The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (August 2009)|
|Original title||Der Schatz der Sierra Madre|
Published in English
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a 1927 adventure novel by the mysterious German-English bilingual author B. Traven, in which two destitute Americans of the 1920s join with an old-timer, in Mexico, to prospect for gold. The book was adapted successfully as a 1948 film of the same name by John Huston.
By the 1920s the violence of the Mexican Revolution had largely subsided, although scattered gangs of bandits continued to terrorize the countryside. The newly established post-revolution government relied on the effective but ruthless Federal Police, commonly known as the Federales, to patrol remote areas and dispose of the bandits.
Foreigners, like the three American prospectors who are the focus of the story, were at very real risk of being killed by the bandits. The bandits, likewise, were given little more than a "last cigarette" by the army units after capture, even having to dig their own graves first. This is the context of the story.
Three down-and-out Americans meet by chance in the Mexican city of Tampico and discuss how to overcome their financial distress. They then set out to discover gold in the remote Sierra Madre mountains.
Once in the desert, Howard, an experienced old-timer, quickly proves to be the toughest and most knowledgeable; he is the one to discover the gold they are seeking. A mine is dug, and much gold is extracted, but one of the men (Dobbs) soon becomes greedy and begins to lose both his trust and his mind, lusting to possess the entire treasure. One day, another prospector named Lacaud follows one of the men (Curtin) from a nearby village back to the men's camp. Although the men do not initially trust Lacaud, they decide to allow him to stay and camp with them.
The bandits then reappear, pretending, very crudely, to be Federales. After a gunfight, a troop of real Federales arrives and drives the bandits away. The men soon decide to leave the mine and head to Durango to sell the gold that they have mined. Lacaud decides to stay behind, because he believes that there is more gold in the mountain. On the way, Howard is called to assist some local villagers help a sick boy, and Dobbs and Curtin have a final confrontation. Dobbs shoots Curtin, leaving him lying shot and bleeding. Dobbs continues on alone but is soon confronted and killed by the leader of the bandits and two of his remaining henchmen who, apparently, had been wandering the desert without weapons or horses after having somehow escaping the Federales. The bandits, thinking the gold dust is just worthless sand used to make the bundles of skins they were hidden in seem heavier, scatter the paydirt. They are later captured and executed by the Federales. Curtin (who has survived the attack by Dobbs) meets up with Howard and when they hear the story they can do nothing but laugh at their misfortunes.
Dobbs is often used as a foil for Howard's philosophical comments on the value of gold and one's responsibilities to one's companions.