To the Indiesby C. S. Forester
To The Indies is the story of Don Narciso Rich, a lawyer for Their Highnesses of Spain, who is sent on an ocean voyage with Admiral Cristo Columbus himself for further search for the treasures of the Indies and renewed government supervision of the original colonies. He survives not only physical exhaustion and near starvation, but also mental and emotional torture… See more details below
To The Indies is the story of Don Narciso Rich, a lawyer for Their Highnesses of Spain, who is sent on an ocean voyage with Admiral Cristo Columbus himself for further search for the treasures of the Indies and renewed government supervision of the original colonies. He survives not only physical exhaustion and near starvation, but also mental and emotional torture as he watches the horrific treatment of the island natives by the Spanish. His faith and beliefs are challenged as the journey twists and turns, with his discovery of the Orinoco River and the South American continent, which still must be an island near Siam. The greedy conquistadors stop at nothing as they conquer new lands; taking plunder such as gold and pearls, assaulting women, and making slaves of the natives. They find new and exciting food sources as well as wild animals such as the caiman. During these adventures, Narciso discovers that he is stronger and more capable than he ever imagined. He survives kidnapping and being shipwrecked during a hurricane and lives to tell his story.
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This reflective and at times dramatic sea faring tale is about Columbus's third (of four) and possibly most fateful voyages in 1498 to the New World and the participant's adventures that include 'discovering' Trinidad (even though it is inhabited, thus it has already been discovered) and seeing the South American coast for the first time. They are involved in the most alarming event when they become caught up in a disturbingly violent battle in an attempt to squelch a native rebellion. The story is told through the eyes of a lawyer (Rich) placed on board the ship by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and Rich's assignment is to basically 'spy' on the events of the trip and to report back to them as to what successes and failures occur. Even though the antagonist is a lawyer, he is an unusually sympathetic and compassionate character, particularly given the time period of the voyage, i.e., the Spanish inquisition is at full force and Rich often find himself slipping into what he is alarmed to realize is heretical thinking when he observes that the natives who are naked heathens and who know nothing of Christ and the church, seem to be perfectly happy and well adjusted to their lives on the isles. Many of the natives also know nothing of violence or warfare (on the island of 'Hayti' now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and thus are strikingly unprepared for the anger that arises in them when their comrades are burned at the stake for nothing more than not adhering to the Christian teachings. Rich finds himself questioning the rationale of destroying and misusing such a gentle people and whether some of the long established TRUTHS that the church and history has indoctrinated his society with are really accurate or not. Throughout the book the details of navigation and sailing are interlaced seamlessly into the story so that the completely uninitiated as well as the novice and seasoned sailor will enjoy the detail without being overwhelmed by it. Forrester makes sailing jargon and its function as accessible as driving a car is to most people these days. Written in 1940, this story is somewhat remarkable for its forward thinking in that it touches upon equal rights and noninterference of other people's belief systems. Around this time C.S. Forrester spent some time in Hollywood working on movies that were propaganda in nature to help persuade Americans to help the British with the Germans, so these issues must have been on his mind. The history icon Christopher Columbus, is given real flesh and blood as robes of mortality as opposed to the stream lined and anorexic robes of immortality that are evident in so many text books. This gives a new edge to the old boring Admiral Columbus sailing the ocean blue of most historical texts and fleshes out his motivations, belief system, and possibly declining sanity as he is faced with the dissolution of his reputation and power as the story progresses.