The Watchful Gods and Other Stories

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First edition
(publ. Random House)

The Watchful Gods and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Walter Van Tilburg Clark published in 1950. It brings together eight stories and one novella (the title story). Three of the stories had already appeared in the annual anthology of O. Henry Award-winning stories, most notably "The Wind and the Snow of Winter" which was selected by that anthology, in 1945, as their "first-place winner."[1] Since this book's publication, two other stories have remained notable: "The Portable Phonograph" and "Hook" have both been widely anthologized since they were published.[2]

This is the only short story collection that Clark ever published. Along with a few of these stories, Clark is best known for his first novel, the classic Western The Ox-Bow Incident, which was published in 1940.


The stories in the book appear in the following sequence:

  • "Hook"
  • "The Wind and the Snow of Winter" [n 1] [3][4]
  • "The Rapids"
  • "The Anonymous"
  • "The Buck in the Hills"*
  • "Why Don't You Look Where You're Going?"*
  • "The Indian Well"
  • "The Fish Who Could Close His Eyes"
  • "The Portable Phonograph" [n 2]
  • "The Watchful Gods"


  • Of the nine stories in this volume, "Hook" first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly; "The Wind and the Snow of Winter" and "The Portable Photograph" in The Yale Review; "The Rapids", "Why Don't You Look Where You're Going?", and "The Indian Well" in Accent; "The Anonymous" in The Virginia Quarterly Review; "The Buck in the Hills" in The Rocky Mountain Review; "The Fish Who Could Close His Eyes" in Tomorrow. The novella, "The Watchful Gods" is published here for the first time.
  • Clark dedicated this book: for A.E. Hill.


After they began appearing in national magazines during the 1940s, Clark's short stories gained national recognition, and earned five O. Henry Prize's between 1941 and 1945.[5] These were:

  1. "Hook" in 1941.
  2. "The Portable Photograph" in 1942.
  3. "The Return of Ariel Goodbody" in 1943. Note that this story was not republished in The Watchful Gods and it remains uncollected.
  4. "The Buck in the Hills in 1944.
  5. "The Wind And The Snow Of Winter" in 1945, and was the O. Henry anthology "first prize winner" for that year.

Since this initial success, some of these stories, notably "Hook" and "The Wind And The Snow Of Winter,"[6] have consistently been anthologized as classic examples of the genre.[7][8]"The Portable Phonograph" has also received steady attention during the years since it was first published.[9]


  1. ^ The narrative strings together various memories that filter through the mind of Mike Braneen as he makes his way into the town of Gold Rock for the winter:

    "Braneen spends eight months of every year—from April to December—in the mountains, and when the first snow falls he takes refuge in the little mining town of Gold Rock. For eight months, Mike is alone, with only his burro for company. However, in his loneliness be perpetually relives the social phase of his life. Though comfortable with his solitary life, Mike’s self-identity is clearly defined by his human relationships."

  2. ^ Clark's short story, "The Portable Phonograph" - a poignant depiction of survivors in the aftermath of nuclear war - is also well known. Clark gives clues and hints of this throughout the beginning by writing in a narrative voice and describing the scene in dark war-like terms. The characters are then introduced as a group of men huddled around a fire. One of them, a doctor has a portable phonograph.


  1. ^ "Bold Type: O. Henry Award Winners 1919-1999". 11 December 2013. 
  2. ^ The Watchful Gods and Other Stories, Random House (New York, NY), 1950. Reprinted, University of Nevada Press (Reno, NV), 2004. With a "Foreword" by Ann Ronald.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Walter Van Tilburg Clark Biography". 
  6. ^ "University of Nevada Press". 4 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "Walter Van Tilburg Clark - ONE". 
  8. ^ Walter Van Tilburg Clark: The reason for the Nevada author’s sudden silence is still shrouded in mystery by Michael Engelmann, accessed 08 November 2014
  9. ^ "The Portable Phonograph". Retrieved 2010-08-24. 

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