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The Blue-Eyed Aborigine

The Blue-Eyed Aborigine

by Rosemary Hayes

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This is the story of a cabin boy and a soldier marooned on the Australian mainland after a mutiny and shipwreck of the Batavia in 1629, who became Australia's very first European settlers.


This is the story of a cabin boy and a soldier marooned on the Australian mainland after a mutiny and shipwreck of the Batavia in 1629, who became Australia's very first European settlers.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up— Jan Pelgrom dreamed of seeing the world via a trading ship, but the conditions aboard the Batavia in 1629 are vile and, as a cabin boy, he is bullied by the sailors and despised by the passengers. The unruly crew is disgusted by the apparent ineptitude of their commander and a mutiny occurs. When the Batavia is shipwrecked off the Australian coast, the teen is manipulated by evil Jeronimus Corneliez, under whose orders he commits unspeakable acts of violence, becoming intoxicated with a disturbing sense of power. Jan is saved from hanging as a mutineer and abandoned with Wouter Looes, the only crew member who had befriended him. He finds happiness with the native Aborigines, who believe he is an ancestral spirit and approve of his union with one of their young women. The stomach-turning descriptions of putrid odors and vermin aboard ship, the mutiny, and the slaughter of innocents will be hard reading for some, but is not gratuitous. The question to be pondered by thoughtful readers is whether redemption through loving kindness—such as the transformation Jan undergoes once he befriends the natives—is realistic. The tale, which is told in two parts and shifting points of view, is based on a true story. It is a well-documented, thrilling adventure.—Jackie Gropman, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library System, Fairfax, VA
Kirkus Reviews

Noble savages adopt a young mutineer in this tale spun around the possible first arrival of European settlers to Australia.

Vividly depicted as a wretched hive of scum and villainy (the first page alone contains references to lice, filth, fetid odors and piss), the Dutch trading ship Batavia strikes a reef in far western Australia, and while part of the crew sets off in a small boat to seek rescue, the rest begin ruthlessly raping and/or murdering the hapless passengers. Seventeen-year-old cabin boy Jan is reluctantly forced to join in the general rapine to stay alive himself—and, instead of being hanged with the rest of the mutineers when relief arrives, is marooned with a companion on the mainland. Abruptly and inexplicably switching from third-person past-tense to first-person present with alternating narrators, Hayes then sends him inland to meet, befriend, learn the ropes of survival from and ultimately raise a family among a group of helpful, welcoming, generous, generic Aboriginals who believe him an ancestral spirit. Nonetheless, the author sticks closely to 17th-century records of the actual mutiny and closes with a note about later events and Jan's possible native descendants.

Gutwrenching (and no more explicit than necessary) in the early going and a romantic idyll by the end, despite the hinky narration, this illuminates an intriguing byway of Aussie history. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Lincoln, Frances Limited
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
341 KB
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

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Read an Excerpt

God! How I wish this cursed voyage would end. We've been on board for nearly eight months. I was excited when we set sail on Batavia, for she's a new ship on her maiden voyage. She left Texel well loaded with valuables to trade for the spices we'll buy when we reach Java in the Indies. It wasn't so bad at first when there was fresh food, animals on board to slaughter, clean water to drink, and the crew in good spirits. But now! There's nothing but dried or salted stuff to eat and the water barrels are full of wriggling worms. It stinks, too, and you have to hold your nose before you drink it.

And everyone is foul-tempered. We've been frozen with cold in the stormy northern seas, fried by the heat along the coast of Africa and buffeted by gales in the Southern Ocean.

But now, at last, we're in calmer, warm waters, heading north again. Only a few more weeks to go, God willing.

Meet the Author

It is 1629, and there is mutiny in the air aboard the Dutch ship Batavia as she plies her way towards Java with her precious cargo. Jan, a cabin boy, and Wouter, a young soldier, find themselves caught up in the tragic wrecking and bloody revolt that follow. But worse is to come…

Based on the diaries of the ship's Commander, Rosemary Hayes recaptures some of sea history's most dramatic moments, linking the fates of of Jan and Wouter with discoveries that intrigue Australians to this day.

Praise for Payback:

"This is contemporary novel-writing at its most relevant."

The Independent

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