6 user 3 critic

The Light in the Forest (1958)

A young white man who spent his whole life raised by Native Americans is sent to live with his birth family and must learn to fit in with people he was taught to hate.


Herschel Daugherty
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Fess Parker ... Del Hardy
Wendell Corey ... Wilse Owens
Joanne Dru ... Milly Elder
James MacArthur ... Johnny Butler / True Son
Jessica Tandy ... Myra Butler
John McIntire ... John Elder
Joseph Calleia ... Chief Cuyloga
Carol Lynley ... Shenandoe
Rafael Campos ... Half Arrow
Frank Ferguson ... Harry Butler
Dean Fredericks ... Niskitoon (as Norman Frederic)
Marian Seldes ... Kate Owens
Stephen Bekassy Stephen Bekassy ... Col. Henry Bouquet
Sam Buffington ... George Owens


In 1764, the British come to an agreement with the native Delaware tribes in order to bring peace to the region. The Delaware tribes agree to stop their attacks on the white settlers and to relinquish all their white captives to the British. In return, the British promise to stop white settlers from settling on Delaware lands across the Ohio River and to cease slaughtering the natives. British Army scout Del Hardy, who once lived among the natives, serves as negotiator and translator for the British colonel Henry Bouquet. During the exchange phase, the Delaware tribes surrender their white captives to the British forces. Among the whites returning to civilization is Chief Cuyloga's adopted son, True Son, formerly known as Johnny Butler. With a heavy heart, Chief Cuyloga parts with his son and asks him to obey his white family once Johnny becomes a white man again. Despite his promise to obey his white parents and to integrate again into the white settler society, Johnny Butler has ... Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He was torn between his parents ... and the tribe that raised him. See more »


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Disney's Official Site





Release Date:

8 July 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Una luz en el bosque See more »

Filming Locations:

Azusa, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Walt Disney Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75: 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Iron Eyes Cody, who played the role of Blackfish, reportedly acted as technical adviser and designed over 35 costumes for the film with his wife, Bertha "Birdie" Parker. Also, Cody translated the Delaware dialogue and aided the cast in speaking the language. See more »


In the dance scene, Milly wore a dress. Short sleeves on women's dresses didn't appear until the 1790s, three decades after this film. See more »


Hielan Laddie
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User Reviews

A white captive of the Delaware tries to adjust to enforced repatriation
26 January 2018 | by weezeralfalfaSee all my reviews

Mainly, the story, based on the novel of the same name, of a boy: True Son(James McArthur), Caucasian by birth, captured by the Delaware 11 years ago, when 4. It takes place in southwestern Pennsylvania and adjacent Ohio in 1764, which is just after the conclusion of the French and Indian War. At this time, most Delaware are located in Ohio, on their gradual westward migration ultimately to Oklahoma. The British want the Delaware to sign a peace treaty granting them exclusive rights to the general area of present Ohio. One of the provisions is that the Delaware must give up all white captives. Unfortunately, this rigid provision makes no allowance for the fact that some of these captives much prefer to remain identified as Delaware. This is especially true of those captured when young in the distant past, and those who have given birth or fathered a child while so captive. True Son was adopted by Chief Cuyloga(Joseph Calleia), cannot remember his natal parents, and has no wish to be returned to white society. Thus, the crux of the story relates to True Son's forced repatriation into white society, where he takes on his birth name: Johnny Butler, and is housed with his birth parents. We experience some of the hardships he encounters toward becoming an accepted member of the white community. He refuses to give up his Mohawk hair style, which constantly reminds others of his Delaware past. He must relearn English ,and learn to chop down and split trees, making fences of some, and various other skills. He must face people like Uncle Wilse(Wendell Corey) who hate all Indians, and perhaps have killed some. Also, he should try to cultivate a friendship with a girl of his age range(He does, with indentured servant(Shenandoe, played by 16y.o. Carol Lynley). ... At one point, Johnny runs back to become True Son again. But, Chief Cuyloga tells him he must return to the whites. At this point, he doesn't feel comfortable being a Delaware or a white man. What to do? Whom to trust? See the film to find out. I will say that the film ends on an upbeat note, but how long can it last? The film is especially suitable for teens, but many adults will enjoy it too.

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