I Heard the Owl Call My Name

I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a best-selling 1960s book by Margaret Craven. The book tells the story of a young Anglican vicar named Mark Brian who has not long to live, and also who learns about the meaning of life when he is to be sent to a First Nations parish in British Columbia.

I Heard the Owl Call My Name
First edition
AuthorMargaret Craven
PublisherClarke, Irwin & Company
Publication date


First published in Canada in 1967, it was not until 1973 that the book was picked up by an American publisher. Released to wide acclaim, it reached No.1 on the New York Times bestseller list.[1]


Mark Brian, a young vicar, is sent to the First Nations village of Kingcome in British Columbia, home to people of the Dzawa̱da̱'enux̱w tribe of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation (who are given the now-archaic name "Kwakiutl" in the book). His bishop sends him, knowing that Mark is suffering from an unnamed, fatal disease, in order to learn life's hard lessons in the time left to him. Mark is unaware of his terminal illness and his bishop does not tell him.

Through various experiences and inter-relationships, Mark learns from the villagers and they from him. By the time he has spent one year there, he considers the small village his home and family, and they consider him part of their nation.

Mark is about to be recalled by his bishop when he hears the owl call his name, which foretells imminent death according to Kwakwaka'wakw belief. Shortly after, his boat is engulfed in a landslide and he is killed.

The book presents both sympathetic and unsympathetic white characters. Its Dzawa̱da̱'enux̱w characters who have contact with the outside world variously succeed and fail to survive in it. The work is pervaded by a sense that the Dzawa̱da̱'enux̱w culture and way of life is dying as the young increasingly seek to integrate with the outside world.

TV film adaptation

In 1973, the year of its American release, the book was adapted to the screen by Gerald Di Pego as a CBS television movie of the same title, starring Tom Courtenay and Dean Jagger.

Again Calls the Owl

Margaret Craven later wrote an autobiography titled Again Calls the Owl which is often incorrectly referred to as a sequel to I Heard the Owl Call My Name. However, it is a true recounting of Margaret Craven's life. Margaret spent some of her time studying the native culture to write the original book.

Though it does describe some of the real events which would later inspire the characters and plot of I Heard the Owl Call My Name, it does not feature any of the characters in I Heard the Owl Call My Name or continue the story of the novel.


  1. "20th-Century American Bestsellers". unsworth.unet.brandeis.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-10-07. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
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