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Authors: Farley Mowat

Gorillas in the Mist

BOOK: Gorillas in the Mist
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People of the Deer
The Regiment
Lost in the Barrens
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be
Coppermine Journey
(editor) (1958)
Grey Seas Under
The Desperate People
Ordeal by Ice
Owls in the Family
The Serpent’s Coil
The Black Joke
Never Cry Wolf
The Curse of the Viking Grave
Canada North
(illustrated edition 1967)
The Polar Passion
Canada North Now
(revised paperback edition 1967)
This Rock Within the Sea
(with John de Visser) (1968)
The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float
The Siberians
A Whale for the Killing
Wake of the Great Sealers
(with David Blackwood) (1973)
The Snow Walker
And No Birds Sang
The World of Farley Mowat
(edited by Peter Davison) (1980)
Sea of Slaughter
My Discovery of America
Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey
(1987; renamed
Gorillas in the Mist
, 2009)
The New Founde Land
Rescue the Earth!
My Father’s Son
Born Naked
A Farley Mowat Reader
(edited by Wendy Thomas) (1997)
The Farfarers
High Latitudes
Walking on the Land
No Man’s River
Bay of Spirits

For Nyiramachabelli
and for those she loved


As will be seen, a great many people have contributed to this book in one way or another. I am grateful to them all, but the following deserve my special thanks.

Wade Rowland, my associate in this project, who scoured three continents in pursuit of interviews and who was responsible for locating and gaining access to Dian Fossey’s personal archives. His contributions have been invaluable.

Mary Elliott, my secretarial assistant, who deciphered Dian’s sometimes nearly illegible notes and journals and who typed the several versions of the manuscript with magical speed and precision.

Lily Poritz Miller, my editor, who rescued the book, and me, after I became so embroiled in Dian’s life that I thought myself lost forever.

Rosamond Carr, Dian’s closest friend in Rwanda.

Stacey Coil and Ian Redmond of the Digit Fund, for their staunch service to the cause of the mountain gorillas.

Contributions to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (formerly the Digit Fund) will be gratefully accepted and can be made through the organization’s website,

Grateful acknowledgment is given to the following for their kind permission to use material:

Kelly Stewart, Ph.D., for the poem on page 138.

The New York Times
for portions of articles which appear on pages 338-339 and on page 345. Copyright © 1981-1982 by
The New York Times
, reprinted by permission.

The Associated Press for portions of an article which appears on page 421, reprinted by permission.

Houghton Mifflin Company and Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd. for excerpts from
Gorillas in the Mist
by Dian Fossey, which appear on pages 37-38, 127, 128-129, 144, 232-233, 236-237, and 248. Copyright © 1983, reprinted by permission.

Ian Redmond for the original sketches for the maps.

Richard and Kitty Price for access to the letters and papers of Dian Fossey.

Photo Credits:

Peter G. Veit/DRK Photo

Bob Campbell/© 1971 National Geographic Society

Bob Campbell

Peter G. Veit/DRK Photo

Fossey archive/© 1981 National Geographic Society


Dian with her gorilla friends sharing the intimacy of touch, the closeness she spent long, lonely years developing.


Dian Fossey never spoke about writing her autobiography, but that she someday hoped to do so is evident from notations in her journals and from the fact that she went to great pains to amass and preserve an extraordinarily complete personal archive.

This massive collection included the correspondence received by her since the days of her youth together with copies of most of her own letters. In addition, she preserved her own writings and musings, both published and unpublished; a comprehensive file of what was written about her; a set of daily journals; an enormous mass of observations of both animals and people, together with a miscellaneous collection of documents covering every aspect of her years in Africa.

When my associate in this project, Wade Rowland, uncovered Dian’s archives, I was jubilant. It appeared to be the sort of treasure trove every biographer dreams of acquiring. However, as I immersed myself in this detailed record of a human life and began to listen to Dian’s own voice telling her own story, I felt much less comfortable with my role as her biographer. In truth, I began to feel like an intruder. Consequently, I made the decision to abandon the usual biographer’s role as recorder and commentator and to settle for something in the nature of an editorial collaborator.

Insofar as I have been able to make it so, what follows is Dian Fossey’s own account of her life. Her voice is paramount throughout, and I have muted mine—a claim which may inspire some initial incredulity in those who know me.

To make this work, I have arranged that Dian’s own words be set in a distinct typeface. I have occasionally reshaped awkwardly phrased source material into descriptive scenes and dialogue. But in all such cases, the reworked version remains faithful to the record.

I never met Dian Fossey in the flesh, but I have lived with her on terms of intense intimacy for more than a year. Having read thousands of her letters, her diaries and journals, her printed words, and having listened to scores of people who knew her in life, she has become as achingly familiar to me as if we were of one blood.

I would be happy if we were.

Port Hope, Ontario, Canada
June 1st, 1987

— 1 —

either destiny nor fate took me to Africa. Nor was it romance. I had a deep wish to see and live with wild animals in a world that hadn’t yet been completely changed by humans. I guess I really wanted to go backward in time. From my childhood I believed that was what going to Africa would be, but by 1963, when I was first able to make a trip there, it was not that way anymore. There were only a few places other than the deserts and the swamps that hadn’t been overrun by people. Almost at the end of my trip I found the place I had been looking for.

Right in the heart of central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat, are great, old volcanoes towering up almost fifteen thousand feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rain forest—the Virungas.

Going to Africa was one of many dreams that filled Dian Fossey’s lonely childhood. Her father, George Fossey, son of an English immigrant, was a big, affable, outdoorsy type who loved his little daughter but hated his impoverished life as an insurance agent in San Francisco. In consequence he drank too much, which got him into trouble with the law and finally brought on a divorce that took him out of Dian’s life in 1938 when she was six. A year later her mother, Kitty, married
Richard Price, an ambitious, hard-driving building contractor. In the beginning, George Fossey tried to keep in touch with Dian, sending her pictures of himself in his navy uniform during the war; but even his name was taboo in the Price household and eventually he drifted out of sight.

Although she dutifully called him Daddy, Dian’s stepfather never adopted her. Richard Price was a stern traditionalist who believed that children should be properly disciplined. Until she was ten, Dian was not even permitted to take her evening meal with Richard and Kitty, but ate in the kitchen with the housekeeper. “I had always been brought up to think that children dined with adults when they were becoming adults,” Price offered in justification.

Like many lonely children Dian loved animals and took comfort from their undemanding acceptance of her; yet she was not permitted any pets of her own except for a goldfish, upon which she lavished the affection that had few other outlets. The death of the fish left her desolate.

I cried for a week when I found him floating belly up in the bowl in my room. My parents thought it was good riddance, so I never got another. A friend at school offered me a hamster, but they considered it dirty, so that was out.

BOOK: Gorillas in the Mist
3.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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