The Golden Spruce (book)

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The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed
Front paperback cover art for The Golden Spruce.
AuthorJohn Vaillant
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Publication date
May 17, 2005
Media typePrint (hardcover), audiobook, e-book
Followed byThe Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival 

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed is a book by American author John Vaillant.[1] It was his first book, published in May 2005.[2][3]


The book is based on a 2002 article Vaillant wrote for The New Yorker.[4]

While researching the book, Vaillant learned that the oral tradition surrounding The Golden Spruce is considered the property of various clans throughout the Pacific Northwest and requires permission to retell.[5] Speaking about the challenge of writing a book where principal characters are absent or dead, Vaillant said, "Virtually everyone leaves a trail behind them in the form of tracks, objects, relationships, official documents, and the memories of others."[6]


The book tells the story of Kiidk'yaas, or The Golden Spruce, which was a Sitka Spruce tree venerated by the Haida people. The tree itself contained a genetic mutation causing it to appear golden in color.[7] It was felled in Haida Gwaii by environmentalist Grant Hadwin.[8][9]

From Publishers Weekly:

"The felling of a celebrated giant golden spruce tree in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands takes on a potent symbolism in this probing study of an unprecedented act of eco-vandalism...It is also, in his telling, a land of virtually infinite natural resources overmatched by an even greater human rapaciousness."[10]


The Golden Spruce won the 2005 Governor General's Awards for non-fiction.[11]

The Sydney Morning Herald described the book as, "A deep-reaching account of the clash between wilderness values, the voracious logging industry, white settlers, and first nations people."[12] The New York Times said the book, "explore[s] the relationship between man and nature with lush language and page-turning suspense."[1] It has drawn comparisons to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and Flash Boys by Michael Lewis.[13][14]

In 2016, the book was adapted into a feature-length documentary titled Hadwin’s Judgement by filmmaker Sasha Snow.[11] It was the second collaboration between Snow and Vaillant; Snow's 2006 documentary Conflict Tiger was the source of inspiration for Vaillant's 2010 book The Tiger.[4] The film premiered at The Globe Theater in Calgary, Alberta on 22 January 2016.[15]


  1. ^ a b Amanda Eyre Ward (13 February 2015). "'The Jaguar's Children,' by John Vaillant". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  2. ^ Joy Tipping (1 February 2015). "Fiction review: 'The Jaguar's Children' by John Vaillant". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  3. ^ Mark Medley (25 March 2017). "The harsh reality of non-fiction writing". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b Christine Lyon (12 February 2016). "The Golden Spruce ponders the big questions". North Shore News. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  5. ^ Jeanie Barone (6 December 2017). "A Land Where Writers Are Revered". HuffPost. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  6. ^ Ian Crouch (2 September 2010). "The Exchange: John Vaillant on the Siberian Tiger". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  7. ^ Kurt Armstrong (1 May 2012). "When I Was A Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  8. ^ Michelle Norris (3 June 2005). "Killing the Golden Spruce". NPR. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  9. ^ Jason Schreurs (26 February 2016). "Career change births award-winning author John Vaillant". Powel River Peak. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  10. ^ "THE GOLDEN SPRUCE: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  11. ^ a b T'Cha Dunlevy (24 November 2015). "Movie review: One man's desperate act revisited in Hadwin's Judgement". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  12. ^ Tim Cope (20 March 2014). "Tim Cope: books that changed me". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  13. ^ Les Roka (12 April 2018). "Jonathon Thompson's River of Lost Souls superbly probes long historical chain leading to Gold King Mine disaster". The Utah Review. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  14. ^ J.R. McConvey (13 March 2015). "H is for Hawk sends you into a variegated gyre of memory, emotion and description". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  15. ^ Eric Volmers (21 January 2016). "Documentary chronicles the strange tale of logger-turned-environmentalist Grant Hadwin". The Calgary Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2018.

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