Dances with Wolves

ISBN: 0972475303
ISBN 13: 9780972475303
By: Michael Blake

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About this book

Ordered to hold an abandoned army post, John Dunbar found himself alone, beyond the edge of civilization. Thievery and survival soon forced him into the Indian camp, where he began a dangerous adventure that changed his life forever. Relive the adventure and beauty of the incredible movie, DANCES WITH WOLVES.

Reader's Thoughts


Fortunately I had well forgotten the movie I saw years ago, without a shred of memory as to it's content, other then based in the west with Indians. I just happened to stumble onto this book for .50cents in a European book shop. English books are rare enough, for sale even rarer, so I scooped it up. That was only a couple days ago and I gobbled up this small novel in my very scare free-time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The freedom the man felt time and again, brought me to tears on occasion. I wouldn't say it was the most fantastic work, but it was well written, simple and pure. The beauty of each thoughtful, pondering sentiment John had was well depicted and the story really resonated with me.

Aaron Milavec

#2 Dances with Wolves is a 1988 novel written by Michael Blake. It was written as a possible source for a screenplay, and was later adapted by the author, and was produced as a film of the same name in 1990 by Kevin Costner, although there were many differences between the novel and film. The novel is set during the American Civil War. The protagonist of the novel, Lt. John Dunbar, is a white man who ends up in the wilderness and comes to live with a tribe of American Natives, eventually taking on the name Dances with Wolves.   Roger Ebert, a recently decease movie critic whom I always trusted, writes: The movie is a simple story, magnificently told. It has the epic sweep and clarity of a Western by John Ford, and it abandons the contrivances of ordinary plotting to look, in detail, at the way strangers get to know one another. The film is seen from the point of view of Dunbar (Costner), a lieutenant in the Union Army, who runs away from a field hospital as his foot is about to be amputated, and invites death by riding his horse in a suicidal charge at the Confederate lines. When he miraculously survives, he is decorated and given his choice of any posting, and he chooses the frontier, because "I want to see it before it's gone."  [The year is 1866 and the hunt for buffalo and wolves is in full swing.] He draws an isolated outpost in the Dakotas, where he is the only white man for miles around. He is alone, but at first not lonely; he keeps a journal and writes of his daily routine, and after the first contact with the Sioux [and with a lone wolf] he documents the way they slowly get to know one another. Dunbar possesses the one quality he needs to cut through the entrenched racism of his time: He is able to look another man in the eye, and see the man, rather than his attitudes about the man. As Dunbar discovers the culture of the Sioux [and of the wolf], so do we. The Indians know the white man is coming, and they want to learn more about his plans. They have seen other invaders in these parts: the Spanish, the Mexicans, but they always left. Now the Indians fear the white man is here to stay. They want Dunbar to share his knowledge, but at first he holds back. He does not wish to discourage them. And when he finally tells how many whites will be coming ("As many as the stars in the sky"), the words fall like a death knell. . . The movie makes amends, of a sort, for hundreds of racist and small-minded Westerns that went before it. By allowing the Sioux to speak in their own tongue, by entering their villages and observing their ways, it sees them as people, not as whooping savages in the sights of an Army rifle. . . . (source) This novel and film presents a whole new way of creating a “Western.” In the classical Westerns, there are clean lines drawn between the good and the bad, and, no matter how much the good are trampled upon and beaten down by the bad men, they rise in the end to wreck vengeance upon their adversaries. In these classic Westerns, however, every Indian [Native American] is a bad man raiding wagon trains or army forts in order to steal what they are unable to work for or to make for themselves. In Blake’s novel, however, for the first time an army officer has something very important to learn from the Sioux warriors that he periodically meets at his isolated post. The lines between good and bad are smudged. Now the white man is learning from the red man—a reversal of things. The film that matches this theme in my mind is “Avatar” (2009). In this high-tech film the industrial miners from planet Earth are ruthless in their drive to steal the raw resources that a local tribe of Na'vi – a humanoid species indigenous to Pandora—has inadvertently concentrated just under their ancient sacred tree. The film's title refers to a genetically engineered Na'vi body that can be animated by the mind of a remotely located human. The use of “avatars” was originally intended to facilitate contact with the Na’vi and to win their cooperation. But the military types are just as anxious to have this experiment at dialogue fail so that they can unleash their firepower and to get to do what comes naturally—search and destroy.  Roger Ebert says: The Na'vi survive on this planet by knowing it well, living in harmony with nature, and being wise about the creatures they share with. In this and countless other ways they resemble Native Americans. Like them, they tame another species to carry them around--not horses, but graceful flying dragon-like creatures. Then one single person, Jake Sully, a paraplegic former marine, makes a breakthrough. He is befriended by a female Na’vi warrior who decides that Jake has shown promise for coming to understand and appreciate the life and culture of the Na’vi. At a critical point, the spiritual Mother of the Na’vi bluntly asks Jake, “What makes you think that you can succeed where so many others have failed [to understand us]?” His response: “I am empty [of selfish aims and of prejudices]. Hence, I might be able to succeed where others have failed.”  This is the magic frame-of-mind that is needed. And this is exactly where this film meets Dancing with Wolves. Jake Sully and Dunbar are both wounded soldiers whose whole view of life has been pushed to the limits and is breaking up. Hence, they are open to a new start and a new understanding. Both soldiers no longer trust the solutions that come at the end of a rifle. They are empty . . . and ready to move into the unknown. . . . The encounter will surely change the future for both sides of the equation. [See my review of The Loop for more details.]

Andrew Patterson

** spoiler alert ** This is a wonderful novel written by Michael Blake about a man in the Civil War. This books main character is Lieutenant John Dunbar who injures his foot during the war thus distracting the confederates on his side. Later, he travels to his new army post and finds it abandoned, he then procceds to rebuild it where he encounters the Sioux tribe of that area. He finds a tribe woman by the name of "Stands With A Fist". She is injured so he takes her back to the tribe to be treated and encounters the chief. "Stands With A Fist" acts as a translator for Dunbar so the can establish communication. As Dunbar keeps digging in to the tribe's life style, he loses connection with his job in the military and the real world. Dunbar has earned the name "Dances With Wolves" within the tribe because of his relation with "Two Socks" ( a wolf with two white paws that he befriended at the abandoned military camp). Near the end of the story, when the army comes to find Dunbar, he chooses to fight for the Sioux tribe against the military, the tribe and Dunbar retreat into the woods to escape the military, thus ending the novel.I enjoyed reading this book because of the brilliant plot that lies within it. I would mostly recommend this book to anyone of the age of teen, to adult. This story had the ability to play upon thoughts and feelings. The story of a military man later falling in love with tribe makes for a truly astonishing plot sequence. This book had a strong connection to me that meant that even though you may be binded or trapped to things (like the military), you still feel a strong need to always follow the things you care about. Again, I feel that this is a great novel, I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read it, and I myself have truly enjoyed diving in to this wonderful story.


I'm impressed with the author, who read books on Indian history for years and years before writing this book, his first novel.I've long enjoyed reading about Native Americans, and keeping their history alive in the minds of the collective public is incredibly important. This book portrayed Comanches, though the movie portrayed Sioux. Blake noted the difference in the afterword but also said he felt the change was okay because their "essential components of spirit and wisdom" are the same.Other difference--Dunbar is 29, Stands With A Fist is 26. Kevin Costner and the leading actress were greatly older. The book ending has Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist staying with the tribe. The movie shows them leaving camp so soldiers wouldn't track them down. I think the movie ending was much more heartfelt and heartbreaking. I have a feeling Black couldn't bring himself to tear apart his characters. He was too close to them. Great book, though.


Love this book...The movie is great, but the book sort of fill in the blank of some scene of the movie. There are some very important issues that are only shown briefly. For instance, in the movie when the Lt. gets to Fort Sedgwick and finds it deserted, you are left wondering, just like the characters what happened; did the Indians killed them or did they die because there were no ammunition and food supply? yet the book described that due to these same reasons the group decided to go back to Fort Hayes instead of waiting to see if supply would be brought to them, however they took another route and were not able to meet each other on the way...descriptive and provides a better and more realistic portrait of Native Americans.


I decided to read this book because I wanted to see how it differed from the film. Usually a novel is so much better than the film adaptation because it is filled with much more detail and depth. However, with this book I would have to say if you've seen the film you've basically read the book. There are some minor points that are different (for example in the book the Indians are Comanche not Sioux) and there are some minor scenes that are a little different, but overall the film followed the book fairly closely. It was okay to read, but not one I would have to have in my personal collection to read over and over again. In fact, if I had not seen the film this book would have been a very dull read for me. Because I've seen the movie it was easier to get through the dry spots because I knew some more interesting scenes were likely to come up soon. It was an okay read, but not one I would necessarily recommend.

Michael Stephens

I think that this book has a lot of interesting insights into the American Indian tribes culture and traditions. As well as having a very explosive and exciting story line that is constantly leaving you in cliff hangers not wanting to put the book down. I found the overall story of what happened to Lt. Dunbar to be highly intriguing, this was because in the beginning he was all about serving the military and being on the frontier expanding the U.S.'s reach all the way to the west. Then there's the exciting twist that you do not see coming. This book has many themes, but the main theme within this story is that you should not judge a book by its cover. Even though everyone in society was saying that the American Indians were savages and were below people. Once Dunbar got to know them, he saw that, that was not true at all. They were very civilized and a lot nicer than people in the white man society. I would definitely suggest this book, it is a good read and good story.

Birupakhya Dash

** spoiler alert ** Ah... the journey of Loo-ten-nant Dunbar from being the lone man guarding an abandoned outpost to being a Comanche warrior, is a treat of senses. The narration of the subtle details in such meticulous expertise has made me an ardent fan of this man - Michael Blake. In fact, the truth is that I always wanted to write, the way he does. I don't know how far I am in achieving it, but all I know is that the book is an awesome collection of emotions, and truly a treat to read. However, he has missed out in certain places. He (the author) mentions in the starting phase how much the girl - the milady of captain dunbar - longed for the blood of the Indians who killed her family, but she never gets to fight the Indians till the end. To be frank, I was waiting for a fight with the Indians, more than the English. The skew of Dunbar's opinion against the English, was something I had very much anticipated, and was almost obvious. Anyways, now that I am done with the book, I want to see the movie.


Off course I saw the movie and it's one of my favorites of all-time. I had this book on my shelve for a while and with the theme I have this month I finally had the perfect reason to read it. We follow John Dunbar in his journey to discovering the Comache. The great thing about this book is that the American soldiers aren't depicted as heroes and the Comache as bad guys. I got a lot of respect for the Comache and disrespect for the American soldiers. They acted really cowardly and it really broke my heart when they killed Two Sox. The strenght of this books is that it isn't very spectacular but it doesn't bore you for one minute. And I love the change that Dunbar goes through, from being a Settler to joining a Native American tribe and eventually becoming Dances with Wolves. And the lovestory between him and Stands with a Fist doesn't dominate. There is a good balance between drama and romance. A fantastic start for my challenge of 2012.


This book tells a really good story of Ltd. Dunbar, sent out into the frontier during the civil war. He just wants to get away from life, get to the frontier, not yet settled. When he arrives, no one is there and he's left alone. But, he likes it. I love how he just adapts to the frontier and once stripped of his uniform, he is able to meet with the Native Americans and know them as people. I think he comes to understand humanity a lot better and by the end of the book I kept praying that history would change and we didn't kill the Indians. They're better with the land. So, now I want to go move to an indian reservation and smoke their pipes and wear a buffalo hide.....


I saw the movie many years ago, when it first came out, loved it. I didn't realize it had been based off a book. Read the book and was so glad I found it. A beautiful story about the Native American way of life.


This was a great read---I had seen the movie and was familiar with the story, but the book gave me an enhanced appreciation of the characters and era in question. Blake is a good descriptive writer and made the story come alive for me. I admire him for taking on such a potentially sensitive topic, and found the book dealt well with any potential landmines. Not much else to say about it. A good read, and highly recommended.

Keith Slade

OK novel about white man among Indians and adopting their culture. The movie is not bad too, but in the book it's Comanches not the Lakota or Sioux.


Next is Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake. John Dunbar is assigned to an abandoned frontier army fort, with a wolf and a horse and himself. Alone. And no one alive knows he is there. Kicking Bird and Wind in His Hair, Comanche Indians, try to steal his horse, but it escapes and returns to him. They become fascinated with him, the Man as White as Snow, and often visit him, smoking and drinking coffee. He tries to learn their language, as they all wait for the buffalo. Slowly, he becomes Indian, even falling in love. Essentially, it's the story of how he becomes an Indian. I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of The Red Badge of Courage, which I read last year. The characters were interesting, and I had no problem with this novel, except that two animals die. I am waiting for the movie to arrive so I can watch that.

Tommy /|

As I had seen (and fell completely in love with the storyline) the movie - I had a fairly good idea of what I was getting into by reading the book. However, there were small changes in various places -- include tow huge plot changes that made the novel a nearly fresh experience for me towards the end. In the final notes, the author noted that he wrote this more as a depiction of daily life among the Plains Indians, and less of a story about how an American Union soldier changed his manner of thinking and believing by living among a tribe of Indians. As such, the novel captured this sense of living in perfect coordination with the land and one's environment in a very deep way. There were times I felt I was nearly experiencing Shamanic trance states through the marvelous depictions in several passages. I cannot recommend this book highly enough -- even if you have seen the movie.

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