Dec 25, 2007

The Lions of Living Free

by Jack Couffer

I picked up The Lions of Living Free with a mixture of curiosity and desperation during a holiday visit to a house unpopulated by books. I found it in a used bookstore on Ocean Street in San Francisco, back in a corner mixed up with history volumes. I instantly recognized the title and quality of photographs as belonging to that series of stories about a lioness named Elsa raised by a game warden's wife and released into the African wild in the 1960's. I read the books about Elsa long ago: Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free. This slim volume is written by the filmmaker who created a movie of the second book, which is about Elsa's three wild-born cubs becoming orphaned, being captured and relocated into the Serengeti. I didn't quite know what to expect of the book. It doesn't tell much about the storyline of the film, but all about the production: how they worked with the lions, difficulties making a film while isolated in the bush, relations with the local Masai tribesmen, encounters with various wild animals, and reflections on conservation as the African beauty sank into the heart of this filmmaker. There's plenty of photographs. Told in a journalistic style, it can be a somewhat dry read but I did learn a few interesting things. If it had just been more detailed or focused more on the actual lions, I believe I would have been quite pleased.

Rating: 3/5                  96 pages, 1972

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