The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana

by Jess Nevins

Green Mansions, a Romance of the Tropical Forest (1904)

copyright © Jess Nevins 2022

Green Mansions, a Romance of the Tropical Forest was written by W.H. Hudson. Hudson (1841-1922) was a naturalist and novelist. The single work he is most remembered for now is Green Mansions, which was extremely popular when it was first published.

Green Mansions is set in the jungles of British Guiana, along the Orinoco. Abel, the callow narrator, is expelled from his native Venezuela due to political intrigues and more or less on a lark goes into the jungle. As he travels he befriends a series of natives, and he is soon living with a tribe, deep in the jungle. They tell him about a mysterious section of land that they avoid because of an evil spirit, called the “daughter of Didi,”1 who prevents them from hunting birds and animals. Abel is curious about this, not believing in evil spirits, and travels into the forbidden section of the jungle. By chance he sees a beautiful girl there. He begins looking for her, and eventually he meets her and befriends her. She is an innocent who loves the plants and animals of the jungle but dislikes people. Abel falls in love with her, and after extended exposure to him she falls in love with him. (The reader will find her love for Abel a mystery, as he is unsympathetic and unlikable). She knows little about her background except that her true people live in the land of Riolama, on the border of Guyana, so Abel accompanies her there, searching for her people. She does not find them, and when she returns to her home she is caught and burned to death by the Indians who had formerly befriended Abel.

Critics have often rhapsodized about Green Mansion’s “unearthly perception of beauty” and have claimed that the novel is “the work of a great naturalist and poet in prose.” Most readers will agree that Hudson is good at describing the jungle, but some may find his style running to the prolix and the philosophy of the novel to be vapid mysticism. Despite this, Green Mansions does stick in the mind, and naive, passionate, doomed, brutal, innocent Rima–who can catch an arrow in flight with her bare hands, but loves animals so much that she will not eat or slay any of them–stays with the reader after the book is over.

Green Mansions, thanks to its great popularity–its 1912 American edition was one of the first bestsellers for its publisher, Alfred A. Knopf (he founded his company to publish Green Mansions) and sold over 20,000 copies, going through nine reprintings by 1919, and it was even more popular with the British reading audience–was influential and continues to live on. Although Green Mansions’ popularity declined after the mid-1950s, it has since been taken up by the modern ecological movement as an important foundational text, a potent allegory of the despoliation and destruction of the Amazonian rainforest, even “a prophetic admonition to ecotourists.”2 The question can be raised of its influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes novels, Rima being similar in a number of respects to Tarzan. But there is no record of Burroughs having read Green Mansions, no copy of Green Mansions being present in his personal collection,3 and Rima is too ethereal, spiritual, and light for Tarzan. Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli (see: The Jungle Book) is a far more likely candidate for jungle hero precursors to and influences on Tarzan.

Green Mansions has lovely passages of pastoral description and a bittersweet portrayal of a doomed love, and despite its flaws is recommended to the modern reader.

Recommended Edition

Print: W.H. Hudson, Green Mansions. New York: Overlook Press, 2018.



[1] 1 W.H. Hudson, Green Mansions, a Romance of the Tropical Forest (New York: Modern Library, 1916), 49.

[2] 2 Jonathan Bate, The Song of the Earth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2000), 62.

[3] 3 Bill Hillman, “The Edgar Rice Burroughs Library,” accessed Oct. 7, 2018,