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Wiebe, Rudy (Henry) 1934-

WIEBE, Rudy (Henry) 1934-


Born October 4, 1934, in Fairholme, Saskatchewan, Canada; son of Abram J. (a farmer) and Tena (Knelsen) Wiebe; married Tena F. Isaak, March, 1958; children: Adrienne, Michael, Christopher. Education: University of Alberta, B.A., 1956, M.A., 1960; Mennonite Brethren Bible College, B.Th., 1961; additional study at University of Tübingen, 1957-58, University of Manitoba, 1961, and University of Iowa, 1964. Religion: Mennonite. Hobbies and other interests: Photography, watching people, travel.


Home 105 10610-83 Ave., Edmonton, Alberta T6E 2E2M, Canada. Office Department of English, Humanities Centre 3-5, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E5, Canada.


Glenbow Foundation, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, research writer, 1956; Government of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, foreign service officer, 1960; high school English teacher, Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada, 1961; Mennonite Brethren Herald, Winnipeg, Manitoba, editor, 1962-63; Goshen College, Goshen, IN, assistant professor of English, 1963-67; University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, assistant professor, 1967-70, associate professor, 1970-76, professor of English, 1976-92, professor emeritus, 1992. President, NeWest Press, beginning 1989. University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany, chair of Canadian studies, 1984. Member of Arts Panel, Canadian Council, 1974-77; member of writers advisory committee to Alberta Ministry of Culture, 1980-82; member of federal cultural policy review committee, 1981-84, and Alberta Foundation for the Literary Arts, 1984-87.


Royal Society of Canada.

Awards, Honors

Rotary International fellow, 1957-58; Canada Council bursary, 1964, and senior arts award, 1971; Governor General's Award for Fiction, 1973, for The Temptations of Big Bear, 1994, for A Discovery of Strangers; Province of Alberta and City of Edmonton Arts Achievement Awards, 1974, 1975; D.Litt., University of Winnipeg, 1986; Lorne Pierce Medal for contribution to Canadian literature, Royal Society of Canada, 1987. D.Litt., Wilfred Laurier University, 1991; LL.D., Brock University, 1991; admitted to Edmonton Cultural Hall of Fame, 1995.



Chinook Christmas, illustrated by David More, Northern Lights/Red Deer Press, 1992, published with new illustrations, 2003.

Hidden Buffalo, illustrated by Davide Lonechild, Red Deer Press, 2003.


Peace Shall Destroy Many, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1962, revised edition, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1964.

First and Vital Candle, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1966.

The Blue Mountains of China, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1970.

The Temptations of Big Bear, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1973.

Riel and Gabriel, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1973.

The Scorched-Wood People, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1977.

The Mad Trapper, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1980, reprinted, Red Deer Press, 2002.

My Lovely Enemy, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1983.

A Discovery of Strangers, Knopf (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Sweeter than All the World, Knopf (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.


Where Is the Voice Coming From?, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1974.

Alberta: A Celebration, photographs by Harry Savage, edited by Tom Radford, Hurtig (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1979.

The Angel of the Tar Sands, and Other Stories, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1982.

River of Stone: Fictions and Memories, Vintage Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.


The Story-Makers: A Selection of Modern Short Stories, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1970.

Stories from Western Canada, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1972.

(With Andreas Schroeder) Stories from Pacific and Arctic Canada, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1974.

Double Vision, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1976.

Getting Here, NeWest Press (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1977.

(With Aritha van Herk) More Stories from Western Canada, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1980.

(With Aritha van Herk and Leah Flater) West of Fiction, NeWest Press (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1983.


(With Theatre Passe Muraille) As Far as the Eye Can See (play), NeWest Press (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 1977.

(And compiler with Bob Beal) War in the West: Voices of the 1885 Rebellion (history), McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.

Playing Dead: A Contemplation concerning the Arctic (essays), McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989.

Silence, the Word, and the Sacred: Essays, Wilfred Laurier (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), 1989.

(With Yvonne Johnson) Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman (nonfiction), Knopf (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

(With Geoffrey James) Place: Lethbridge, A City on the Prairie, Douglas & McIntyre (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2002.

Work represented in anthologies, including Fourteen Stories High, edited by David Helwig, Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1971; The Narrative Voice, edited by John Metcalf, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1972; Modern Stories in English, edited by W. H. New and H. J. Rosengarten, Crowell (New York, NY), 1975; Personal Fictions, edited by Michael Ondaatje, Oxford University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1977; and Wild Rose Country: Stories from Alberta, edited by David Carpenter, Oberon Press, 1977. Contributor of articles and short stories to periodicals, including Fiddle-head, Tamarack Review, Camrose Review, Canadian Literature, Maclean's, Saturday Night, and The Bote.


"Someday Soon" was adapted for television by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), January, 1977.


In addition to adult fiction that explores his personal religious beliefs, modern society, and the traditional values and character of western Canada, novelist Rudy Wiebe has authored several books for children. The Canadian writer's first children's book, 1992's Chinook Christmas, was praised by Canadian Children's Literature contributor Perry Nodelman as "a sort of prairie version of Dylan Thomas's sensuously evocative Child's Christmas in Wales. " His 2003 picture book, Hidden Buffalo, focuses on Cree native Sky Running, a young hunter who helps his tribe to find buffalo during a time of famine after listening to his grandmother recite tales of the Creator and how the first buffalo came to be. Wiebe has earned two of his country's most prestigious literary awards, the Governor General's Award and the Lorne Pierce medal, for his portrayal of the people who inhabit the prairie lands of western Canada.

Wiebe grew up in Saskatchewan, north of Saskatoon, and was the youngest member of an ethnic German family of seven children whose homesteading parents had emigrated from Russia. He spoke only German until he went to elementary school, and he eventually attended a Mennonite high school and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he later taught. Much of Wiebe's writing focuses on the northern regions where he was raised, particularly Arctic culture. One of his novels that critics have found appropriate for teen readers is 1980's The Mad Trapper, which explores the growing impact of technology on northern culture and man's vital yet fragile relationship with the land. Taking place in the 1930s near the Rat River, The Mad Trapper is based on a true story about Albert Johnson, a man who refused to cease using trap lines reserved for Native Canadians, fled into the northern woods, and, after an extensive manhunt, was killed resisting arrest.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Cameron, Donald, Conversations with Canadian Novelists, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1973, pp. 146-160.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 6, 1976, Volume 11, 1979, Volume 14, 1980.

Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 60: Canadian Writers since 1960, Second Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987.

Moss, John, editor, The Canadian Novel: Here and Now, NC Press, 1978.

Twigg, Alan, For Openers: Conversations with Twenty-four Canadian Writers, Harbour, 1981, pp. 207-218.


Books in Canada, summer, 1994, p. 39; September, 1998, p. 6.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 1998, p. 383.

Canadian Children's Literature, fall, 1994, p. 77.

Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, spring, 2002, Kenneth Hoeppner, review of Sweeter than All the World, p. 157.

Canadian Forum, January, 1968; December, 1977; December, 1980, p. 42; March, 1981, pp. 5-8, 13; May, 1983; p. 29; January, 1990, p. 30; October, 1994, p. 43; April, 1995, p. 20.

Canadian Literature, summer, 1974; winter, 1975; summer, 1978, pp. 42-63; spring, 1985, pp. 7-22; spring, 1990, p. 320; winter, 2000, pp. 10, 154.

Commonweal, December 7, 2001, p. 21.

Essays on Canadian Writing, winter, 1980-81, pp. 134-148; summer, 1983, pp. 70-73; spring, 1998, p. 113.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), June 27, 1998, Olive Patricia Dickason, "Big Bear's Spirit Provides Healing Light; Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman"; May 22, 1999, p. D14; June 19, 1999, p. D17.

Maclean's, May 30, 1994, p. 45; July 13, 1998, "Native Connection: A Writer and Convicted Murderer Tells Her Story," p. 64.

Quill and Quire, December, 1992, p. 26; April, 1994, p. 26; July, 1998, Suzanne Methot, review of Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman, p. 30.

Resource Links, October, 1999, p. 20; June, 2003, Lori Lavallee, review of The Mad Trapper, p. 37.

Rubicon, summer, 1986, pp. 126-159.

Saturday Night, April, 1971, p. 26; February, 1974, p. 33.

World Literature Today, summer, 1999, p. 575.


Random House Canada Web site, (May 16, 2003).

Swallow Press Web site, (May 16, 2003).*

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Wiebe, Rudy (Henry)

WIEBE, Rudy (Henry)

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Fairholme, Saskatchewan, 4 October 1934. Education: Alberta Mennonite High School; University of Alberta, Edmonton, 1953-56, 1958-60 (International Nickel graduate fellow, 1958-59; Queen Elizabeth graduate fellow, 1959-60), B.A. 1956, M.A. 1960; University of Tübingen, Germany (Rotary fellow), 1957-58; University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 1961; University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1964. Family: Married Tena F. Isaak in 1958; one daughter and two sons. Career: Research officer, Glenbow Foundation, Calgary, 1956; foreign service officer, Ottawa, 1960; high school teacher, Selkirk, Manitoba, 1961; editor, Mennonite Brethren Herald, Winnipeg, 1962-63; assistant professor of English, Goshen College, Indiana, 1963-67. Assistant professor, 1967-70, associate professor, 1970-77, professor of English, University of Alberta, 1977-92; since 1992, professor emeritus. Awards: Canada Council arts scholarship, 1964, award, 1971; Governor General's award for fiction, 1973, 1994; grant, 1977; Lorne Pierce medal, 1987. D. Litt.: University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1986; Wilfred Laurier University, 1991. LLD: Brock University, 1991. Address: 5315-143 St., Edmonton, Alberta T6H 4E3, Canada.



Peace Shall Destroy Many. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1962;Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1964.

First and Vital Candle. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, and GrandRapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1966.

The Blue Mountains of China. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, andGrand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1970.

The Temptations of Big Bear. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1973; Athens, Ohio University Press, 2000.

The Scorched-Wood People. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1977.

The Mad Trapper. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1977.

My Lovely Enemy. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1983.

A Discovery of Strangers. Toronto, Knopf, 1994.

Short Stories

Where Is the Voice Coming From? Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1974.

Personal Fictions, with others, edited by Michael Ondaatje. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1977.

Alberta: A Celebration, edited by Tom Radford. Edmonton, Alberta, Hurtig, 1979.

The Angel of the Tar Sands and Other Stories. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1982.

River of Stone: Fictions and Memories. Toronto, Vintage Books, 1995.


Far as the Eye Can See, with Theatre Passe Muraille. Edmonton, Alberta, NeWest Press, 1977.


A Voice in the Land: Essays by and about Rudy Wiebe, edited by W.J. Keith. Edmonton, Alberta, NeWest Press, 1981.

Playing Dead: A Contemplation Concerning the Arctic. Edmonton, Alberta, NeWest Press, 1989.

Silence: The Word and the Sacred (essays). Waterloo, Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1989.

Chinook Christmas (for children), illustrated by David More. RedDeer College Press, 1993.

Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman. Toronto, Knopf Canada, 1998; Athens, Ohio, Swallow Press, 2000.

Editor, The Story-Makers: A Selection of Modern Short Stories. Toronto, Macmillan, 1970.

Editor, Stories from Western Canada: A Selection. Toronto, Macmillan, 1972.

Editor, with Andreas Schroeder, Stories from Pacific and Arctic Canada: A Selection. Toronto, Macmillan, 1974.

Editor, Double Vision: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Stories in

English. Toronto, Macmillan, 1976.

Editor, Getting Here: Stories. Edmonton, Alberta, NeWest Press, 1977.

Editor, with Aritha van Herk, More Stories from Western Canada. Toronto, Macmillan, 1980.

Editor, with Aritha van Herk and Leah Flater, West of Fiction. Edmonton, Alberton, NeWest Press, 1982.

Editor, with Bob Beal, War in the West: Voices of the 1885 Rebellion. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1985.


Manuscript Collection:

University of Calgary Library, Alberta.

Critical Studies:

The Comedians: Hugh Hood and Rudy Wiebe by Patricia A. Morley, Toronto, Clarke Irwin, 1977; Epic Fiction: The Art of Rudy Wiebe by W.J. Keith, Edmonton, University of Alberta Press, 1981; articles in A Voice in the Land, 1981, and Journal of Commonwealth Literature (Edinburgh), 19(1), 1984.

Rudy Wiebe comments:

I believe that the worlds of fictionstoryshould provide pleasure of as many kinds as possible to the reader; I believe fiction must be precisely, peculiarly rooted in a particular place, in particular people; I believe writing fiction is as serious, as responsible an activity as I can ever perform. Therefore in my fiction I try to explore the world that I know: the land and people of western Canada; from my particular world view: a radical Jesus-oriented Christianity.

* * *

Canada's foremost Mennonite writer, and one of the most innovative writers of historical fiction today, Rudy Wiebe, has consistently addressed far-reaching moral, social, and spiritual questions through narratives that focus on specific, rigorously researched, historical moments. Of his eight major novels to date, threePeace Shall Destroy Many, The Blue Mountains of China, and My Lovely Enemy focus directly on Mennonite communities in Canada and elsewhere; the remaining fiveFirst and Vital Candle, The Mad Trapper, The Temptations of Big Bear, The Scorched-Wood People, A Discovery of Strangers (and to some extent, My Lovely Enemy )examine the encroachments of white society on traditional Native American, Métis, and Inuit ways of life.

Irrespective of their differences, Wiebe's works are all thematically informed by his radical Mennonite faith, and his plots are all set in motion by what, in the title of his latest work, he calls "a discovery of strangers." Wiebe emphasizes the extent to which traditional indigenous and Mennonite communities were separated from the rest of humanity by barriers of space, language, culture, and, most importantly, religious belief. Day-to-day life in these communities was organized in accordance with religious and moral certainties, which, having solidified into fixed codes of conduct, remained for many years unquestioned. However, in each of Wiebe's novels, the boundaries of a closed community are broken open. Traditional cultural practices and religious certainties are either directly challenged from without or are exposed, as a result of external pressures, to threats that are latent within. In either case, a period of spiritual and moral disorientation ensues, in which the protagonist's most fundamental beliefs and values are tested.

Wiebe subjects his readers also to forces of disorientation. As his career progresses, he departs more and more from the conventions of narrative realism. The Blue Mountains of China, The Temptations of Big Bear, My Lovely Enemy, and (to a lesser extent) A Discovery of Strangers are fragmented, multi-voiced, stylistically heterogeneous narratives in which Wiebe "re-writes" existing historical documents and religious texts by inserting them into new verbal contexts. Perhaps because he is so acutely aware that meanings are intertextually generated, Wiebe continually tests the textual foundations of historical and religious certainty.

At times, Wiebe's Mennonite rhetoric intrudes awkwardly into his narratives, as in First and Vital Candle or in the end of The Blue Mountains of China. But Wiebe, in fact, addresses this very problem in First and Vital Candle and My Lovely Enemy, where he dramatizes the unsavory politics of Christian proselytizing. Mindful that his readership is not a congregation to be browbeaten, but a diverse community to be drawn into active dialogue with his texts, Wiebe has developed various intricate modes of indirect address. The main characters in both First and Vital Candle and The Mad Trapper escape to the seclusion of the Arctic. Abe Ross, from First and Vital Candle, eventually finds a new community while Albert Johnson severs all human contact, leaving mysterious his past, motives, and even identity.

Those of Wiebe's novels that are concerned with Canada's indigenous peoples are readable as post-colonial historical metafictions. They dramatize the power of communications technologieswriting, print, photography, telegraphy, film, computers, and other electronic mediaas instruments of colonial and neo-imperial domination. Yet, in the process of recounting history from various indigenous perspectives, Wiebe also articulates Mennonite religious, social, and ecological values. In so doing, he has attracted accusations of cultural appropriation.

Throughout his writing career, Wiebe has concerned himself with the exploration of the mystery and variety of love. After touching rather awkwardly on love and divine grace in First and Vital Candle, Wiebe's exploration of love becomes at once more philosophical and more physically explicit, a quality that has provoked objections to his manner of representing women and female sexuality. In My Lovely Enemy, passionate sexual love works as a metaphor through which Wiebe revivifies the familiar Christian abstraction of God's redemptive love for humanity. In A Discovery of Strangers, Wiebe develops an extended metaphor of colonized woman: as the first Franklin expedition advances across the far northern landscape, the beautiful face of Birdseye, a Tetsot'ine woman of great prophetic wisdom, is progressively corroded by disease. Birdseye's fifteen-year-old daughter, Greenstockings, an object of universal male desire, embodies the virgin territory men struggle to possess. Miraculously, given the structural imbalance of power that exists between them, two strangersGreenstockings and the English midshipman Robert Hoodcome momentarily together as lovers by mutual agreement. Although Wiebe does not openly articulate his Mennonite beliefs in A Discovery of Strangers, they hover behind his representation of Tetsot'ine understandings of life as a divine gift and of human beings as spiritually connected with each other and with all living things by sacred ties of mutual physical dependence.

While Wiebe is best known for his novels, he is also skilled in other areas of literature. He is the author of several collections of short stories including The Angel of the Tar Sands and Other Stories, River of Stone: Fictions and Memories, Alberta: A Celebration, and Where Is the Voice Coming From? In Alberta: A Celebration, Wiebe uses a slightly different approach than in his other short story collections. In this work, Wiebe examines the legend of Albert Johnson and attempts to give a new perspective to the Canadian past by combining photographs with accounts of local places and their unique legends.

Wiebe has also composed a play, Far As the Eye Can See, and a children's book entitled Chinook Christmas, in which he writes about Coaldale, Alberta, a small community that he moved to in 1947. Wiebe's most recent work is Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman. This book, which is a chronicle of justice and injustice, tells the true story of the great-great-granddaughter of Cree Chief Big Bear, Yvonne Johnson, who was placed behind bars after being charged with murder. While this work is nonfiction, many critics have claimed that the text reads like a mystery novel. In his writing, Wiebe is successful at uniting realism with passion and reviving the past, so that it can be seen in a fresh light.

Penny van Toorn,

updated by Marta Krogh

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