What are Pelts in The Revenant?

What are Pelts in The Revenant

In the gripping film The Revenant, pelts play a significant role. Simply put, pelts in this film are the furs of animals that have been hunted, skinned, and prepared for trading or selling. They’re a primary commodity, driving much of the action and tension in the story. As this movie centers around survival, revenge, and the fur trading industry in the 1820s, understanding the importance of pelts within this context is crucial. This article will explore the significance of pelts in The Revenant, their role in the fur trading industry, and how they contribute to the film’s overarching themes.

What are Pelts in The Revenant?

At the center of The Revenant is the tale of Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a fur trapper and frontiersman who embarks on a perilous journey of survival after being brutally attacked by a bear.

Pelts serve as more than just a backdrop; they are a driving force for the motivations and actions of the characters. In the ruthless frontier of the 1820s, these animal furs were highly prized, being a primary means of trade and a source of income for many. The quest for these valuable commodities often led to conflict, betrayal, and a severe difference of opinion among those involved in the trade.

The Fur Trade in the 1820s

The 1820s was a period when the fur trade was booming in North America. The demand for pelts in Europe was high, and fur trappers and hunters journeyed into the wild to obtain these valuable commodities. The fur trade was not just about hunting and gathering; it involved a complex web of traders, middlemen, and consumers, making it a thriving industry of its time.

What are Pelts in The Revenant

The fur trade was a perilous business. The wilderness was unpredictable, and trappers like Hugh Glass faced threats not only from wild animals but also from rival trappers, Native American tribes, and the harsh elements of nature. The pelts they gathered – be it beaver, fox, mink, or other animals – were a symbol of their hard work, perseverance, and the dangers they braved. These furs, when processed, would make their way to the fashion houses of Europe, transformed into hats, coats, and other luxury items.

Pelts as a Symbol in The Revenant

Beyond their material value, pelts in The Revenant also serve as a powerful symbol. They represent the thin line between survival and demise in the unforgiving wilderness. For characters like Glass, pelts are not just about economic gain but also about personal pride, survival, and reclaiming what’s rightfully theirs.

The treacherous journey of Glass is instigated by the betrayal of his fellow men over pelts. This betrayal emphasizes how, in the frontier’s challenging environment, material gains can overshadow human life and moral codes. The lengths to which individuals are willing to go for these animal furs show the blurred lines between humanity and savagery, particularly in the wild.

Moreover, pelts also symbolize the conflict and competition between different groups. Native American tribes, settlers, and traders all vied for control over these prized commodities, leading to intense rivalries and confrontations. The competition for pelts and the territories rich in fur-bearing animals brought out both the best and worst in individuals, emphasizing the thin boundary between civilization and wilderness.

The Film’s Take on Nature and Man

The Revenant doesn’t just use pelts as a means to drive its plot forward. The film also delves into the relationship between man and nature. The vast, beautiful yet indifferent landscapes contrast with the raw human emotions of greed, revenge, and resilience. The fur trade, with pelts as its primary product, serves as a bridge between the two, connecting man’s innate desire to conquer with nature’s unforgiving indifference.

The film also subtly touches on the environmental and moral implications of the fur trade. While pelts are highly valuable, their acquisition comes at a cost. The relentless hunting and trapping have consequences not only for the animals but also for the environment and the relationships between various groups and individuals.

The Legacy of Pelts in Historical Context

While The Revenant offers a cinematic interpretation, the history of the fur trade and the significance of pelts is rooted in reality. Pelts were a major economic driver in the 18th and 19th centuries, shaping the development of North America. They played a pivotal role in the exploration of the continent, establishment of trade routes, and even in setting territorial boundaries.

The film, through its intense and visceral portrayal, offers viewers a glimpse into this significant chapter of history. It provides a perspective on how something as seemingly simple as animal furs could shape economies, destinies, and lives.

The Revenant, with its focus on Hugh Glass’s harrowing journey, skillfully intertwines the tale of survival with the fur trade’s broader narrative. Pelts, in this movie, are not just passive commodities; they’re active drivers of the story, representing survival, betrayal, greed, and the ongoing conflict between man and nature. Through the lens of this film, viewers get a sense of the historical, economic, and personal importance of these animal furs, underscoring their significance in the tapestry of North American history.

Portray of the Indigenous Peoples and Their Role in the Fur Trade

The portrayal of Native American tribes in The Revenant adds depth and dimension to the story. The film doesn’t merely focus on the harrowing journey of Hugh Glass; it intricately weaves the experiences and perspectives of indigenous peoples into the narrative. Their involvement in the fur trade, while at times acting as allies, competitors, or antagonists to European trappers, paints a picture of a complex frontier landscape.

Indigenous tribes, such as the Arikara and the Pawnee, are depicted with a certain level of authenticity. Their way of life, interactions with the fur traders, and the challenges they faced from encroaching settlers, are all spotlighted. The film touches upon their dependence on and reverence for the land, contrasting this with the often exploitative approach of the European settlers and traders.

The role of the fur trade in exacerbating tensions, with tribes either collaborating with traders or confronting them to protect their territories and interests, is portrayed convincingly.

Hugh Glass: How Accurate Is His Portrayal?

Hugh Glass is not just a fictional character conjured for cinematic thrill. He was a real-life frontiersman and fur trapper whose legendary tale of survival against all odds in the early 19th century has become a part of American folklore. His story, involving a brutal bear attack and being left for dead by his expedition team, forms the central plot of The Revenant.

However, the film, while staying true to the core elements of Glass’s survival tale, does incorporate fictional elements for dramatic effect. For instance, the subplot involving Glass’s son is a creation of the filmmakers and is not found in historical records. Similarly, some events and timelines are adjusted for narrative flow.

What are Pelts in The Revenant

Historical accounts, primarily based on tales passed down through generations, paint a picture of an incredibly resilient man who traversed around 200 miles, injured and alone, seeking safety and later confronting those who abandoned him. While the exact details of his journey, encounters, and motivations might differ between the film and historical records, the essence of Glass’s indomitable spirit and will to survive remains consistent.

Were Real Animals Used in the Revenant?

In the making of The Revenant, director Alejandro González Iñárritu and the production team were committed to portraying the raw and brutal realities of frontier life in the 1820s. However, they were also mindful of modern sensibilities and ethical concerns regarding animal welfare.

No real animals were killed specifically for the film. Instead, the production used a combination of visual effects, animatronics, and other film techniques to depict scenes involving animals, particularly for sequences that might harm or distress them.

The bear attack scene, which is one of the most talked-about sequences in the movie, was achieved through an intricate mix of CGI, stunt work, and clever camera angles. Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Hugh Glass, worked with the visual effects team and stunt coordinators to make the scene as realistic as possible without harming any real bears.

For scenes involving dead animals or animal carcasses, the film used props, practical effects, or sourced ethically obtained pelts and carcasses.

What Are the Skulls in The Revenant?

In The Revenant, skulls and other symbolic elements are used to enhance the film’s themes and atmosphere. The movie is filled with haunting imagery that underscores the rawness of frontier life, the violence of nature and man, and the spiritual undertones of Hugh Glass’s journey of survival and revenge.

Here’s a breakdown of the significance of skulls and similar imagery in the film:

  • Nature’s Indifference: Skulls can be seen in various scenes, especially in the backdrop, illustrating the harshness and indifference of nature. They are reminders of the death that lurks around every corner in the wild and signify the transient nature of life in such a ruthless environment.
  • Cultural and Spiritual Symbolism: The presence of skulls, particularly in scenes involving Native American tribes, imbue the film with spiritual depth. In many indigenous cultures, skulls and bones are not merely reminders of death; they are also symbols of life, cycles, rebirth, and the ancestors. Their presence can hint at the spiritual journey Glass undergoes, his connections and disconnections with the land and its original inhabitants.
  • Markers of Conflict: Skulls also serve as evidence of the ongoing conflicts between different groups in the film. The frontier was a space of cultural, economic, and territorial clashes between Native American tribes, European settlers, and fur traders. Skulls and remains can be seen as the aftermath of these confrontations.
  • Personal Transformation: For Hugh Glass, the journey is as much an internal one as it is a physical quest for survival. The skulls can symbolize his own grappling with mortality, the deaths he’s witnessed, and the personal transformations he undergoes as he confronts his own demons and past.

In The Revenant, skulls are not just morbid decorations. They’re intricately woven into the film’s narrative, adding layers of meaning, emotion, and depth to an already intense story. The use of such imagery invites viewers to reflect on life, death, nature, and the human spirit’s resilience.