Negore the Coward by Jack London

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This story was my 40th of the year as part of my annual short story reading “project: deal me in.” I had just re-started my reading of London’s novella, “Before Adam,” this week, but apparently the hand of fate decided I needed even more Jack London, as I drew the eight of clubs from my dwindling deck…

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What makes a coward? We all know that there is a fine line between cowardice and discretion (that better part of valor), but how often is one only perceived as a coward when, in reality, he is not – or may even be the opposite. I became aware of this concept at a very young age. One of my earliest memories of watching television was seeing re-runs of the old Chuck Connors western series, Branded. I admit I was probably just attracted to the opening intro and song, but the point was, though thought one, Chuck Connors was definitely NOT a coward. I mean,
look at him! :-).

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Anyway, in Jack London’s short story, Negore the Coward, the title character’s thought to be a coward, and from the perspective of others, including the woman he loves, he seems to be nothing but a coward. The setting of the story is in mid-nineteenth century Alaska, where Negore and his native tribe are fleeing a ruthless band of Russians (Alaska was Russian territory until we “bought it” from them, remember?). He has disappeared from the tribe, but returns and catches up to Oona, who he calls “his woman” and her father, the blinded Kinoos, whose bravery from a previous showdown with the Russians is the stuff of legend.

When Negore explains his side of the story, Oona admits she may have misjudged him, but as there were no witnesses to Negore’s version, he still must prove himself to her with an act of bravery equal to that of her father – “Art thou willing to do no less than what Old Kinoos hath done?” Of course he is, which sets up the climax of the story.

Read it for yourself for free online here.

I’ve really enjoyed a Jack London “reading renaissance” the past year or so, for which i’d like to thank my blogging colleague, Dale, over at Mirror with Clouds, who through several posts helped me remember how great a writer London is. What about you? Have you read any of Jack London’s short stories?

(“Jay not like a story by Jack London? ‘Impocerous!'”)

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7 Comments

  1. Megan said,

    October 8, 2013 at 8:47 am

    You have just made my day! I LOVE the Branded theme song, but had completely forgotten it existed until today. Turns out I still remember every word! So thanks for the walk down memory lane! 🙂

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 8, 2013 at 8:49 am

      😀 Isn’t it great? I was so little that was probably the only part of the show I understood. 🙂 Gave me goosebumps hearing it again too.

      Like

    • Jay said,

      October 8, 2013 at 8:51 am

      Oh, and I’ve been humming the melody all morning thus far at the office 🙂

      Like

      • Megan said,

        October 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure I will be too. 🙂

        Like

  2. Dale said,

    October 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks, Jay – although now I might have to change my 2014 Deal Me In list again. Your post about this story reminded my of Hemingway’s story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. Although bravery (at least by Hemingway’s definition and/or code) isn’t exactly proven in that story.
    -Dale

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 9, 2013 at 6:57 am

      Hi Dale,
      I will definitely be including The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber in next year’s line up (if I don’t read it ad hoc before then!) as several people have mentioned/recommend it to me now.

      This “Complete Works of Jack London” e-book I got last year is quite long. I’ll never finish it in this lifetime…
      -Jay

      Like

  3. June 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    […] My Deal Me In 2014 list can be seen here.  DMI is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.  Jay also posted about this story last […]

    Like


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