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Henry David Thoreau – YouTube star?

In an attempt to raise funds for a solar photovoltaic system, the nonprofit group running Thoreau Farm created a slapstick video that shows the writer falling down the stairs.  

By / December 31, 2013

A swimmer crosses Walden Pond.

John Nordell


More than a century and a half after his death, Henry David Thoreau endures in memory as the author of “Walden,” as an accomplished naturalist, and as a pioneer in the practice of civil disobedience.

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What is less known, though, is that Thoreau is now the star of his own slapstick YouTube video.

Although Thoreau showed flashes of dry New England wit in his books and journals, he doesn’t have a reputation for being a barrel of laughs.

But in an effort to raise money for a solar energy project at his birthplace in Concord, some of Thoreau’s admirers have recruited Walden Pond’s most famous resident for an Internet gag.

The nonprofit group that runs Thoreau Farm, the site of his birthplace that’s now preserved as a historic site, wants to install a solar photovoltaic system at the old homestead.   “We need to raise $25,000 by the end of November to get the system installed before the ground freezes,” the organizers of the effort tell visitors at the group’s website.

The project is being billed as a perfect extension of Thoreau’s environmental values.

But fundraisers for the effort decided to have a little fun by imagining what might happen if a lack of solar-powered electricity leaves Thoreau Farm in the dark. In a new YouTube video, “Henry Thoreau Takes A Tumble,” the legendary Transcendentalist – or perhaps an actor stand-in – tries to navigate the stairs of his birthplace without lighting, comically injuring himself in the bargain.

Viewers then witness poor Henry attempting to conduct his nature studies on crutches, with equally disastrous results.

Viewers can watch the brief video here.

Although solar technology wasn’t available in Thoreau’s day, he frequently mentioned sunlight in his writings. “The sun,” Throeau told readers at the end of “Walden,” “is but a morning star.”

Danny Heitman is a Monitor contributor.


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