Skip to main content
PBS logo
Want fewer ads?

Book Review of Dances with Wolves

Dances with Wolves
Dances with Wolves
Author: Michael Blake
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
reviewed on + 533 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1

The Costner movie based on this book is one of my favorite movies ever, so it was only natural for me to pick this book when I saw it. As most would agree, the movie is NEVER as good as the book, so I quickly surmised that, since the movie was fabulous, the book must reach vast unknown limits of greatness, right? Well, not exactly. Michael Blake's writing of DANCES WITH WOLVES is certainly a good book and a wonderful story, it is Costner's ability to turn this story into such a brilliant production that is the real achievement here.

I have found that normally, if I like a movie and read the book afterwards, it serves to enhance what I saw on film. In this case, however, the book had somewhat the opposite effect for me. There are differences between the two that only seem to diminish Costner's work. A couple of things I knew already, such as Costner's use of the Indian Chief, Ten Bears, who I knew to have been a great Comanche, not a Sioux.

Well, as it turns out, the book is written to that effect. The Indians befriended by Lt. Dunbar and portrayed in the movie as Sioux, are actually Comanche. Now I can understand the alteration here, for a couple of reasons. First of all, though most Americans are notoriously ignorant of our rich history, for the most part, people do know the Comanche were the badest of the bad and it would be an increased degree of difficulty to portray the Comanche in a positive light as being rather passive and wanting only to be left alone to live in peace. Though the Sioux were hardly any more docile, their reputation is certainly not nearly as notorious. Also, for cinematic reasons, it's certainly understandable that the domain of the northern Sioux is a more picturesque backdrop that the barren plains of the Southern Comanche. Also, the Sioux language of the movie has a more poetic feel to it and is somewhat more widely recognized than the rather obscure Shoshonean spoken by the Comanche.

I hope I haven't given the wrong impression here. This is a very enjoyable read, though it is a rare occasion where the book was not nearly as enjoyable, for me at least, as was the movie.

Want fewer ads?