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Green Mansions

forest rima abel hudson

W. H. Hudson's best-known work, first published in 1904. The novel takes its title from the words of its central protagonist, the political refugee Abel Guevez de Argensola, whose wanderings lead him to ‘that wild forest, those green mansions where I … found so great a happiness’. Abel receives hospitality from an Indian tribe who live on the fringes of the tropical Venezuelan forest, but incurs disapproval by repeatedly visiting an area their superstitions forbid him to enter; there he is enchanted by ‘a voice purified and brightened to something almost angelic’, which belongs to Rima, a beautiful girl possessing magical affinities with the forest. An intense love develops between the two, but Rima is killed when she falls into a fire the Indians build around the base of a tall tree into which she has fled from them. Abel's grief and rage drive him to engineer the massacre of the tribe by their enemies; bearing Rima's ashes, he returns to civilization stricken with guilt over his murderous actions. The book's success as an allegory of man's destructive violations of the beauty and sanctity of nature is largely a product of Hudson's vividly imaginative presentation of the forest; luxuriant imagery of dense vegetation in the constant play of light and shade forms a background to recurrent minutely observed descriptions of birds, snakes, and other creatures he had studied as a naturalist. Jacob Epstein's sculptural depiction of Rima is sited at the bird sanctuary in Hyde Park commemorating Hudson, which was opened in 1925.

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