Document Type

Honors Thesis


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Darren Ranco

Committee Members

Donald Beith, Margo Lukens

Graduation Year

August 2023

Publication Date

Fall 12-2023


Wilderness is a creation of the human mind. Wilderness reflects our desires, fears, and truest selves—therefore within it we often find monsters. The application of monstrosity to the natural world is an act of projection and an accumulation of the cultural and historical influences that shape the perceiver. It’s often a reflection of religion—e.g. European gods associated with agriculture, while their monsters and demons roam the woods—and varies across peoples. This thesis seeks to understand how people create and assign monstrosity from their own mind to the environment around them, and in turn how they perceive it. Specifically, it explores the question of how these perceptions differ between Indigenous (Wabanaki) and non-Indigenous peoples in Maine. While the primarily European settlers of what we know as the United States of America may hail from cultures that subjugate the environment, this is not true of those who know the land as Turtle Island. How this may influence perceptions of monstrosity has yet to be learned. This thesis will attempt to learn through an analysis of environment- and monster-related Maine storytelling, as projection also means representation. The study is largely based on discourse and value analysis and uses three core fundamentals— wilderness, monstrosity, and storytelling—to paint a picture of environmental monstrosity. It also uses the partial juxtaposition of two Maine ecosystems—mountains and the ocean—to highlight the differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous perceptions of wilderness and monstrosity. It wraps up with a look into how the results of the analysis may influence environmental management, stewardship, and other issues related to environmental monstrosity and storytelling.