Read Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson Online


Tarka the otter pursues an active life, sometimes playful and sometimes dangerous, in the Devonshire countryside....

Title : Tarka the Otter
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780141354958
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Tarka the Otter Reviews

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-04-18 11:12

    This is the life story of an otter called Tarka that means "Water Wanderer." What I like about this book is that I was able to learn so many things about an animal that I have not seen in the real world. I do not even remember seeing one in a number of zoos, both local and overseas, that I have so far been to.The writing is simple but there are so many otter-related terms that I had to google or guess while reading. First I thought I would understand the story without looking up for those words but I was continuously lost page after page until I checked and learned that "dog" is how a male otter is called, "bitch" is for female otters and "whelp" or "pup" for baby otter. [You have to understand that there are no otters here in the Philippines.] In those few pages when there where the word "dog" I thought that the otters had a dog in their midst. So, I wondered for a bit, why is the dog not harassing the otter when otters have some resemblance to mice being part of the same family? Lesson: consult the dictionary, K.D. or better yet get a Kindle so you just hover on the word and you'll automatically see its meaning. Maybe, in the next Christmas bonus. The narration is in the POV of Tarka so it is based on the eye-level and viewpoint of the animal and not those of human being. So, the swamp is a big body of water, the shrub is described as a tree, on ordinary (not rampaging) river is a challenge to cross, etc. It is obvious that Williamson spent a lot of time researching about otters just to make sure that their natural behavior was captured accurately in the story.At first, I also thought that this was a children's book until I noticed that there is no fantasy element in the story: the animals (otters, seal, rats, fox, owl, etc) have no dialogues. For example, otters yikker and Williamson used the actual sounds of their shrieks or cries in the story like: hompa, hompa, hompa, ik-yang, wuff, wuff, etc that appear in italics in the narrative. Since there are no dialogues, I understand that some readers might find this boring. However, if you read slowly, you would notice some paragraphs or phrases are poetic. According to Wiki, Williamson was first and foremost known as a poet that a novelist.The story is divided into two parts: the first year and the last year. In the first year, the setting is in the river called River Taw and Tarka's lover is called Greymuzzle. In the second part, the last year, the setting is the other river called River Torridge and Tarka has a new mate White-Tip. The first part is quite boring but the action picks up in the second because of the chase and Tarka's final confrontation of the villain Deadlock. There is even a map that shows the actual place in Devon or Devonshire, a county in England. Overall, it is a nice reading experience. Learning so many things in just one small cute book. This is not a children's book but the story can be appreciated by readers in all age groups. I particularly recommend this book, however, to all animal lovers especially to those who are fond of exotic or already endangered animals.

  • Richard
    2019-04-02 09:20

    This is the most uncompromisingly "animal" of all animal stories, more like a TV nature documentary than a novel. On the one hand, the writing itself is as beautiful as the place it describes: north Devon with its deep wooded valleys and rich farmland, its high moors where wild ponies graze under huge skies, its headland-fringed coast with the tallest sea-cliffs anywhere in England, are lovingly described by a Londoner who came to know every inch of it. But on the other hand, there's no moral, no "lesson", just life in the raw the way it really is for a wild animal: cubs, parents and mates disappear from the narrative and are simply never mentioned again.It's not a book about hunting. None of its otters die of disease or old age, most are killed and most of those by people - by the otter-hunt, or in gin-traps, or cornered and battered to death as "vermin"; yet Williamson's own attitude was to some extent contradictory. He admired the huntsmen themselves for their knowledge of otters and of Nature in general - he got to know them and followed the hunt himself; but in Tarka he also managed to get down on paper, better than almost anyone else I've read, the numbed outrage I feel at senseless cruelty to animals.Environmental campaigners such as Rachel Carson have taken inspiration from this book - and, for all I know, Tarka may even have helped to save the otter itself because much has happened since 1927 when it was written. Their numbers declined for decades until otters finally disappeared completely from most of England in the 1960s (due as much to pesticides running into rivers as to hunting) and they even made it into the Red Book as "vulnerable to extinction". But then in 1978 hunting was banned, and in 1981 the landmark Wildlife and Countryside Act was passed into law, with otters as one of the first animals to come under its protection. These days they're making a comeback and the future looks bright.Tarka isn't really about all that either though, neither about hunting nor conservation; in fact just for once, refreshingly, here we have a novel which isn't about us at all - and I think maybe that at least partly explains its enduring appeal. It's a story in which humans are peripheral figures, absent altogether for much of the time and only periodically erupting into Tarka's life like just another incomprehensible destructive phenomenon, like storms, like bad luck, like winter. And in the interludes we get glimpses of a different Earth (my favourite passage in the book: Tarka and a raven playing together), the way it must have been throughout almost all its history: no "moral", no "point" to it all, just life.

  • Christina
    2019-03-30 08:20

    An un-sentimental book about an otter - and about hunting otters.In this remarkable book, we follow Tarka the Otter through his entire life. We are there from his first to his last breath, through the joys and trials of his life, struggling through the harshest of winters, his life alone and with other otters, as a cub and as a grown otter with cubs of his own.This is a hard book to rate. It follows the life of an animal but without trying to explain the animal with human feelings while still recognising that animals can feel happy about seeing each other, can protect their cubs and grieve when they loose one and how they play with each other - but it also shows how a female otter just leaves her cubs without another thought when they're old enough and an interesting male passes by. Even though our sympathy clearly lies with Tarka, he never feels truly known - he plays with his cub, but we get no descriptions of father feelings. He is truly a wild animal. There is no anthropomorphism in this book - and it stands the stronger because of this. The book vividly describes how men and dogs hunt otters for hours on end, how men use traps to catch otters (and other animals) and how animals can bite off limbs to escape from traps. It's not a nice book to read - as exemplified with this sentence about a female otter caught in a trap in the water: "Iron in the water sinks, and however long cubs call her, a bitch otter cannot swim with three legs for ever."(191) It shows how man is cruel and nature is harsh and although it was unpleasant to read about otters dying in many different ways, it was still a very good book. Only thing dragging it down is a bit too much description of the nature and especially birds and their feeding habits, otherwise I would have given it 4 stars - even though I have no intentions of ever reading it again. It should be required reading for hunters!

  • Hákon Gunnarsson
    2019-03-31 11:27

    I listened to a audio version of this book, and even though I'm not sure, I suspect it may have been an abridged version. One thing is certain, it was narrated by someone I have nothing but respect for, David Attenborough. He was the presenter of almost all the greatest nature programs that I watched on TV as a kid. The fact that he is still at it, and doing good work is pretty amazing.The reason I bring up Attenborough's nature shows is simple, listening to this book was a bit like watching one of them without any pictures. Williamson's story is fiction that sounds, and feels like non fiction. He doesn't go with the human in animal form that is so often the case in stories like this, but a animal in animal form, and to me it is all the better for it. It is fascinating to listen to. There is a lot of drama in Tarka's life, but the story is down to earth. Now I think I have to try to find a print copy of this book, because I suspect this version may have been abridged, and I would like to read it as it was originally published.

  • Ellinor
    2019-04-01 15:00

    Tarka the Otter is written in a very realistic way which doesn't humanize the animals. The language is beautiful and - not being a native speaker - I also learned lots of new words. Once I realized that by dogs, bitches and cubs the otters were meant and not actual dogs I also understood what was going on!Thsi book is often called a children's book but I surely wouldn't have liked it as a child. In spite of all the positive things mentioned above it was still all in all quite boring.

  • Rosemary
    2019-03-25 12:29

    A memorable story of a Devonshire otter and the otter hunting that went on until otters almost died out in Britain in the 1970s. Unlike some animal story authors, Williamson was as realistic as possible and doesn't have the otters talking to each other in words, so there's virtually no dialogue (just a few hunters shouting to each other). This makes it a slow and sometimes eye-glazing read. But there are some lovely descriptions of the Devon countryside and waters, and I think this is one I'll keep, because I might like to read it again sometime.

  • Laurence
    2019-03-28 13:29

    This book follows the life of an otter called Tarka. As he grows up from a young cub, we are drawn into his fascinating adventures in the rivers of North Devon. Every detail of his life is described in wonderful detail - from hunting for food to searching for his long-lost mate, from bathing on riverside boulders to escaping from the jaws of angry hounds. Such is our attachment to him by the end of the book that the sad ending is a bitter pill to swallow. Tarka the Otter has an extremely descriptive narrative and Henry Williamson pays great attention to the detail of the natural world.

  • Deanne
    2019-04-10 07:19

    Finished on the day that it was announced that otters had been spotted in Kent. This was the last county that these creatures had yet to return to since they were nearly wiped out in the 1970's. Great news as it means the rivers are heathier and it's an indication of what can be done.

  • Jessica
    2019-04-24 11:26

    3.5This book took me back to a particular moment when I was little, in front of the TV, watching a documentary about orcas. After that one I decided that I didn’t like documentaries. There you are watching the beauty of an orca for half an hour, soft slow music in the background, beautiful footage of the killer whale floating effortlessly in the vivid blue, beauty and grace; getting all emotional when she gives birth and melting over her offspring… and then just like that the overall mood of the documentary changes and suddenly the orca turns into a ruthless killer, devouring a sweet little innocent seal who was doing nothing but minding his own business. Pleading eyes. Blood everywhere. No, I didn’t like documentaries at all. This went on throughout my childhood years; if someone at home was watching a documentary, I left the room. Time went by and so did that innocence. Slowly I started seeing sense in the fatidic circle of life.Tarka the Otter is about the sense in all that but also about that which doesn’t make sense. For most of the book we get to see what life is about for an otter. In this case, the life of Tarka (meaning Little Water Wanderer or Wandering as Water). His life as an offspring, depending on his mother, and soon enough his adventures and challenges as an adult. You understand why his mother eventually leaves him and why he has to tear a rabbit or a bird into pieces. You understand why sometimes Tarka is the one who is hunted down. You understand all that. But then man comes along, and all of a sudden Tarka’s life is threatened by the senseless and for the life of me, I will never understand that…Williamson left me speechless, I couldn’t believe all the attention to detail. A great observer for sure, his writing – a means of transportation. The rawness reminded me of McCormac’s The Road. If not a feast for the senses, it is one of awareness for sure. He managed to write a whole book about the life of an otter, day after day, without making it sound like a monotonous recurrent episode. My senses became sharper. I swam and played and hunted with Tarka and I became to love him.

  • Judith Johnson
    2019-03-26 14:05

    I acknowledge that this book is a classic of its kind, and that HW must have put in huge efforts, and was passionate about writing 'the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth' - his deliberate aim and ambition, as it says in the foreword 'How the Book came to be Written' by Eleanor Graham. I am glad that it was a success for him, and cannot deny the beauty and attested accuracy of some of his descriptions. For a naturalist, it must be a joy, and certainly at times I was deeply impressed, and loved the illustrations by CF Tunnicliffe, who also illustrated the Ladybird classics What to Look for in Spring/Summer/Autumn and Winter, which I treasure. However, I recall that I tried to read it once when I was a child, and found it boring, and as an adult I have to confess I found it a long slog, and continued to read more from a sense of duty in honouring the author's hard work than from enjoyment.

  • Stephen
    2019-04-17 09:13

    This is not The Wind in the Willows (another of my favorite books for different reasons) or Watership Down (another). Naturalistic. It's not animals as people like WIW. Bloodier and less romantic than WD. Almost reads like poetic non-fiction. The book is so loved in the County of Devon that there is (or was until recently) a train called the Tarka Express that ran through the country of the two rivers.There are many editions; one recent one has many photographs of the sites mentioned.

  • Kristel
    2019-04-05 11:29

    This book was written in 1927. I give it four stars because it is ahead of its time as a fictional work that addresses ecology and other scientific premises so much that it begins to feel like a true story. It is set in the West Country of England or the county of Devon. Devonshire is about 200 miles from London. The language is a bit hard on the American reader because it uses a lot of words that defy meaning even in the dictionary such as fitch which I think is a weasel. The author also lists the location on every page of the book giving the story a sense of place. The reader follows Tarka up and down the Two Rivers area and the Severn Sea. The author's use of language is an important part of the book and the imagery is nature-nature as man plays only a minor unbecoming part in the book. The reader is also immersed in the cycle of life and death. Tarka is the protagonist and his life is but four years. His short life was quite exhausting for the reader as well as the otter. The author's title is Tarka the Otter His Joyful Water-Life and Death in the Country of Two Rivers. The introduction b y Robert Finch states, "By convincing us of Tarka's joy, it may prepare us to change out sympathies, that is ,our notion of what constitutes joy." I would recommend this book if you enjoy prose and nature.

  • Patrick
    2019-04-08 07:20

    I learned something important to me from reading this book: even if it focuses on your favorite animal, that doesn't mean you'll enjoy it. This may have been great fiction in the year it was written, but now it falls flat. For me at least. You could turn the book to any random page and probably nothing would be happening. There were few characters and they weren't well-developed or interesting...probably because they're feral animals. I felt a little pity at the ending, but it certainly wasn't much. The only up-side to this book was that it had wonderful descriptions of nature and its inhabitants. The made-up words were also very cool. But still, very little plot, characters, depth, etc. Also of note: location on map where Tarka was was written in the margins, with a map near the beginning. That was cool. And illustrations every now and then are great.

  • Alex
    2019-03-26 07:03

    The one book from my childhood that I'd like to re-read someday. Looks like it has faded into obscurity in this part of the world...

  • Osred
    2019-04-19 15:21

    This is one of my favourite novels. When I was a school student it was a set text, presumably because it's about an animal and children are supposed to like animal stories. In fact, none of us kids could understand it properly. "Tarka" is definitely a novel for adults - and especially for those few adults who thrill to read the English language when it is employed by a literary genius.I have re-read "Tarka" several times since leaving school, and each time discovered more aspects of it which support my view that Henry Williamson was a brilliant writer. In January 2016 my wife and I did a tour of the countryside in which this marvellous novel is set, visiting (among other places) Henry Williamson's writing hut at Ox's Cross. If any other Henry fans reading this wish to do likewise, I suggest you try to obtain a little book by Trevor Beer called "Tarka Country Explored" (2004, North Devon Books, Bideford, ISBN 095 28645-1-7).

  • Tracey
    2019-04-16 08:14

    Not a Disney-fied version of animal life. A stark tale of life for otters and other wild life of the English countryside, up against man, predators and the everyday struggle for survival. And yet, at times, the interaction of the otters with one another, the descriptions of the countryside and nature, the changing of the seasons, is beautiful and gentle. Not for children under 12.

  • Claus Brinker
    2019-04-20 09:09

    This is a fantastic and bizarre account of the life of an otter filled with lush details of the ecology of North Devon in the early 20th century.

  • Becky
    2019-04-15 10:13

    Reading this book is like watching National Geographic. It's sort of slow, there's no real plot, and lots of small animals die. Seriously, you know how in Nat Geo there's all these scenes of animals being killed and you can see the whites of their terrified eyes? A similar vibe happens here. I think it's a very fair, honest representation of wildlife and to that I say:It's ridiculously descriptive. Seriously, this book makes Tolkien's descriptiveness seem tame. The beginning of every chapter explains the surrounding world in intense detail, including the movements of every nearby bird, before it even picks up with Tarka again. It was ridiculously repetitive with the only real action coming in the form of otter hunts, which happened a lot. And I do mean a lot. About a third of the way into to book I was like:Having said all of that, I know had I read this book as a young teenager, or even as a child, it would have stuck with me much the way Black Beauty did. It's meticulously written, and it's easy to see Williamson (who is the author, I don't know why Goodreads says it was Large) not only loved wildlife, but knew it intimately and did not romanticize it. He saw it in its wild, harsh, "red in tooth and claw" reality and deeply loved it anyway. It really is a book worth reading. I found it very difficult to get through in spots, having to fight against boredom to move on, but I'm glad I finished it.

  • Susan
    2019-03-26 13:15

    As many have mentioned, this is an unsentimental, unanthropomorphized recounting of an otter's life. And because of this, it is not particularly good as a story. Otters don't have long-term goals, or character flaws to overcome. They eat, they wander, they play, they mate. None of this constitutes a plot. What this book is, though, is a love letter to the Devonshire countryside in which it takes place. Perhaps because I had an illustrated copy, with photographs of the places mentioned, I was more aware of the landscape than I might have been. I think, all in all, we hear more about the land and the creatures in it than the otters themselves. Williamson must have spent many, many hours in the country to have observed its wildlife and rivers so closely, and in the days before wildlife documentaries and cameras that can go anywhere--just hours of being out there and paying attention. And it is often beautifully written as well. I can see that it must have been important when it came out, as a book that placed the reader in the mind of a wild animal for the first time. It's just . . . that it meanders like an otter and feels too long.

  • Conrad
    2019-04-15 10:23

    I first read this book sometime in my early teen years and although I didn't remember the details I never forgot the story. Originally written in the late 1920's, it tells the story of the life of a brave and intelligent little otter named Tarka. In re-reading it I was surprised by how unsentimental it was - it dealt with the life of the otter in a factual but not un-emotional way. The reader cannot help but feel empathy for Tarka as he is constantly harried by man and dog, but also joy as he finds delight in his world and plays. The author's grasp of the natural environment and the cycle of life in that portion of Devon is quite remarkable and so well communicated. Likewise, his collection and recording of the old dialects (now lost to antiquity) is a window into a by-gone time. This book, now more than 80 years old, has stood the test of time well and deserves to be read. For me, its impact on my imagination almost 50 years ago, which caused me to find and re-read it, is a testament to its lasting value to the world of literature.

  • Emily Randall
    2019-04-08 14:21

    This is a classic aimed at older children. It is very unique as it is written in the perspective of an animal that has not been humanised within the narrative. It contains a bleak picture indicating the dangers faced by otters prior to the new laws set to protect them since its publication and some perils still faced today! It indicates the harshness of human kind who's persecution of them and pollution nearly resulted in their extinction. There are is a glossary of local terminology in the back which is rather useful as it contains words for hedgehogs, stoats, wrens etc that may not be apparent whilst reading. This book has some incredible imagery of otters playing and bonding which really helps the reader to engage with the animals within the book. I found it very moving and still wonder at the impact it had upon me when I first read this book as a child - no wonder I have strong views surrounding hunting!

  • Sam
    2019-04-25 10:30

    A timeless book that shows life through the eyes of an Otter, Tarka, in the beautiful Devon countryside. I remember not liking the ending of this book and refusing to ever read it again, however I think it is one I shall try and revisit.

  • Den
    2019-04-09 10:09

    Loved this book when I was younger and wanted an otter of my own when I was older

  • Bettie☯
    2019-04-23 14:10

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  • James
    2019-04-02 15:29

    Previously, I read Henry Williamson's later novel "Salar the Salmon," and heard that Tarka was the more popular book. Although Salar was a bit challenging to read due of the elaborate and descriptive narrative, it was also quite enjoyable for those very reasons. And I learned quite a bit about the life of a fish. Regarding Tarka, I honestly don't feel like I got to know this otter nearly as well as I got to know a fish from the previous Williamson novel. Tarka is divided into two parts: The First Year and The Last Year. I think the writing in The First Year is far superior to that in The Last Year. The later narrative felt so repetitious, especially the last thirty pages. I don't even know why the author bothered to separate the last three chapters because it all just ran together. It was truly a struggle to finish and every page of the last three chapters could have been identical text and I don't think I would have even noticed. Spoilers ahead.......The death of Tarka's sibling cub is quite heartbreaking as is the reaction from its mother. And in the case of Tarka's first mate, Greymuzzle, her death is beautifully depicted; however, in the case of Tarka's, it's very brief, albeit poetic, but not that apparent. Perhaps I was in such a hurry to finish the book, that I completely missed the subtlety used to describe Tarka's death. You definitely know he didn't go down without a fight because it's made very clear that he kills his nemesis, the hound Deadlock. Upon rereading it, I guess it wasn't too hard to figure out what happened to him, but I felt his death was deserving of a little more descriptive narrative. Yes, he obviously died and it was sad, but I had to read the last paragraph several times to understand just what the author was saying. All in all, it's a nasty death at the hands of the humans who once hunted otters for sport with their hounds. It appears that otters may have even become extinct had this type of hunting not been outlawed, and thankfully it has.!

  • Denzil
    2019-03-30 09:25

    Tarka the Otter is no work of fiction! It’s a true story! This is what makes it a great nature book. Henry Williamson devoted years of his life to tramp around the Devon countryside, tracking otters, observing them, making detailed notes on their behaviour, and often sleeping rough. The result is a wonderful account not only of generations of otters but of the surrounding countryside and the other animals – and humans – that played a role in this thrilling story.Marvel at the patience that the author must have had. Rejoice in the sheer exuberance of otter life. Tremble with Tarka as the sounds of the otter hounds come down the valley. Rage at the cruelty of man. But above all, enjoy this unique and intimate insight into one of our wildest, shyest animals.

  • Virginprune
    2019-04-13 10:00

    Although generally thought of as a children's book, this really is just as absorbing and moving to read as an adult.Written almost 100 years ago, using a very broad array of local and (now) archaic words to describe nature, it's a vocabulary-expander, and for me even the two-page glossary at the back wasn't enough. For today's city kids, I think a lot of the detail may be hard to colour in, but that simply argues for a re-read later! To be honest, I last read the story so long ago that I remembered very little about it, other than that it ends sadly. Spoiler - it does. But it is a beautiful and powerful tale, which never resorts to sentimentality or anthropomorphism.

  • Kris McCracken
    2019-04-13 14:15

    Certainly the best novel that I've read featuring an otter as the main character. Certainly a unique narrative device, and one that has aged surprisingly well. The otters are the good guys, with humans playing their usual roles as enemy to all things good and pure.

  • tina michelle
    2019-03-27 09:22

    Exciting find in the book depository here in Tallinn, Estonia! I love old books, and I love otters, so I have high hopes for a bittersweet story told in 1920s fashion.History: It won the Hawthornden Prize in 1928 and remains Willamson's best-known and most popular work, having never been out of print since first publication.I enjoyed it. It was a nice change of pace to read something written in an old style. I'd like to see the movie, made in the 1970s, apparently ranked in the top 100 family movies by the BBC.

  • Diane Warrington
    2019-04-02 14:24

    I tracked down this book after watching a Natural World documentary about otters that took it's inspiration from this book. I was not disappointed. By today's standards some people may find the writing a bit convoluted but what I felt was that it showed how observant and caring Henry Williamson was as he chronicled the life of this otter over the year.The issue of anthropomorphism does arise in places but even David Attenborough has been guilty of that. If it makes people more conscious of conserving wildlife by naming animals and attributing emotions to them then I don't have an issue with it as long as it's not overdone or makes unsubstantiated claims. (Unlike Walking with Dinosaurs for goodness sake).What I found particularly horrific was the way otters were hunted down by specially trained dogs as if they were vermin to be eradicated. Now they are completely protected and attitudes have changed. Towards the end of the book it did become quite hard to follow Tarka's story as he was relentlessly hunted by dogs while always trying to find food and other otters. As well as following the otters, Williamson also followed all the other wildlife in North Devon. He frequently returns to these animals and birds so over the period of time, he built up a picture of an almost hidden world of fauna, surviving through freezing winters and hot summers.But what stayed with me was the lyrical yet precise and observant pictures of the countryside."The rising sun silvered the mist lying low and dense on the meadow, where cattle stood on unseen legs. Over the mist the white owl was flying, on broad soft wings. It wafted itself along, light as the mist; the sun showed the snowy feathers on breast and underwings, and lit the yellow-gold and grey of its back."A beautiful book and I'm glad I took the trouble to track it down.