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

Mutiny on the Bounty

I also suppose the general “Fallen” Angel/God/demigod theme is a parallel to the “going native” theme. Sort of like Wings of Desire and its remake, City of Angels. Most recently, I suppose the film “Legion” fits the bill.

The true story of the founding of Liberia and the Americo-Liberians might make an interesting case study of repatriation and going native with a different twist. I think there also might be some books from the sixties or seventies by some African American authors who experimented with repatriation to Africa… I think there was one pretty popular book about this but I don’t remember the title or author.

Meet the Applegates

“Black Robe” is a film that came out about the same time as “Dances with Wolves” and treads similar ground; far more accurately and interestingly, in my opinion. I used to use scenes when teaching Colonial History.

Sir Richard Francis Burton, the Victorian explorer/writer/sexual adventurer is considered to have popularized the notion of “Going Native.” He translated the Kama Sutra and went on Hajj disguised as a Muslim in violation of Islamic dictates as examples of some of his highjinks. He was one of the inspirations for George Macdonald Frazier’s Harry Flashman who, in a long series of novels went native all around the world.

Mark Twain, too, dabbled with the notion of sending Tom and Huck “among the Indians.” The work was never completed, but was published in “Life” Magazine, I believe in the early 1960s. I found a copy at a flea market in the late 1970s, early '80s when I was a kid and read it. The editor of the piece wrote that the reason Twain didn’t finish the work is that he knew the usual outcome for white captives of Plains Indians and didn’t think that such information was appropriate for young readers. Fortunately we have no such qualms these days.

Also, “Little Big Man.”

Lord Jim

The TOM STRONG comic book was a twist on the Doc Savage story: the idea was that Tom’s experimentalist Victorian-era parents wanted to raise a perfect child away from society’s corrupting influences, cultivating borderline superhuman athleticism while supplying a thorough scientific education.

Problem #1: the island they chose turned out to be inhabited by a tribe of spear-toting folks. This winds up solving Problem #2: Tom’s mom and dad get killed in an earthquake, at which point the brainy eight-year-old gets taken in by said tribe; the phrase “going native” gets explicitly applied to what comes next, with our hero speaking their language and participating in their rituals and learning how to use the scent of local fruits when hunting the local birds and so on, eventually marrying the chief’s daughter not long after both undergo that culture’s vision-quest-by-way-of-hallucinogenic-root – ah, you get the idea.

Volumes 1 thru 5 have Tarl Cabot acting pretty much the typical Earthman among barbarians, but with some foreshadowing; beginning with book 6, he goes downhill (or uphill, depending on your sympathies) quickly. This makes him a lot less puzzling to his fellow men, many of whom found him slightly odd in the earlier books.

I doubt it’s going to fly as a subject for serious study, though. :smiley:

Some people are trying.

Clifford Simak’s short(-ish) story, Desertion, is probably the ultimate “go native”. I think most of his stuff is out of print but shows up in collections from time to time.

Never read any of the Gor books but from some of the descriptions it sounds like the Warlord comic might have borrowed from it. I read the silver era classic, but I guess DC brought it back and a new warlord action figure is coming out this fall.

Tarzan of the Apes has the main character go bush pretty much from scratch.

The Searchers deals with this theme, although the character who goes native is not the protagonist. But it’s probably still worth viewing because it shows the attitudes that society holds about people going native.

“The Searchers” was inspired by a true story that is far more interesting. (I’m not knocking the movie.) I happen to have read about just it a few weeks ago.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwyne. Highly recommended.


I should have mentioned that Quanah Parker, who is the protagonist of the book I just mentioned, was the biracial son of the kidnapped girl who went native. Her eventual “rescue” 20+ years later was little more than a second kidnapping, however well-intentioned it might have been; it was a heartbreaking tragedy, and at times is not easy to read about.

Andre Norton’s novel “Judgement on Janus” deals with a planet where Earth settlers have pretty much wiped out the native intelligent species, but the natives leave “traps” in the forest for unsuspecting settlers to find. The traps transform the settlers into the natives, and the story is told from the viewpoint of a settler who has been caught in such a trap. Avatar reminded me a lot of it, possibly an inspiration though clearly not plagiarism.

And of course in District 9 the protagonist becomes a prawn.

“Ghosts of Mars” is another such story, a movie in which the Martians take over the human settlers on Mars and either revert them to primal savages, or make them into Martian warriors fighting the humans, or both, I’m not really sure on that point.

“Quatermass and the Pit” which clearly inspired “Ghosts of Mars,” has a similar theme, much more subtly realized, but also has a subtle, creepy horror that is still effective half a century after it was made.

Man, there was maybe the best weapon pairing ever, in the Silver Age Warlord. A non-standard airforce Sr-71 ,pilot’s choice, .44 Auto-Mag and a magical sword named Hellfire which cannot be drawn from scabbard without drawing blood… even the blood of the wielder to satiate.

“Jeremiah Johnson” should be given consideration.

In that Justice League Unlimited Triple Pack they have mislabeled the antagonist. It is an action figure tri-pack that features Supergirl, Warlord, and Deimos… not Demos. Bad data entry.

You can watch Anthony Hopkins as an academic who “went native” with a troop of gorillas in the movie Instinct.

Same idea, different roles in Planet of the Apes - Cornelius and Dr. Zira are going “native” with Charlton Heston character