While in the woods, Thoreau met a French Canadian woodchopper who was a “true Homeric or Paphlagonian man.” (Paphlagonia was an ancient Roman province on the Black Sea.) His name was Alek Therien. Henry does not name him in the book, but describes him at length; he obviously likes and admires the man, and his comments tell us a lot about the characteristics that Henry valued in a person.
“A more simple and natural man it would be hard to find. Vice and disease, which cast such a sombre moral hue over the world, seemed to have hardly any existence for him. He was about twenty-eight years old, and had left Canada and his father’s house a dozen years before to work in the States, and earn money to buy a farm with at last, perhaps in his native country.”
Henry liked him because he was sincere, unpretentious, thought for himself, and lived simply. He was good at what he did but wasn’t obsessed with work. He was friendly and sociable but spent a good deal of time alone. Continue reading