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When I was in high school, Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson was my favorite novel. I fell in love with its poetic, mystical language, the enchanting natural innocence of Rima, the bird-girl of the Amazon jungle, and the haunting, evocative, ultimately tragic storyline. But I was not able to visit the Amazon rain forest for twelve years... to experience the magic of this locale myself, and to feel the presence of Rima in the lush, green Amazon jungles and musical, exotic bird songs. And now, although several decades of life have passed since, the spirit of Rima has remained within me....
Tika Yupanqui (Ancient Site alias for Tracy Marks)
Descriptions of Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson (1841-1922):
An exotic romance set in the dark, mystical green Amazon rainforest of South America, the novel is narrated by a man named Abel who as a young man had lived among the Indians. He tells of Rima, a strange birdlike woman, a creature of the forest, with whom he falls in love, but whom is feared by the superstitious Indians. Through his relationship to her, Abel discovers the greatest joy--and the darkest despair.
In William Henry Hudson's Green Mansions, his great romantic
novel of the South American tropical Amazon, the young hero Abel is lured into the jungle
by the mysterious call of an unseen bird. So stirred is he by the siren song that he
follows the haunting sound deeper and deeper into the forest until he eventually discovers
the source: a lovely, half-wild girl called Rima, who has learned to mimic the sounds of
Read, download or
purchase Green Mansions!
Excerpts from Green Mansions
After that tempest of motion and confused noises the silence of the forest seemed very profound; but before I had been resting many moments it was broken by a low strain of exquisite bird-melody, wonderfully pure and expressive, unlike any musical sound I had ever heard before. It seemed to issue from a thick cluster of broad leaves of a creeper only a few yards from where I sat. With my eyes fixed on this green hiding-place I waited with suspended breath for its repetition, wondering whether any civilized being had ever listened to such a strain before. Surely not, I thought, else the fame of so divine a melody would long ago have been noised abroad.
I thought of the rialejo, the celebrated organbird or flute-bird, and of the various ways in which hearers are affected by it. To some its warbling is like the sound of a beautiful mysterious instrument, while to others it seems like the singing of a blithe-hearted child with a highly melodious voice... It was pure, more expressive, softer -- so low that at a distance of forty yards I could hardly have heard it.
But its greatest charm was its resemblance to the human voice-- a voice
purified and brightened to something almost angelic... Again the sweet voice sounded just
behind me, and turning quickly, I stood still and waited. The same voice, but not the same
song-- not the same phrase; the notes were different, more varied and rapidly enunciated,
as if the singer had been more excited. The blood rushed to my heart as I listened; my
nerves tingled with a strange new delight, the rapture produced by such music heightened
by a sense of mystery. Before many moments I heard it again, not rapid now, but a soft
warbling, lower than at first, infinitely sweet and tender, sinking to lisping sounds that
soon ceased to be audible; the whole having lasted as long as it would take me to repeat a
sentence of a dozen words.
After making a hasty meal at the house, I started, full of pleasing anticipations, for the wood; for how pleasant a place it was to be in! What a wild beauty and fragrance and melodiousness it possessed above all forests, because of that mystery that drew me to it! ....The precious woods and fruits and fragrant gums that would never be trafficked away; its wild animals that man would never persecute; nor would any jealous savage dispute my ownership or pretend that it was part of his hunting-ground.
As I crossed the savannah I played with this fancy; but when I reached the
ridgy eminence, to look down once more on my new domain, the fancy changed to a feeling so
keen that it pierced to my heart and was like pain in its intensity, causing tears to rush
to my eyes. And caring not in that solitude to disguise my feelings from myself, and from
the wide heaven that looked down and saw me-- for this is the sweetest thing that solitude
has for us, that we are free in it, and no convention holds us-- I dropped on my knees and
kissed the stony ground, then casting up my eyes, thanked the Author of my being for the
gift of that wild forest, those green mansions where I had found so great a happiness!
It was a human being-- a girl form, reclining on the moss among the ferns and herbage, near the roots of a small tree. One arm was doubled behind her neck for her head to rest upon, while the other arm was held extended before her, the hand raised towards a small brown bird perched on a pendulous twig just beyond its reach. She appeared to be playing with the bird, possibly amusing herself by trying to entice it on to her hand; and the hand appeared to tempt it greatly, for it persistently hopped up and down, turning rapidly about this way and that, flirting it swings and tail, and always appearing just on the point of dropping on to her finger.
I could make out that she was small, not above four feet six or seven inches in height, in figure slim, with delicately shaped little hands and feet. Her feet were bare, and her only garment was a slight chemise-shaped dress reaching below her knees, of a whitish-gray colour, with a faint lustre as of a silky material. Her hair was loose and abundant, and seemed wavy or curly, falling in a cloud on her shoulders and arms. Dark it appeared, but the precise tint was indeterminable, as was that of her skin, which looked neither brown nor white. All together, near to me as she actually was, there was a kind of mistiness in the figure which made it appear somewhat vague and distant, and a greenish grey seemed the prevailing colour.
This tint I presently attributed to the effect of the sunlight falling on her through the green foliage; for once, for a moment, she raised herself to reach her finger nearer to the bird, and then a gleam of unsubdued sunlight fell on her hair and arm, and the arm at that moment appeared of a pearly whiteness, and the hair, just where the light touched it, had a strange lustre and play of iridescent colour.
I had not been watching her more than three seconds before the bird, with a sharp, creaking little chirp, flew up and away in sudden alarm; at the same moment she turned and saw me through the light leafy screen. But although catching sight of me thus suddenly, she did not exhibit alarm like the bird; only her eyes, wide open, with a surprised look in them, remained immovably fixed on my face.
And then slowly, imperceptibly-- for I did not notice the actual movement, so gradual and smooth it was, like the motion of a cloud of mist which changes its form and place, yet to the eye seems not to have moved-- she rose to her knees, to her feet, retired, and with face still towards me, and eyes fixed on mine, finally disappeared, going as if she had melted away into the verdure. The leafage was there occupying the precise spot where she had been a moment before-- the feathery foliage of an acacia shrub, and stems and broad, arrow- shaped leaves of an aquatic plant, and slim, drooping fern fronds, and they were motionless and seemed not to have been touched by something passing through them.
She had gone, yet I continued still, bent almost double, gazing fixedly at
the spot where I had last seen her, my mind in a strange condition, possessed by
sensations which were keenly felt and yet contradictory. So vivid was the image left on my
brain that she still seemed to be actually before my eyes; and she was not there, nor had
been, for it was a dream, an illusion, and no such being existed, or could exist, in this
gross world; and at the same time I knew that she had been there-- that imagination was
powerless to conjure up a form so exquisite.
But more than form and colour and that enchanting variability was the look of intelligence, which at the same time seemed complementary to and one with the all-seeing, all-hearing alertness appearing in her face; the alertness one remarks in a wild creature, even when in repose and fearing nothing; but seldom in man, never perhaps in intellectual or studious man.
She was a wild, solitary girl of the woods, and did not understand the language of the country in which I had addressed her. What inner or mind life could such a one have more than that of any wild animal existing in the same conditions? Yet looking at her face it was not possible to doubt its intelligence. This union in her of two opposite qualities, which, with us, cannot or do not exist together, although so novel, yet struck me as the girl's principal charm.
Why had Nature not done this before-- why in all others does the brightness of the mind dim that beautiful physical brightness which the wild animals have?; But enough for me that that which no man had ever looked for or hoped to find existed here; that through that unfamiliar lustre of the wild life shone the spiritualizing light of mind that made us kin.
Again I retreated, not so slowly on this occasion; and finding another stone, I raised and was about to launch it when a sharp, ringing cry issued from the bushes growing near, and, quickly following the sound, forth stepped the forest girl; no longer elusive and shy, vaguely seen in the shadowy wood, but boldly challenging attention, exposed to the full power of the meridian sun, which made her appear luminous and rich in colour beyond example.
Seeing her thus, all those emotions of fear and abhorrence invariably excited in us by the sight of an active venomous serpent in our path vanished instantly from my mind: I could now only feel astonishment and admiration at the brilliant being as she advanced with swift, easy, undulating motion towards me; or rather towards the serpent, which was now between us, moving more and more slowly as she came nearer. ....
The torrent of ringing and to me inarticulate sounds in that unknown tongue, her rapid
gestures, and, above all, her wide-open sparkling eyes and face aflame with colour made it
impossible to mistake the nature of her feeling. In casting about for some term or figure
of speech in which to describe the impression produced on me at that moment, I think of
waspish... of some large tropical wasp advancing angrily towards me, as I have witnessed a
hundred times, not exactly flying, but moving rapidly, half running and half flying, over
the ground, with loud and angry buzz, the glistening wings open and agitated; beautiful
beyond most animated creatures in its sharp but graceful lines, polished surface, and
varied brilliant colouring, and that wrathfulness that fits it so well and seems to give
it additional lustre.
Have you ever observed a humming-bird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers-- a living prismatic gem that changes its colour with every change of position-- how in turning it catches the sunshine on its burnished neck and gorges plumes-- green and gold and flame-coloured, the beams changing to visible flakes as they fall, dissolving into nothing, to be succeeded by others and yet others? In its exquisite form, its changeful splendour, its swift motions and intervals of aerial suspension, it is a creature of such fairy-like loveliness as to mock all description.
And have you seen this same fairy-like creature suddenly perch itself on a
twig, in the shade, its misty wings and fan-like tail folded, the iridescent glory
vanished, looking like some common dull-plumaged little bird sitting listless in a cage?
Just so great was the difference in the girl as I had seen her in the forest and as she
now appeared under the smoky roof in the firelight.
|Green Mansions Links|
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or readh this online version ofGreen Mansions
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|Graphics adapted from:
|Green Mansions banner, Roz Fruchtman, Designs by Daybreak.|
This page http://www.webwinds.com/yupanqui/greenmansions.htm
is copyright 1998 by Tracy Marks. It was created when Tracy was Tika Yupanqui in the online Native America community of Machu Picchu at Ancient Sites. For links to her articles on Native American subjects - Iroquois Dreams and Apache Puberty chats, see her Ancient Sites Native American index. Links to articles about the Amazon Rainforest, saving the rainforests of South America, and the native people of Brazil occur at the end of this article.
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