Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Mountie stories were once the most popular adventure fiction of the Canadian Prairies, but by the 1950s they were overtaken by history and changing fashion. Soon after they came west, the North-West Mounted Police were discovered by the international entertainment industry, with nineteenth-century adventure writers creating various romantic images of the force. British writers such as John Mackie and Harold Bindloss depicted Mounties as well-bred Englishmen defending the ideals of empire. The Mounties of American writers such as James Oliver Curwood were U.S. marshals in red tunics, given to shootouts and extralegal justice. By contrast, the Canadian Mountie hero popularized by Charles Gordon and Gilbert Parker could ride into a hostile Indian camp and arrest the chief 's son without unholstering his weapon because he eschewed violence: his uncanny power resided not in himself but in the empire he symbolized.

Mountie stories appeared regularly through the 1940s, but by 1930 virtually none were being published in Canada. Canadian publishers were losing interest probably because, with Canada's growing independence, a hero embodying a discarded myth of empire was an embarrassment. The fictional Mountie was left largely to Hollywood, which had already produced more than 200 movies projecting the American image of the force. Aside from historical studies, Mounties in Canada usually feature in ironic or satiric sketches on radio or television. The crowning irony may be the sale of the rights to the Mountie image to the Disney Corporation in 1995, completing the circle of an old British colonial symbol absorbed in the new American colonization of Canadian culture.

See also LAW: North-West Mounted Police.

Dick Harrison Sechelt, British Columbia

Dawson, Michael. The Mountie: From Dime Novel to Disney. Toronto: Between the Lines, 1998.

Harrison, Dick, ed. Best Mounted Police Stories. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1978.

Walden, Keith. Visions of Order: The Canadian Mounties in Symbol and Myth. Toronto: Butterworths, 1982.

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