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Brian Wallace Professor Emre Koyuncu English 106 2/23/12 Timothy the Protector? Everybody is different because everyone has different interests. Some interests are stronger to themselves than others. Whether you want to admit it or not, I believe most people have an obsession for something. It can be as simple as being obsessed with a certain type of food, or as complicated as being obsessed with where everything has to be placed in your house. Either way it makes all of us unique in certain ways. Timothy Tredwell was known for his unusual behavior and his love for the things that no one else seemed to care about. Tredwell began his journey to Alaska as a bear lover, but as the years progressed that love became an obsession, and Timothy was never able to fully fulfill his obsession. He was killed by one of the bears he swore to protect. Many seem to think that his death was a travesty but in reality he wouldn’t have wanted to die any other way. It’s quite ironic that the thing he devoted his entire life to, killed him. Timothy Tredwell did not go year after year to Alaska to protect the Grizzly Bears. Instead, he went in order to observe the bears, express his inner child, and fulfill his obsession. The Movie “Grizzly Man” is a documentary about Timothy Tredwell who tried to make a difference in Alaska by spending countless summers in the wilderness with all sorts of animals. Timothy Tredwell created an adventure for everyone else to see through his own eyes. He


created his own fantasy land in the Alaskan wilderness with the animals. It wasn’t just the bears that Timothy was attracted to. He also enjoyed the company of the wild foxes because they seemed to be a companion. He was able to pet them, and fall asleep with them in his arms. The bears and foxes had friends, personalities, and even names. It wasn’t all fun and games for him in the wild though. He had to be on his guard at all times not only from wildlife but from poachers and the government. In the documentary, Tredwell shows footage of poachers sitting on the bank of a river observing bears. He also points out how poachers had sabotaged old campsites and left warnings or gestures to suggest they know he’s out there. In result, Timothy had to begin to hide his campsites in thick tree lines throughout the Alaskan wilderness. Timothy Tredwell didn’t observe the bears through his eyes only. Living with the bears became his job and everything else seemed irrelevant. He created hundreds of hours of research with one single camera. One of the greatest things about his video footage is that fact that’s its all caught while the bears are in their natural habitat and not in a zoo or monitored area. Clips of bears catching their dinner, sleeping, and fighting for dominance is only a glimpse of what he caught on video. His observations and research was not only a benefit to this documentary, but it sparked interest in students all around the world. When Tredwell wasn’t spending his summers in Alaska with the bears, he would spend his time traveling around the world and talking to students at schools He was able to educate them about the bears using his research and experiences. He never charged for this service, for him it was doing something he loved and he figured why not share his interests with the future of this planet.


When watching the movie you realize a different tone and attitude coming from Tredwell that you do not see from men. I believe it was his way of showing the child he had inside himself. Even his appearance was that of a child. Brinks talks about Tredwells childish style in his essay saying “Treadwell projects a child-like persona, conveyed in part by his abundant energy, by his “Prince Valiant” haircut, by his diet of peanut butter sandwiches, candy bars, and Coke; and by the presence of his childhood teddy bear as tent-mate” (Brinks 305). His Prince Valiant haircut looked like a six year old in a forty year old man’s body. The teddy bear represented, in my opinion, that just like a child, everything that Timothy did was from the bottom of his heart and innocent. Just like a young child with his teddy bear, Tredwell was an innocent little boy. Another sign of his inner child is when he played with the foxes. There is numerous footage of him running around in the long grass chasing or being chased by the quick and nimble foxes. Timothy does the smallest things with his camera that most people do not pick up on during his thirteen year run. For example, Tredwell became very good with his camera and was able to create an illusion that more than one person was around all the time. He also enjoyed playing around with his camera and creating action scenes where he would pop out of a bush or coming running into focus from the distance. Also Tredwell liked to rant on the camera about how he was feeling and sometimes would retake it several times until he thought he got his point across. Sometimes he would even lose control of his emotions and start to cry like a little kid while the camera was rolling. He never turned off the camera when this happened because the wanted the watchers to understand how much he cared for these animals and what it really meant to him. Before Timothy began his journey to Alaska, he lived a life that was normal to most people. According to the documentary, Timothy had a bit of a drinking problem. He was a


college athlete and a terrific student, but as the years progressed during college he became an avid drinker and because of this his grades dropped along with the loss of his scholarship. The point for explaining his background is to show that when Timothy finds something he enjoys, it takes over his life. Nothing else seems relevant or important anymore. The same thing happened after the first time he came to Alaska. He immediately fell in love with the place and what it had to offer. Tredwell never drank during his thirteen visits to the summers of Alaska, and I believe the reason was because that he found something new to feed his obsession. It transferred from alcohol to bears in just one visit. He obsessed so much that he was able to tell all the bears apart along with giving them their own significant names. The foxes also played a part in his obsession because they were always around them. He fed them and slept with them every night. In almost all of his scenes in the documentary there is a fox in the picture that he is petting or talking to. He even took it to the point that he set up his campsite between two fox dens in order to always be around them. It is funny how an opinion or interest can change just overnight. A great personal example that I can relate with Timothy is how your persona of “home� can change in no time. When I first came to Purdue, I still considered Crown Point, IN to be my home and Purdue to be my school, but as the days went by, the college grew on me and now I have begun to call this place home. When I am back in Crown Point I always look forward to coming back to Purdue to see all my friends and familiar faces. I think the same thing happened to Tredwell when he went to Alaska. He did not know what to expect during his first visit there, but he Immediately fell in love with it and it became his new home. During the winter and fall all he looked forward to was the summer so he could go back to Alaska and see his friends and familiar faces. It grew on him more than he ever imagined, and he had no problem with it at all. I think that if it were up to him, he would stay there all year round with the wildlife because nothing was


more important to him than those bears. Throughout Timothy’s time in Alaska, he said his main goal was to protect the bears from all the things that harm them. I honestly do not believe that’s why he went there so often. He went for his own selfish benefit to observe the bears, show his inner child, and try to fill his obsession. When watching the documentary, I don’t recall an instance where Timothy did something heroic in order to protect a bear or any of the bears. The only thing I can think of that would come close to this is when he created a little path in the rocks so that water could travel down to the river for the bears. Even though this did help the bears, it didn’t have anything to do with him protecting them. All he did was interfere with the circle of life. Other than that all he did was follow the bears around and study them. He occasionally was able to come in contact with the bears. He even was able to touch the nose of a bear once without getting his head clawed off. But this does not mean that protected the bears in any sense by being able to come in contact with them. The bears and Timothy just had a mutual agreement and did not harm each other. In conclusion, I believe that Timothy Tredwell is a good and dedicated man. What he did in Alaska was respectful and honorable. Not many people are able to accomplish what that man did in thirteen summers including surviving with the grizzly bears all by himself. If I was able to speak to Timothy right now after everything that has happened; I think that he would have been proud about all the attention he has been getting the past year, and that all his hard work was well worth it in the end. He would not have regretted going back that last year because he was finally resting and able to stay in the place he loved to be at so much. He went to Alaska for research and fell in love with everything it had to offer. He said he was going to protect the bears from harmful things, but in the end the only reason he kept going back to the place he loved was because of his obsession and the need to fill the empty void in his heart.


Works Cited

Brinks, Ellen.”Uncovering the Child in Timothy Tredwell’s Feral Tale.”The Lion and the Unicorn 32.3 (2008): 304-323. Project MUSE.Web. 20 February 2012. Grizzly Man. Dir. Werner Herzog. Lions Gate Films, 2005.DVD

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