Is Into The Wild A True Story?

The film Into the Wild is based on Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name, which tells the true story of Christopher (better known as Chris) McCandless, a young American man who, in the early 1990s, went on a strange “escape” from society, which did not have a happy ending and instead was quite tragic.

Is Into The Wild A True Story?

An Introduction To Chris McCandless

Chris McCandless was born in 1968 in El Segundo, California, to Wilhelmina McCandless and Walt McCandless. From Walt’s first marriage, Chris had a younger sister called Carine, and six half-siblings.

However, Walt’s and Chris’s ties merged, and Quinn, Chris’ half-brother, was born after him. It was almost as though Walt led two lives.

In 1976, the family moved to Annandale, Virginia, where the father worked for NASA.

Carine went on to publish The Wild Truth, a novel about her tragedy. In it, she alleges that her father was an alcoholic and that her parents frequently abused them and each other verbally, physically, and sexually.

This miserable marital environment had a significant influence on Chris, and it is thought that it was one of the key reasons he eventually adopted the nomadic lifestyle.

The ‘Into The Wild’ Story

McCandless departed home in his Datsun 210 but was forced to hitchhike after his automobile was washed away by a flood. Before settling in Alaska, he traveled to South Dakota, Mexico, and California.

Chris grabbed a ride in Alaska from local electrician Jim Gallien.

When Jim found out about Chris’ ambitions, he counseled him to purchase more equipment and even volunteered to take him to Anchorage, Alaska, to do so. Jim, aware of Alaska’s severe environment, questioned McCandless’ chances in the wild.

Chris was carrying a small rucksack, a ten-pound bag of rice, and a weapon.

On April 28, 1992, Jim gave him a pair of Wellington boots and dropped him off at the Stampede Trail. McCandless had intended to travel to the Bering Sea, but he decided to camp on an abandoned bus 20 miles in.

He made camp on an abandoned bus near Denali National Park. He was carrying rice, a rifle, a few books, camping gear, and personal stuff.

He also kept a journal, which reveals that his major source of sustenance was either vegetables he foraged or animals he was able to hunt.

A turning point for the character in the film occurs when he is unable to adequately preserve the flesh of a moose that he shoots. This event did occur in real life.

Chris was ready to go after spending more than two months there. However, the path was obstructed by the raging Teklanika River, and he also lacked a map of the region.

Furthermore, he was unaware that an abandoned hand-operated cable vehicle was nearby, which may have aided in his escape. He returned to the bus and even left an S.O.S. letter stating that he was injured, near death, and in need of assistance.

On September 6, 1992, a party of hunters discovered the bus, and inside was Chris McCandless, who had been dead for the previous 19 days.

His death sparked a multi-year inquiry into his life, culminating in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into the Wild.

Theories Of What Happened To Chris McCandles

The exact reason for Chris’s death is still being debated. It was a famine, according to the coroner’s findings.

However, a few years ago, a journalist named Ronald Hamilton published his inquiry, which revealed previously undiscovered information.

Chris’ notebook stated that from June of that year, roots and, eventually, seeds of wild-potato plants had been his regular food: they were abundant surrounding the bus.

One of his photographs depicts a Ziploc bag with these poisonous seeds.

Chris clearly starved to death in the Alaskan wilderness, but it was due to the poison, which rendered him unable to move or care for himself.

He was an underweight man in his early twenties who lived a life full of strenuous physical activities paired with a nutritionally insufficient diet, so he couldn’t afford to make mistakes.

And he proceeded to consume large quantities of seeds containing harmful amino acids. He gradually got paralyzed.

We know he resolved to return to civilization from his journal.

He’d packed his belongings and begun heading back, only to discover that the Teklanika River, which had been a creek when he passed, had become a raging 75-foot-wide river.

Unfortunately, if Chris had purchased a map, he would have known that a mile down the river was a hand-operated tram that he could have used to travel to the other side.

Even better, a cottage six miles south of the bus was loaded with food and supplies. Chris returned to the bus, where his health progressively deteriorated, eventually leading to his death.

Is Any Of ‘Into The Wild’ Fiction?

In terms of accuracy in regard to Chris MCcandless’ story, we will never really know if there are any inconsistencies but that is only due to the fact that the one person who truly lived through the story is no longer alive to tell the tale. 

However, Jon Krakauer does an excellent job of immersing the reader in Chris McCandless’ mind through his journal entries, letters to friends, and highlighted portions of the books he carried.

These books had a similar theme of building an idealized view of the woods (see also: Norwegian Wood Book Review)as a sanctuary of beauty and truth where you can seek refuge in a society that overwhelms and troubles you, which Chris appears to have accepted as fact.

The sporadic entries of personal writings by Chris serve as the skeletal framework for this book, with the flesh and blood being created through a combination of Krakauer’s own understanding of Chris’ story, based on his personal connection to the events, his extensive research, and reports from police.

This results in a story that is as close to fact as possible.


Into the Wild is based on a true story (If you liked this story based on true life events, also check out Life Of Pi) and relates the narrative of Chris McCandles, who had a wild fantasy to make it to Alaska and venture into the deep wilderness; wanting to make it on his own without the assistance of others was a great but terrifying aim to have.

Even when he arrived at his goal, he did not return home. Although no one knows what happened to him, his body was discovered by hunters a few months after he left on his journey.

There are still some debates of how Chris really died whether it be starvation, poisoning, or toxins from the fruits, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms that he was foraging for whilst he was staying in the abandoned bus. 

Sophie Andrea