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Revenant is based on the story of a 19th century bear trapper Hugh Glass.  In the summer of 1823, five months after Hugh had joined a fur-trapping expedition in South Dakota, he came across a grizzly bear and her two cubs along the banks of the Missouri River. The protective mother was surprised by Hugh's presence and attacked him.  She broke his leg, punctured his throat and ripped his scalp. Hugh's cries alerted his companions who rushed to help and killed the enraged mother with their guns.

However, Hugh was in terrible shape and expedition leaders decided that two of them would stay back with him until he died, and give him a Christian burial. The two that were going to remain behind were John Fitzgerald and a much younger man, Jim Bridger. 

Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

While the rest of the expedition left, John and Jim watched over him for two days.  While Hugh was still dangling between life and death, they were both getting farther and farther away from their fellow bear trappers.  John was especially impatient and eventually convinced Jim to abandon Hugh. They laid him in a shallow grave and departed while he was asleep. When Hugh woke up, he found himself alone.

He was furious with his team mates for leaving him.  Gravely injured, he somehow summoned the courage and energy to drag himself to a nearby spring, the first step in a six-week-long crawl back to the nearest encampment. He wanted to kill the colleagues who had left him for dead.  There are many different accounts of his story and treacherous journey back. Some accounts mentioned that he killed and ate a rattlesnake during his journey; some mention that he woke one day to find a grizzly licking maggots from his wounds. 

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Credit: Kimberley French

Hugh did eventually find John and Jim, but instead of exacting a bloody revenge, he pardoned them both.  What makes the story of Hugh Glass special is not necessarily just the ending, the forgiveness, but the resolve, the enduring spirit of someone who is determined.  When most people would have thought he would die, he lived.  In the end, Hugh says in the movie: “I ain’t afraid of dying anymore. I done it already.”

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