A tension between wilderness as place of peril and as a place of purity has existed throughout the history of Western civilization. While the Puritan minister Cotton Mather described the wilderness as a habitation of “Dragons,” “Droves of Devils,” and “Fiery Flying Serpents,” Henry David Thoreau maintained that in order to draw near to God, one must draw near to nature. A spectrum of perspectives about wilderness exists within the tension between these two opposing ideas. As a refugee from civilization who makes his home in the wilderness on the borders of society, the Wild Man archetype, famously expressed in the monster Grendel and the noble outlaw Robin Hood, inhabits this spectrum. Both Tolkien’s The Children of Húrin and Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity unfold in settings characterized by being on the border. Furthermore, their heroes are noble outlaws, who choose to live outside of the boundaries of civilization. With these settings and heroes, Tolkien and Whedon make similar contributions to the nuances found in Western traditions of wilderness by emphasizing wilderness as a place of becoming, rich with possibility yet fraught with peril.



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