Fun Facts Friday: Joy Adamson

January 20, 2023

Joy Adamson (20 January, 1910 – 3 January, 1980) was an author, painter, and naturalist who is known for her book Born Free which chronicles her experiences raising Elsa the lioness.

Fun Facts Friday: Joy Adamson
Image courtesy of Theblowleprechaun
Books by Joy Adamson*

Fun Facts about Joy Adamson:

  1. Born as Friederike Victoria Gessner in Troppau, Silesia, Austria-Hungary, today is known as Opava in the Czech Republic. The Gessners were a wealthy family, and her father worked as an architect and town planner. Victor Gessner, her father, loved to hunt and his teenage daughter shot and killed a dear, then promised herself she’ll never hunt for sport again.
  2. When she was 10 years old, her parents got divorced and she was sent away from her other two sisters to live with her grandmother near Vienna, Austria. The author credits her grandmother to many of the good things that happened to her during her life.
  3. Gessner studied music, sculpting, and medicine. In fact, she seriously considered a career as a concert pianist.
  4. Adamson was the last name of her third husband, George. Previously she was married to Viktor von Klarwill, a Jew who decided to move to Kenya to escape the rise of Nazism. Viktor sent his young wife ahead of him, unfortunately for him, on the voyage, she met botanist Peter Bally who would become her second husband. Joy and Bally traveled through Kenya studying plants, completing several books with 700 paintings by Joy. A short time after her second divorce, Joy met George Adamson, a game warden of the Northern Frontier District in Kenya, who would become her husband until her death.
    This all happened within the span of 10 years.
  5. During the course of his work, George Adamson shot and killed a lioness who charged him and another warden. Afterward, George realized she was protecting her cubs and took them home. The two luge cubs were given to a zoo in Rotterdam, but they kept the smallest and named her “Elsa”.
  6. The couple decided that they were going to attempt to release Elsa back into the wild, and they were successful. In fact, Elsa was the first lioness to be released successfully.
  7. Her best-selling book, Born Free (1960), was translated into several languages, and was made into an award-winning movie in 1977. The proceeds from the book and its two sequels following Elsa’s cubs were shared with other conversation projects.
    She published alone, or with others, thirteen books in total.
  8. Joy Adamson pioneered the movement to preserve African Wildlife. In 1961 she found the Elsa Wilde Animal Appeal, a group dedicated to education and conservation projects.
  9. Joy Adamson was murdered in the Shaba Game Reserve in 1980. She was observing leopard behavior, and at first, a lion attack has been blamed but soon it was obvious that humans were involved as the stabs she suffered were made by a weapon, not claws or fangs. Here tent and its items were also broken into.
    An ex-employee was found guilty of the murder.
    George Adamson was attempting to aid a tourist who was being attacked by poachers in Kora National Park. The tourist’s life was saved; however, George was murdered.
  10. Joy Adamson’s remains were cremated and her ashes were buried in ManĂș National Park (Kenya), in Elsa the Lioness’ grave.

Books by Joy Adamson*

Zohar – Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books


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Fun Facts Friday: Joy Adamson
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Fun Facts Friday: Joy Adamson
Joy Adamson (20 January, 1910 – 3 January, 1980) was an author, painter, and naturalist who is known for her book Born Free which chronicles her experiences raising Elsa the lioness.
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Man of la Book - A Bookish Blog
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