Posted by Ed Kiser on September 14, 2015 at 11:06:57 user Kisered.
We Ransome fans perhaps have our own favorite among the twelve stories
that Ransome made for us, and as individuals vary, so perhaps is their
selection of that favorite.
These stories, for the most part, tell of some pre-teen children who
take their holiday and turn it into a time of Adventure, one that we,
who read about it, can in a way become a part of the moment. They
share their adventures which involve sailing, camping, making a
campfire, boiling eggs, getting the daily milk so they can have tea,
and taking part in a somewhat imaginary make-believe Play as Pirates,
Explorers, miners, sailers (perhaps shipwrecked), adventurers.
But there are two of these stories that are made out to be imaginary
tales that theorically are written by the children themselves, using
their own imagination, these two being "Peter Duck" and "Missee Lee".
To me, these two can be identified as pure fantasy by one common
thread, and that is, the presence of the ship, SWALLOW, which actually
is the property of Mr. Johnson of Holly Howe, not likely to be taken
half way around the world, as it is really not their ship. Another
oddity about these is the use of guns. In "Peter Duck" the ship
SWALLOW is struck by a bullet. There is gunfire in "Missee Lee".
Perhaps it is this use of guns that make some think that "Great
Northern?" is also a "made-up" tale, as well as the timing of their
adventure. Being "locked up" is not play, but serious - if indeed it
is a real event.
To me, "Great Northern?" plays a special role, in that we have all
three groups of our Principal Characters present - the Swallows,
Amazons, and the D's. They are together here to perhaps make that
final curtain call, to make that final bow to us fans, then we have
that scene that can become a bit emotional to the reader in which we
see our childhood friends sail away, and fade into the distance, never
to share their future lives with any of us again. That is the end.
There is no more. The joy of anticipation when first starting a new
Ransome tale never before read is now a fading memory.
Each of these stories also of course have their special moments.
"Winter Holliday" is unique due to the weather. It is here in this
story that I learned the skill of communicating by signals, the
Semaphore and Morse techniques. The D's "sail" to the NP in the storm
and perhaps quite by chance happen to discover the North Pole and take
shelter from the storm in it after their "ship" is overturned and its
mast broken, a definite moment of dramatic drama. In "Pigeon Post" we
have that moment when Roger discovers "gold" - or at least, thought it
was, the collapse of the cave behind them leaving them with fading
torches to find another way out of the mine, and the awesome moments
of the fire sweeping past the mine's entrance, not knowing how the
younger ones were faring back at the camp.
But in this collection, there is one that to me stands out with its
unique feature, that of not Play, not "let's pretend", not imaginary,
but "real" in that Life and Death are serious considerations, and that
story is of course, "We Didn't Mean to Go To Sea."
The feelings our beloved childhood friends have are real, not
pretense, as they anguish about the breaking of a promise never to go
to sea, their apprehension of the unknown as they drift with the tide
in the fog, not knowing at first that they were even moving. Their
fears are real, and we feel that. The seasickness is all very
understandable as being also real. That image of Susan, huddled in
the corner, hair bedraggled across her tear washed face, becomes, as
Roger noted, not the Susan we are accustomed to, but stricken with the
seriousness and fear of their situation. This is not an imaginary
happening, but a very realistic one.
We readers get so caught up in the tenseness of their situation that
when that wonderful moment comes, when everything gets relieved, is
when they see, in that motor-boat coming up to the Goblin there in
that Dutch harbour, "DADDY". The next few lines are hard to read
because the eyes have suddenly become blurry. We can well understand
why Susan fled to the cabin to sob into her pillow, as we are about to
want to do the same. That emotional reaction is never in any other of
these stories, quite to that same degree. It is in that moment that
this offering of Ransome's becomes very special in our hearts. They
are now relieved of that awesome responsibility now that DADDY is
there to take care of things.
And that's the way is is, to me, anyway...
Ed Kiser Kentucky, USA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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