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Wilson "Wilse" Owens is the main antagonist of Disney's 1958 live action film The Light in the Forest, which is based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Conrad Richter. He is John Butler/True Son's maternal uncle and archenemy who is a member of the Paxton Boys.

He was portrayed by the late Wendell Corey.

Biography

When Johnny Butler is reunited with his birth family, his mother Myra introduces him to his friends and relatives, including Wilse Owens. Wilse taunts Johnny for being an Indian and asks how many women and children were scalped, to which he responds that Indians do not make war on white people in Lenape. He then introduces his servant, Shenandoe Hastings and forces her to reveal that her family were scalped by the Indians. Johnny tells Wilse that white men are vicious brutes who murder helpless Indian women and children and Wilse slaps him. Del Hardy intervenes and threatens Wilse to not lay a hand on him again.

The next morning, Wilse spots Johnny doing his work outside and orders Shenandoe to fetch him Johnny's Indian clothes, but she refuses. Wilse threatens to discipline her and she reluctantly does so as he scares her. While Johnny is teaching Myra the Delaware language, he hears gunshots from outside and spots Wilse and his friends using a dummy dressed in his Indian clothes for target practice. Johnny comes over and retrieves his clothes. Wilse raises his gun to shoot him, but Del stops him. Del shoots the tomahawk off the dummy and offers Wilse a challenge to shoot the weather vane off his barn. Wilse misses the shot, but Del manages to shoot the vane with success. Johnny confronts Shenandoe for lying about her family being scalped and stealing his clothes, to which she explains that Wyandots were responsible and that Wilse made her steal his uniform.

At a party, Myra introduces a cake to Johnny with a wedding ring inside. Del encourages Johnny to give it to Shenandoe and kiss her, but he rejects the offer of kissing her, as he explains that Indians don't kiss. Shenandoe leaves the building with Johnny following her, but Wilse comes and punches Johnny, telling him to stay away from her. Wilse swings around and falls to the ground as the crowd comes out to investigate. Wilse claims that Johnny tried to kill him, but Myra refuses to buy it and Johnny leaves. Johnny vows that he will kill Wilse, but Shenandoe tells him not to in order to not grow up like Wilse.

The following night, Wilse heads out and kills an local tribesman named Little Crane as he shouts about an Indian attack and Johnny heads out to investigate with Shenandoe following him. He comes across his Lenape cousin, Half Arrow, who explains that white men attacked them for entering their land to see Johnny and informs him about Little Crane's demise. They come across Little Crane's corpse and Wilse attacks them, but Half Arrow flees. Wilse confronts Johnny and the Paxton Boys call for him. Johnny distracts Wilse and he and Half Arrow attack him, knocking him unconscious. Half Arrow tries to take his scalp, but Johnny stops him. Shenandoe witnesses it and offers Johnny to fight for his rights, but he flees with Half Arrow back to the Delaware tribe before Wilse's men could arrive.

Little Crane's death leaves Niskitoon devastated and he and his tribe decide to scalp 20 men to avenge his death. They burn down a cabin and manage to kill 15 people, including children. They notice a settlers' boat approaching them and give white clothes to Johnny to lure them into their trap, but Johnny warns them about the ambush and Niskitoon's plan is failed. The warriors try to execute Johnny, but Cuyloga stops them and takes the blame for Johnny's treachery and announces that Little Crane's death is already avenged. Cuyloga orders Johnny to go back to his own kind and he does so.

Del finds Johnny and takes him back to Fort Pitt, where they confront Wilse. Johnny tells Wilse that he wants to be a white man, but he refuses and calls him a savage beast. Del tells Wilse about the incident of the ambush and that the warriors killed the settlers, because of his murder of Little Crane. Wilse claims that the Indians attacked him, but Del refuses to buy it. Johnny and Wilse engage in a fist fight and Wilse gains the upper hand. However, Del and Shenandoe encourage Johnny to dodge Wilse's attacks and he easily manages to defeat him. Wilse gets up and shakes Johnny's hand before leaving.

Trivia

  • In the book, Wilse was scalped by Johnny and Half Arrow after he had Little Crane killed.

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The Light in the Forest: Wilse Owens | Niskitoon

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