This 100th Anniversary Edition presents the timeless tale of Humphrey Van Weyden, pressed into service aboard the seal-hunting Ghost, led by the brutal, enigmatic captain Wolf Larsen. This volume also includes four of London's acclaimed short stories. 1964 Copy
A review from Amazon.com:
When I first dipped into THE SEA WOLF, I was struck by its similarity to CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS. Humphrey van Weydon's ferry-steamer, The Martinez, is rammed by another ship in San Francisco Bay in a heavy fog. Van Weydon is rescued by Wolf Larsen, captain of the seal-hunter, The Ghost. Larsen refuses to take Van Weydon ashore, laughing at his offer of money. Once again, I am reminded of another famous book, MOBY DICK, and Larsen is Captain Ahab. Ruthless and single-minded, Larsen decides to make Van Weydon his cabin boy on this four month trip to provide seal pelts for fashionable American women. Van Weydon resists until Larsen catches hold of his arm and squeezes. A man of letters who freely admits never working a day in his life, Van Weydon does everything he's told from that point on, including aiding and abetting the Captain as he mistreats his crew.
Early on we learn some of Larsen's motivation when he and Van Weydon have a literary discussion. We discover that Larsen is a literary bully. He's never spent a day in school, but he reads Shakespeare, Robert Browning and John Milton. London's theme becomes clear and Larsen and van Weydon argue about immortality, van Weydon declaring that man has a soul; Larsen retorting with a Scrooge-like "Bah!" And suddenly we have the first gleanings of an existentialist novel. If there were no God, how should man behave? Larsen, seeing evil everywhere he looks, decides he will do whatever is best for him personally.
The conflict is not precisely good versus evil. Van Weydon is a weakling, a pampered rich man, a coward. There is also much to admire about Wolf Larsen. He outduels seven men during a mutiny. He's constantly reading, constantly trying to understand. When Van Weydon's story arc begins to ascend--he learns seamanship, rebuilds the ship when its masts are destroyed--we can't help but give Larsen a bit of credit. Larsen never took no for an answer, no task was too difficult.
Another interesting element in the book is London's fledgling steps toward women's liberation. Van Weydon falls in love with another castaway, Maud Brewster, and together they overcome storms, isolation on a small seal rookery, and sabotage.
I guess I knew London was a better writer than the man who wrote CALL OF THE WILD (His short story "To Build a Fire" is one of my favorites), but I wasn't expecting a philosophical discourse wrapped around a sea adventure.
This is an abridged, cartoon style of the book.
Every time I'm on a ferry from San Francisco to the North Bay I think of the opening of this book. The explanation on the back of the book (reprinted above) doesn't match my memories of the book at all.