20 Years Later: Thoughts on the Folk Appeal of Christopher McCandless

Casey R. Schmitt

Abstract


In the 20 years since the death of Christopher McCandless, his story has spread far and wide, in print, in film, and in word of mouth discussion. This essay reflects on his story from a folkloristic perspective, as emergent legend and as focal point for vernacular discussion and debate. It reflects on McCandless' folk appeal, along the way considering elements of hero narrative, wilderness enthusiast testimony, online discourse, secular pilgrimage, vernacular nature religion, and the means by which media forms can encourage and even become folklore in the modern age.


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