Legends of the Fall

Legends of the Fall - Jim Harrison

Legends of the Fall is a story with minimum dialogue, spanning the life of three brothers focusing on one - Tristan. Its a saga condensed into an 87 page novella and reads like an oral narration. Events are told, not shown; and the several deaths are narrated as a matter of fact with little emotional effect.

LOTF starts at a rural Montana farm around 1914 in the household of Colonel William Ludlow, US Army, Ret. His estranged wife Isabel spends her time in more socially comfortable and warmer locations on the East coast. The household is also populated by a Cree associate named One Stab, and a former outlaw - Decker, and his wife and daughter Isabel Two. Though the story covers a wide geography (over 8 cities across continents) the rural Montana farm is the anchor that the Ludlow boys return to at different stages of life.

The story opens with Colonel Ludlow's sons moving across the border to Calgary, Alberta to join the war. Alfred the eldest is the responsible insider, Tristan is the recalcitrant loner and Samuel is the baby of the family. Tristan is drawn to One-Stab from a young age and becomes steeped in Native American tradition. He seems at odds with mankind becoming increasingly civilized, and becomes drawn to the traditional and the simple, with little room for sentiment. Samuel doesn't survive the war as expected - he is killed with mustard gas, and Tristan penetrates into enemy territory on a solo killing spree scalping German soldiers in vengeance. Samuel's death pushes both Alfred and Tristan inward, their paths diverge only to intersect over family. Alfred becomes a politician and a US Senator. Tristan reconnects with his grandfather, roams the sea as a smuggler running alcohol, opium and firearms, and adventuring in general before returning to his father in Montana.

Relations between brothers become strained, families fall apart, and new families are formed before tragedies come calling in all forms. Prohibition is exploited, Irish gangs are battled and women die. 

LOTF was written in 1979 and made into a film in 1994.

legends of the fall, jim harrison, tristan ludlow, one stab, historical fiction, book, novella, usa

Recommended reading.

Traditions of the wild.

Family saga.