain, Frightful's Daughter, and Frightful's Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel.

It was made into a film in 1969. Many things were changed, including Sam's motivation for going to the mountain. He's no longer a runaway but is instead a budding scientist seeking to learn from nature. He also returns home at the end instead of having his family join him in the wilderness.

Provides examples of:

  • All Animals Are Domesticated: While falcons can be domesticated, most peregrines aren't as social as Frightful and it's hardly as easy as Sam makes it seem.
  • Arboreal Abode: Sam makes his new home in the base of a hollowed out tree.
  • Big Town Boredom: Sam's motivation for running away from his parents' New York City apartment and living in the Catskills is basically just that he's tired of city life and would rather live as a subsistence hunter-gatherer in the wild. By the end of the novel his parents have moved the rest of the family out to the Catskills with him, but at the beginning of the sequel they've all moved back to New York aside from one of Sam's sisters who's stayed because she has a similar interest in living off the land as Sam does.
  • Death by Adaptation: At the end of the movie version of My Side of the Mountain, Frightful the hawk gets shot and dies. In the book, she not only lives, but ends up with three sequels focusing on her.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Sam scavenges a few deer off these guys.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: It could be part of his personality, taking everything in stride, but Sam never seems to encounter any major setbacks. Even getting scurvy and carbon monoxide poisoning aren't shown as anything but minor, temporary and maybe even funny obstacles.
  • Kids' Wilderness Epic: The story is Sam's attempt to live off the land while living in a tree and the adventures he has.
  • Lazily Gender-Flipped Name: Sam befriends a raccoon that he believes to be a male, thus naming him Jesse Coon James. When spring comes, Sam is surprised by the kits, but at least "Jesse" works for a female, too. She's "girl Jesse".
  • Moral Guardians: Initially Jean Craighead George had trouble getting this book published because publishers thought Moral Guardians would object to the book on the grounds that it encouraged children to run away from home and live in the woods. Whether or not this was justified, at least George explained quite clearly that Sam did already know how to live off the land and find food, even before he left. Furthermore, the actual steps required in living off the land are explained quite clearly as involving a lot of work. Presumably most children reading this book can read between the lines and find the message "Sam knows how to do this, had to work a lot, and still got sick and ran into trouble. Unless you know what Sam does, you won't make it, so stay home."
  • Nemean Skinning: Sam kills a deer through use of traps to make himself clothes. The process of tanning its hide is long, complicated, and detailed. Kid has a good memory.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Frightful is a majestic creature, as are other falcons.
  • The Runaway: Sam has a perfect relationship with his parents yet decides to run away to the Catskill Mountain and live in a hollowed out tree for the pure adventure of it all. Of course, any kid who puts the time and effort into learning all the stuff Sam knows at that age is someone who is really dedicated, and eager to put that knowledge to use.
  • Run Away Hide Away: Sam constructs his own hideaway, and his desire to create one where he can live off the land is most of the reason he ran away in the first place.
  • Shown Their Work: It's pretty clear that the author did a lot of research on how to go about living in the woods by yourself before writing this book. A possible Aesop that the author may have been attempting to convey with this effort is "Sam knows what he's doing. You don't. Please don't run away from home and try living off the land."
  • Smelly Skunk: Sam learns an important lesson about why you shouldn't feed wild animals in part because of this trope.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: None of the adults Sam encounters in the novel seem remotely concerned about the fact that a pre-teen boy has run away from home to live off the land by himself.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Not as far in the idealistic camp as other Kids Wilderness Epics due to Sam's frequent mishaps, but they're played off as humorous minor setbacks rather than costly and devastating, and the book has a very happy ending.
  • Xenofiction: All of the novels dealing with Frightful or her daughter are from the prespective of a falcon.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Jesse Coon James the raccoon is initially thought to be a male raccoon, but after Sam finds out that Jesse is pregnant, he supposes that she's a "girl Jesse" instead.

Alternative Title(s): My Side Of The Mountain