Gorbatov and Seton

The live capture of the wolf in the video below put me in mind of a Vadim Gorbatov project I would love to see published in English. Almost twenty years ago a Korean publisher decided to revive the classic Ernest Thompson Seton tale “Lobo”, about a cattle- killing wolf in northern New Mexico; a story that many readers here remember from their youth (this is for you, Beth!)

It is interesting that wolves were considered a particular problem here; also that the two ambivalent narratives that changed the public’s perception of wolves to something benign– perhaps in our day too benign?–were by paid wolf killers: Seton, who had been a bounty hunter; Aldo Leopold, a government official who believed at first that fewer predators meant abundant game, in a neat linear progression. Leopold was to see that “fierce green fire” in a dying wolf’s eyes, but when he spoke in Magdalena in 1914, to a crowd as big as our entire population is today, he was in his twenties, an ace predator controller.

At that time Vadim had not yet visited New Mexico, so he requested model photos from us– “arroyo; Pinon pine; Sharps rifle”. We sent almost 200, and were rewarded with the original illustration of our choice. We took a calm one, set perhaps before the story’s beginning. But check these out. The first is a perfect homage to Seton, a near copy of one of his almost cartoon- like marginal drawings. The second recalls the Kyrgiz wolf hunt; the hunter tying the knots is Seton himself.

Vadim has a new Russian Seton collection out now too. More on that later, but you can see some of it on his site..

7 thoughts on “Gorbatov and Seton”

  1. Like Gorbatov but the tacking of the horse is wildly inaccurate and Seton's partner has his rifle pointed directly at him.


  2. Nice pictures. Was there a particular reason he asked for pictures of a Sharps? I seem to recall from my frequent trips to the Seton museum as a child (it was on the way to the grocery store) that the rifle displayed with Lobo's pelt was a Remington rolling block, which was also a popular long-range hunting rifle in that time and place. Tangentially, my mother's first impressions of New Mexico as a child growing up in Boston were largely created by reading this story: she regards the fact that she accidentally ended up living so close to Seton's museum and the area where the events of the story took place as one of the stranger coincidences of her life.

  3. Vadim had not yet visited NM when he did the illos– my guess is that he simply heard about Sharps (the guns are that plus Winchesters and a Colt SAA).

    I too read Seton and ended up in his country, if not as close as your mother– though we were headed for Montana!

    • Ah, that makes sense. The Sharps is more iconic in the popular history of firearms in the American West. Interestingly, perhaps, the rolling block is probably more likely to have been seen by someone Gorbatov's stomping grounds, since it was apparently widely used as a military rifle in the old world during that variable period between muzzleloaders and bolt-actions that saw things like the Martini-Henry proliferate. The rolling block was apparently produced under license in Sweden and Norway, so I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few of them knocking around in Central Asia or Siberia.

  4. Gosh, how I LOVE Gorbatov's stuff–I'd LOVE to get a copy with his illustrations! Korean, huh? I'd just be buying it for the art–I have plenty of English Seton for rereading! Yes, I grew up reading and loving his books too–I perhaps took the Lobo tale a little too much to heart, as a favorite pastime as a kid running feral with a pack of neighborhood dogs was to pretend to be renegade wolves and chase cattle for sport–a wonder I never got myself or any pack members shot! Kind of like a real life "Far Side" cartoon! Cringe though I might at the recollections now, I have to admit, I and my "wolves" had a blast! And some nice, lean, athletic cattle around where I grew up……And I think Seton's and Leopold's changed views on wolves(after they got to actually know some personally) had such an impact BECAUSE they changed so radically, from exterminators to advocates. Made folks take notice. Having known a few REAL wolves(and crosses) myself, I can relate. Hard to relate, though, if all you're seeing is the predatory, destructive side of wolves…..L.B.

  5. Don't forget the "Russian'97's' in 7.62 Mosin Nagant, the biggest run they (Winchester)ever made in caliber, vanished into the maelstrom of War and revolution.

    Tey are OUT THERE. A story that should be written…


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