Into the Woods: What I Learned from My Side of the Mountain

For the past two years, I’ve been obsessed with the YouTube channel Primitive Technology. I’m not alone. Each video racks up millions of hits within hours of release.

These videos have no plot, no dialogue, no conflict, and no real narrative. Despite this, they’re compelling in a very literary sense. They remind me of my favorite book in fourth grade, Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain. And they embody many of the the qualities I’ve tried to channel into my own book series, Arlo Finch.

The premise of Primitive Technology couldn’t be simpler: an Unnamed White Guy wearing only blue cargo shorts stomps around in a semi-tropical forest, building things.

He doesn’t talk, and doesn’t use any tools other than what he finds or makes. If he needs an axe, he chips away at a rock to create a blade, then lashes it to a handle. If he ...