Once Upon A Wolvog

Stories from the front lines

Saints in the Year of the Flood



One of the things I started to notice while reading The Year of the Flood was all of these interesting “Saints” we see featured, some of whom were already familiar to me (Farley Mowat, anyone? and Terry Fox, of course), but many of whom I had never heard of. As I am sure the inclusion of these figures adds something to the content of this novel, I decided to take this opportunity to read a little about a couple of them and to see how they relate to the Gardener culture and the themes of this novel.

dian fossey

Dian Fossey working with a gorilla

Adam One gives a sermon in year twenty-four in which he praises “Saint Dian Fossey”, a gorilla researcher who lived among gorillas and helped to debunk the myth that gorillas are “violent brutes”. At first glance, it’s easy to see how this figure fits in with the gardener image. Dian Fossey was also a promoter of gorilla conservation, and a particularly controversial one because she preferred methods of direct action for dealing with poachers than the more popular technique of more long-term awareness-promotion. Adam One refers to “malicious rumours” having been spread about her during her lifetime and after it- from what I’ve read, I think he is referring to reports that Fossey had the native people of Rwanda who tried to poach the gorillas captured and tortured. This part does not fit in as well with the Gardener narrative, so Adam One rejects it, showing evidence that the Gardeners are willing to select narratives that best fit their ideals and teach those as truths. You can read more about Dian Fossey here (content warning: violence, death).

rachel carson.jpg

Book cover of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring


Rachel Carson, mentioned in Adam One’s Year twenty-five sermon, wrote a book called “Silent Spring” highlighting a dramatic population decline in birds in the US due to a pesticide called DDT. Her book brought a lot of attention to this issue and moved many people to action, including the creators of what is now one of the biggest non-profits in the world, the Environmental Defense Fund. She models the gardener’s values particularly well, using peaceful techniques to promote animal rights and successfully restore bird populations (bald eagle populations have had a twenty-fold population increase in the past 40 years, in great part due to her work!). You can read more about Rachel Carson here.


What did you think of Atwood’s choice to make all of her Saints real people? Were there any other names you recognized? Let me know in the comment section J



4 thoughts on “Saints in the Year of the Flood

  1. I loved seeing the names of the saints. At first I hadn’t recognized the names, and just sort of brushed them off as random saints, then started to notice names I’ve had to learn about in school or heard about for their work, and started to look into each of the saints. My favorite saint was Saint Linnaeus. I remember stopping in the sentence at recognizing that name. It really shows how nicely Atwood integrated real world “saints” and world renowned public figures into the Gardner religion which incorporates science and philosophy.


  2. Interesting post! I think you have a point about the Gardeners selecting material that suits them… But I would imagine that from their perspective Dian Fossey was simply protecting the vulnerable and taking necessary and immediate action. Their religion seems to be more of a political movement at the end of the day… Maybe all religions become that way at some point? Anywho, good point… Very insightful! 🙂


  3. I actually really enjoyed this post, because if you think about it, a good chunk of the book is dedicated to the stories of these saints, and I think that they are kind of over-looked from the beginning of the book because they don’t seem to yet have a clear connection to the story. To be quite honest I don’t really remember any of the saints names besides Terry Fox and Dian Fossey, but I did enjoy reading more on Fossey as well as Rachel Carson!


  4. At first, the name of the Saints troubled me because I did recognize them from somewhere. Dian Fossey was one of the names that really struck me. From what I could gather about the people Atwood used as Saints, they were all activists in one way or another. From my understanding, Atwood in a way was critiquing Religion, and by using activists who use scientific facts to back their claims, it seems to me like another Atwood plot enhancer.


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