Summary and Analysis
Rima, though still shy with Abel, has changed noticeably, however, and enjoys an evening by the fire when the two men talk and sing happily. Next morning, unable to reason with Rima about the trip to Riolama, Abel tells her that their love may suffer if she is disappointed by the failure of the quest for the bird people. Rima is adamant in her plans for the journey; Abel, "sick with desire," turns away, "infected with this new sadness when everything promised well for me."
In order to allay any suspicions from the Indians, Abel decides to spend a few days with them, but he notices a change in their manner toward him, and their actions cause him to think seriously of the risk he is now running. Abel is certain that the Parahuaris have suspected the truth about their guest's friendship with the "evil spirit" in the forest, but during the evening he sings to the savages a plaintive Spanish ballad which wins their admiration. Although he finds his revolver missing in the morning, Abel concludes — and subsequent events confirm — that Runi had originally planned to kill him but had been impressed by the song and had only "borrowed" the weapon. Upon Abel's complaint, Runi lies, saying that he has lost the revolver, but he promises to help Abel find it in the woods. Runi's procrastinations convince Abel that it would be wise to escape immediately. Constantly watched by one or more Indians, Abel finally gets away by pretending to go off to bathe in a nearby stream. Exhausted by his flight from the village, Abel at last reaches "that glad green forest" where he can seek refuge with nature — and Rima.
Abel returns to Nuflo's hut, and he recounts his close call with death at the hands of the hostile Parahuaris. Although Abel is upset by the loss of his revolver, Nuflo now has such superstitious faith in the magical powers of Rima that he does not fear any attack from the savages. Rima, of course, is oblivious to any concern with this problem because she is thinking only of her reunion with her mother's people in Riolama. During Abel's absence, all preparations for the expedition have been completed; she and Nuflo have been awaiting his return in order to start on the journey.
Nuflo takes charge as the group leaves the woodland retreat. His years of experience and his natural caution prove invaluable. Nuflo leaves the forest after dark and makes the party walk at night on many occasions to avoid meeting any other travelers; he bypasses any villages where Indians may attack or betray them to other savages, and he carries a heavier load of supplies than the inexperienced Abel. The trip for Abel, in fact, becomes very arduous because of the rugged terrain and the unusually inclement weather. The compensation for the young man is Nuflo's gradual revelation of the truth about himself and Rima during the evenings after the day's march.
Nuflo was one of a small band of outlaws who terrorized all the settlements, but their numbers were reduced from nine to five. They then took refuge in an uninhabited place on Riolama where they were frightened by the almost ghostly appearance and disappearance of a very attractive woman. Superstitious, and also repentant for his past crimes, Nuflo prevented the others from pursuing and capturing her. So embittered were his comrades that Nuflo was forced to run away from them. His conscience led him back to where he thought the mysterious woman had escaped. Nuflo found her injured by a fall and slowly nursed her back to health. They were able to communicate somewhat by an improvised sign language, but Nuflo was unable to understand the melodious sounds she made in her own speech. Observing that she was permanently crippled and that she was also pregnant, Nuflo took her to the nearest Christian settlement at Voa. He was safe from the police there, and the priest sheltered them.
For seven years, this existence continued: Rima's mother was melancholy and sickly, and Rima was likewise in delicate health. When the mother died, Nuflo, fulfilling a deathbed promise to the woman, took Rima to the healthier climate of Parahuari. There she recovered, and he was more tranquil away from civilization — and the authorities. The Parahuari Indians, however, became hostile toward Rima because she frustrated their hunting expeditions into the forest by warning the birds and animals in the melodious language of her lost race. Determined to kill Rima, the Indians on one occasion sent out a party to shoot her with the poisoned arrows of the zabatana, but one savage mistakenly fired at and fatally wounded one of his comrades. In the confusion of this disaster, the superstitious and bewildered Indians believed that Rima, an evil spirit, had seized the arrow in flight and had hurled it back at her assailant. Since then, the natives have avoided the woodland but have never given up their determination to destroy Rima. Abel, deeply impressed by the unusual story, is pleased to learn all the facts he has sought about Rima.
Nuflo's story and the journey to Riolama occupy the action of these three chapters, and this middle part of Green Mansions is slowly unfolded as a preparation for the climax and as an explanation of the many questions raised in Abel's mind by Rima and Nuflo. Indeed, there is little action or suspense except for Abel's short visit to the Parahuari village. Some critics, therefore, have been harsh about Hudson's construction of the middle of his romance.
There are, however, compensatory features in Hudson's technique and procedure. The long narrative, by means of which Hudson clearly wants to unify the story, serves as an appealing episode as well as the way Abel threads together the missing strands of Rima's and Nuflo's pasts and succeeds in analyzing her anguish. Also, Abel begins to recover his initial sympathy for Nuflo; he likewise appreciates the old man's merits during the fatiguing trip to Riolama. Nuflo's gruff behavior and cunning manners had irritated Abel on several occasions during his stay at the hut, and Abel had even spoken angrily at the old man. The story is a skillful blend of realistic detail and romantic theme, and to these ingredients Hudson adds a strong emotional flavor. Another important feature of the tale resides in the direct, straightforward idiom in which it is narrated. Hudson resists any temptation to substitute for Nuflo's peasant speech the poetic quality, so marked as a major stylistic feature of this romance.
Hudson's preference, nevertheless, for beauty of style appears in the fourteenth chapter, the shortest chapter in the entire work, when Abel comes back safely to the "green mansions" after his escape from the savage village. Symbolically, perhaps, the time of day is sunset since Abel has really reached the apex of his idyll in the woodland and is about to leave the forest retreat on the unfortunate trip to Riolama.
Those few pages, before Abel rejoins Nuflo and Rima, belong to the Romantic tradition with such uplifting thoughts about the declining day: "the red flame of the sinking sun"; "the red evening flame"; and "how every object it touched took from it a new wonderful glory!" Abel's ecstatic joy at the trees and birds, the two favorite aspects of the "green mansions" for the young man, leads him to a neo-mystical flight of the imagination, expressed in increasingly poetical language: "tall palms balancing their feathery foliage on slender stems." Abel also feels a bond linking him with the birds and animals so that he almost personifies these creatures. Likewise, he feels himself carried away to distant heights by all this surrounding beauty: "The faint, floating clouds, the blue infinite heaven itself," muses Abel, "seemed not more ethereal and free than I, or the ground I walked on." These panegyric exhortations of Abel call attention once more to the unique contributions of the South American hinterlands.
As a naturalist, Hudson gives his readers loving accounts of the forest life which are unusual sights for the city dweller. For instance, he describes the flight of two birds as they almost collide by chance in the air and then scuffle briefly before departing together, "screaming shrilly." By this point, however, Hudson has very positively advanced toward his philosophical position; this creed of his is merged with the romantic, poetical, and naturalist aspects of the writer. These departures of Hudson, although they do not advance the plot, cannot be omitted or separated from the total effect he wishes to impart to his audience.
An enlightening discussion takes place between Nuflo and Abel about Rima which the girl fails to grasp because of her innocent state of mind about human behavior. Lacking insight and vision, the old man does not agree with Abel's interpretation and defense of Rima's qualities. Nuflo can see little practical value in Rima's ability to communicate with animals and birds; he, instead, would prefer to have her send a fever by this magic to destroy Runi and the other Indians. Abel believes that, as a result of his contact with Rima, a spiritual bond may be forged for him with nature, but Nuflo only scoffs at this idea. Hudson depicts in this confrontation the division between the realist and the idealist. Nuflo, basically insensitive toward nature, may possibly be a symbol of the skeptic to Hudson's evocation of the dreamy world of the "green mansions."
Hudson's use of ballads, which he must have heard many times during his youth on the pampas of Argentina among the gauchos, is a touch of local color, effectively made a part of the plot. On the first occasion, Abel sings happily beside the campfire; on the second occasion, Abel utilizes a ballad to lull the Indians — or, more accurately, to save his life. In fact, Abel relies on the songs throughout Green Mansions for relaxation and help during several crises.
Rima and Abel, surprisingly for the latter, do not draw closer to one another during the tiresome journey as might be expected from their mutually improved understanding. Rima is so preoccupied with her ambition to reach Riolama that she seemingly forgets Abel, or at least this neglect is a constant fear and worry for the young man. What he has sorrowfully predicted — the loss of their love — appears to come true during the many days of travel. Abel is sadder as he realizes the end of his joyful days in the woodland has brought the beginning of tragedy. Ironically, then, Abel is more depressed and Rima is more exhilarated as they approach Riolama.
In addition, there are three clues in these chapters which should be kept in mind for a keener comprehension of the coming tragedy. The most important event during the trip to Riolama is the accidental meeting with three Indians, traveling in the opposite direction. Nuflo is afraid because the strangers have seen Rima. Knowing that Indians have the reputation of telling their fellow natives everything that has occurred to them during their journeys, Nuflo warns his companions that the Parahuaris soon may learn of Rima's absence from the forest. Nuflo's precautions before leaving the "green mansions" also show his fear of possible trouble: He removed all the valuables from the hut so that any wandering natives would not be rewarded for their intrusions, and he concealed provisions in a cave for use upon their return since "our fates were now linked together." If, as Nuflo explains to Abel later, the Parahuaris realize that Rima is not an evil spirit but a human being, they will lose their fear of her and will return to the hunting grounds.