Had I not known from the beginning that this story was entirely true, I should have thought it the product of a very fine imagination. As it is, I can scarcely believe that a puny twelve year old lad with no survival training was able to live in the forest for nine days on nothing but a few berries which he picked along his way. God’s mercy in preserving the life of this boy was immense.
Twelve year old Donn Fendler is excited to be out hiking with his father and brother on the wild but beautiful Mount Katahdin in Maine. In their eagerness to see the famous Knife Edge (which boasts sheer drops of 1,500 feet), Donn and his friend Henry run ahead of their group, but after experiencing its rugged atmosphere, Donn decides to return to his family while Henry waits for a friend.
Donn is sure that he can find his father with little difficulty; after all, how lost can a fellow get when only a few minutes separate him from his destination? Over the course of the next few hours Donn discovers the answer to this as, in a nightmarish reality, he loses his way and begins to stray aimlessly into the forest. His wanderings last for nine days – nine days of torturous clamberings and ravings – before bloody and emaciated, he finds himself once again in civilization.
Donn demonstrated unspeakable bravery throughout the course of the book, fighting through agonizing injuries, minimal nourishment, utter exhaustion, and hordes of insects to reach his goal. One of his more humorous experiences came in the form of what I would have thought to be his greatest threat – a black bear.
Suddenly, as I came around a clump of berry bushes, I came face to face with a bear – a big one, black as ink, and standing on his hind legs. I was stooping over, and when I straightened up, the bear saw me and screamed like a person. Christmas! That scream just turned me cold. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t yell. I couldn’t do anything. I just stood and stared, crouched over a little, because I never finished straightening up. For a second, that bear and I just looked at each other, then the bear made a big leap sideways. I don’t think he touched his forepaws to the ground. He just went sideways as though on springs and splash! – whish! – bobbing up and down, with the water flying around him, he was on the other side of the stream. Was I glad! I straightened up and laughed. I couldn’t help it. I just laughed and laughed, and then I cried and tears ran down into my mouth and then I laughed again. [pgs. 54-55]
Donn prays to God on numerous occasions. For example,
After that little rest on the bank I felt better. It wasn’t quite raining, but it was dark and misty and I felt cold and miserable. I remembered that I hadn’t said my morning prayers, so I got onto my knees and prayed. I never prayed like that before. Other mornings I hurry a little or don’t think much about what I am saying, but this morning I meant everything, and I thought of God and how He was there in the woods, and how He looked after everything, and I felt warm all inside of me and peaceful, too. [pg. 34]
On the second night, Donn finds shelter in a hollow tree. He writes, “It was warm and dry in there, and I just thanked God for being so good to me.” [pg. 42] :’(
One of the things that I especially appreciated about Lost on a Mountain In Maine was that, contrary to most ‘lost’ stories, Donn did not become lost due either to disobedience or stupidity. A lack of experience caused him to make a decision which, though risky, seemed to him perfectly safe.
When Donn is first lost, the eerie sounds make him think of Pamola, the evil Indian spirit of the mountain. He knows that this legend is not true. At the end of the book, another reference is made to this legend.
On pages 81-82 Donn writes,
“I don’t know whether I ought to tell something that happened that very morning, but I guess I shall. It’s all right of course, but people who don’t believe as I do may think it’s all imagination. I believe in Guardian Angels and, on my trip through the woods, one of the things that comforted me and helped me to bring myself out to safety was this feeling that I wasn’t entirely alone.
In the night, in those dark woods, that feeling helped me and, in the daytime, when the going was awfully hard, I felt as though I had someone to lean on, and that helped, too.
Well, after I struck that trail and had gone along for a quite a way, I tripped over a root and fell down. I was flat on my face. I couldn’t get my arms under me, – they were so weak at the elbows. I just lay there and waited. Suddenly, I felt something take hold of me by the shoulders – something like strong, gentle hands – and felt myself lifted slowly until I was on my knees. I looked around, expecting to see a man, a guide maybe, and was I surprised when I could see nothing – not a thing! But the hands were still there and they were lifting and lifting. I got first one foot under me and then the other, then I straightened up. I was stronger. I could walk.” [pgs. 81-82]
While the idea of us each having a particularly assigned guardian angel is more folklore than Biblical teaching, Scripture does make it clear that God uses angels to protect His people. “For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” [Psalms 91:11] Whether this was a genuine experience or not, I certainly can’t pretend to know.
The most troubling moment occurs in chapter four when Donn believes that he sees his friend Henry being hypnotized by four men in white robes. If this had simply been added to the story I would have found it annoying, but a footnote makes it clear that Donn insists that he actually saw this taking place. It is legitimate to assume that he was hallucinating, and the anguish and mental strain that he had experienced warrants such an illusion.
‘Christmas’ is used as an exclamation.
Conclusion. An extremely interesting and under known story, Lost On a Mountain in Maine will encourage your boys to acquit themselves as men.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret