Movies and books about characters who "go native" (ala Avatar & Dances With Wolves)

A friend of mine is planning a comparative literature/pop culture course for this coming quarter in which she makes use of parallels between pop-culture movies and books (i.e. books not necessarily of any great literary value but extremely popular) and works of “serious literature”. One of the movies she’s focused on is Avatar (or as I call it Dances With Smurfcats) and is wanting to assign a comparison/contrast between this or Dances With Wolves (student’s choice) and or other films and movies in which a character goes to live in a more technologically primitive culture and basically goes native, ultimately being more at home in that culture than their own.

She’s compiling a long list for students to choose from and has asked me for suggestions. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

The Paradise Syndrome episode of STAR TREK (in which Kirk falls in love with/marries/impregnates a Space Injun

The Inner Light episode of ST:TNG in which Picard fights then accepts a new identity as a citizen of another planet where he has a family and spends a lifetime

Avatar and Dances With Wolves of course

Dune (novels, movie and or miniseries)

Lawrence of Arabia (the movie anyway- I’ve never read Lawrence’s own book so I honestly don’t know how many liberties were taken)

Hawaii (the movie more than the book [of which the Abner & Jerusha Hale plotline was a very small part]- both characters retain their Christianity but Jerusha [Julie Andrews] comes to see the beauty of the Hawaiian culture while Abner goes on a wild arc but ultimately becomes their staunches defender)

Pocahontas- the Disney movie (the true story is obviously completely different and a whole lot more complicated, but mindless pop-culture is allowed)

Little Big Man (novels and movie)- Jack Crabbe alternates between the white and the Cheyenne worlds- almost hard to say which he’s more at home in.

Robin McKinley’s Blue Sword- I know nothing about this one but it was my friend’s suggestion

Any other suggestions? It can be movies, graphic novels, short stories, TV, medieval or ancient so long as it’s relevant.

The Last Samurai
Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now - a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit

Stranger in a Strange Land, although Mike was raised by natives, as opposed to choosing to “go native” as an adult.

HoD may be a stretch but Apocalypse Now isn’t much of a stretch at all.
And speaking of Last Samurai, Shogun is perfect.


A Man Called Horse and the various sequels.

The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter is a youth novel about a white child who was raised by Native Americans and as a teenager was sent back to live in white society. He doesn’t feel he belongs there and tries to get back to his tribe.

At Play in the Fields of the Lord - I’ve only seen the movie, but it’s based on a novel. It’s about some white missionaries who go to the Amazon rainforest to spread the gospel to the natives. In the movie, Tom Berenger plays an American who is living with the local tribe and has gone native.

Deathworld is similar to Avatar.

Some of Leigh Brackett’s “Mars” stories might fit.

I figure the majority of James Tiptree Jr’s output would also fall into this category (“teh humanz are teh EVIL!!!”), but I hate Tiptree and have tried to erase all memory of her works from my mind so I can’t give you specific suggestions.

Oh, and then maybe Zenna Henderson’s “People” stories.

ETA: And, to state the obvious, Superman and/or Gladiator. The latter would be more interesting.

Farewell to the King with Nick Nolte.

CJ Cherryh has made a career out of it, at least in her science fiction (I don’t care for her fantasy, so I don’t know if that’s the case there or not.) Try The Pride of Chanur or Foreigner.

Never Cry Wolf, a cross-species example.

For sure. She absolutely loves fish-out-of-water anthropological sf. For a singleton, I’d say 40,000 in Gehenna is the best in this mode, because it easily the most alien of her alien cultures.

Brave New World is another good example, though the main character doesn’t “go native” until near the end of the book (most of it is him gradually coming to see the flaws in his own society).

Knock yourself out.

What happened in Brave New World? John the Savage did the opposite (Going Tarzan?) I don’t remember it happening to Bernard, he goes exile.

I haven’t read it since high school; you may be right.

That reminds me of Last of the Dogmen, also staring Tom Berenger

John the Savage tried to live in isolation in an automated lighthouse, but he was simply too unusual for the strictly-controlled society to leave alone. They kept visiting him in larger and larger numbers, fascinated by his behaviour, emulating it. At the climax, love interest Lenina Crowne shows up as well, John physically attacks her, the crowd goes wild and the evening passes in a crazed violent orgy in which John participates. When he wakes up the next day, still feeling the effects of the Soma, his shame and regret is overpowering.

When the fans show up to see what he’ll do next, they find him hanging. He went native, sort-of, for one night and couldn’t bear it.

Bernard just got packed off to an island which, it is implied, isn’t really all that bad a fate.

The Coneheads

Also, my namesake the novel Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster is about a small group adapting to a primitive culture.

By the same author:Sentenced to Prism where the main character quite literally goes native.

Noman’s “Gor” books have the protagonist going native in pretty short order.

The Emerald Forest