Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

by Herman Melville

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Overview

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life by Herman Melville

TYPEE was Herman Melville's first book. It is an idyll of four months among primitive South Sea islanders. It won him great fame during his life.

Melville always mixes his own extraordinary personal experiences with later research to produce powerful and imaginative works.

TYPEE shocked its original audience with a truthful account of Polynesian tribal life. It also defined the author: caught in its glare like a fly in amber, he stands frozen before the exotic, sharply focused on it, yet forced to remain forever alien.

"A vivid picture of a civilized man in contact with the exotic dream-like life of the tropics." (Readers Encyclopedia)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781537079981
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 08/22/2016
Pages: 276
Product dimensions: 5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Robert Sullivan is a contributing editor at Vogue and author of The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City and A Whale Hunt. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Date of Birth:

August 1, 1819

Date of Death:

September 28, 1891

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

New York, New York

Education:

Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15

Read an Excerpt

Introduction
Robert Sullivan

N THE BEGINNING of Melville, back before the White Whale, there was Typee, the true-life account of the soon-to-be novelist’s adventures in the South Seas—the scandalous, enthralling, and, yes, titillating story of the man who lived among cannibals. And even at this primordial moment, even in this youthful telling, all of Melville is there: the effortless style, the lush and poemlike descriptions, the Joycean humor (why is everyone always so serious about Melville?). On top of all that, it’s a great read, a legitimate adventure. Are our wounded hero’s newfound pagan friends feeding him or fattening him, and how exactly will he ever escape?

How amazing that Typee ever came into being at all—it is the almost accidental birth of a master. There was young Herman, just returned from sea, the son of a well-born but failed businessman, a near ne’er-do-well who had dabbled in schoolteaching, who had tried his hand at a few little pieces for the local newspaper, and who, seemingly for lack of anything better to do, found himself on a whaling ship with a sea captain who was not terribly interested in workplace morale: Captain Pease on Melville’s first whaling ship, the Acushnet; Captain Vangs in Typee; later to be born again in hell as Ahab. Even on a good ship, whaling was tough, a semi-consensual version of slavery, a life of hard crackers and stale water in the cramped infinity of the great sea. “Oh! for a refreshing glimpse of one blade of grass—for a snuff at the fragrance of a handful of the loamy earth!” goes the longing cry at Typee’s outset. When young Tommo, as the nativesrefer to the narrator, arrives in Nuku Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands, he is greeted in the tropical bay by a boatless flotilla of local maidens (“these swimming nymphs”) who eventually board the whaling ship—a scene that was censored from the first editions: “Our ship was now wholly given up to every species of riot and debauchery. Not the feeblest barrier was interposed between the unholy passions of the crew and their unlimited gratification.” In a few days, the young sailor hatches a plan. He will escape into paradise.

Tommo is accompanied by a shipmate, Toby, energetic and fearless whereas Tommo is reluctant and a bit of a snob, the slighly detached (read: Ishmaelean) adventurer. They head for the hills—the large verdant, nearly impenetrable, volcanic hills—wary of the village of Typee, where, sailors’ lore has it, a fierce band of cannibals lives. It’s a harried trip, low on supplies, high on directionlessness. On several occasions, Tommo nearly kills himself trying to keep up with Toby. The misadventures end up sounding like one of those old Bing Crosby and Bob Hope buddy movies: The Road to the Marquesas. Naturally, the two wind up in the wrong village. Soon enough, they are—whoops!—dining with cannibals.

Are they being treated graciously or being fattened? Toby doesn’t stick around to find out. Tommo, meanwhile, is stuck with a bad leg, the pain and inflammation of which fluctuates in proportion to the imminence of danger. Still, Tommo thrives, investigating the practices and customs of what he eventually comes to call the Happy Valley. He makes friends with the local chieftain, visiting him each day like a beat reporter checking in regularly with the desk sergeant. Tommo is assigned a valet, Kory-Kory, who, Queequeg-like, is a friend, respected and even loved despite if not because of his differences. Typee is the birth of the ardent anti-racist: in the beginning, Melville was a radical.

Tommo also finds himself in the everyday heap of bodies that naps through the humid days and snores through the night on the dirt floor of the hut. Specifically, he is alongside a young woman named Fayaway. Fayaway is beautiful, in a word, something Jean-Jacques Rousseau might have come up with if, instead of Emile, he had written soft porn. Not that there is anything illicit in Melville’s portrait. The passages regarding Fayaway are at once friendly, funny, and sensuous—in detail of flesh and landscape, Typee is a very sexy book. Once, in a canoe, Fayaway stands and spreads out her shawl of tappa, in imitation of a sail. “We American soldiers pride ourselves upon our straight clean spars,” the narrator states, tongue at least partly in cheek, “but a prettier little mast than Fayaway made was never shipped aboard of any craft.” (For insight into the richness of Melville’s entendres, go find out what the word mast meant in the local patois, which need not be discussed in detail here—this is a family introduction, after all.)

If Typee was to be excerpted in a contemporary outdoor and travel magazine of today—and modern adventure-mag editors would kill each other for it, take it from me—Melville would no doubt be asked to pick up the pace a little and cut some of the amazingly detailed descriptions, but the ending might just work: there’s blood, tears, home, and, jarringly, mother. Suffice it to say, Tommo somehow survives the cannibals and escapes, and—talk about anticlimaxes—turns back into Herman, who ends up living with his mother in upstate New York. It doesn’t take a Melvillian imagination to visualize the newly returned sailor wowing little parties of ladies and gentlemen with his inelegant remembrances of sumptuous South Pacific rainforests, of naked natives, of people eating people. He must have been quite pleased when people suggested he write it all down. He quickly did, padding his own photographic memories with notes from the reference works of the day. He found a publisher. Some revisions were called for. It was suggested that the author strike a number of the classical references, for instance; his publisher felt sales would improve with a dumbing down. His brother passed it on to some friends in England. Eventually, Washinton Irving read a draft. In a flash, Melville was famous, off and running at twenty-seven, cranking out books, on hiw way to The Whale.

Copyright 2001 by Herman Melville

Table of Contents

TypeeIntroduction by John Bryant
Works Cited and Suggested for Further Reading
A Note on the Text
TYPEE

Preface
Chapter 1
The Sea
Longing for Shore
A Land-sick Ship
Destination of the Voyagers
The Marquesas
Adventures of a Missionary's Wife Among the Savages
Characteristic Anecdote of the Queen of Nukuheva

Chapter 2
Passage from the Cruising Ground to the Marquesas
Sleepy times aboard Ship
South Sea Scenery
Land ho!
The French Squadron discovered at Anchor in the Bay of Nukuheva
Strange Pilot
Escort of Canoes
A Flotilla of Cocoa-nuts
Swimming Visitors
The Dolly boarded by them
State of affairs that ensue

Chapter 3
Some Account of the late operations of the French at the Marquesas
Prudent Conduct of the Admiral
Sensation produced by the Arrival of the Strangers
The first Horse seen by the Islanders
Reflections
Miserable Subterfuge of the French
Digression concerning Tahiti
Seizure of the Island by the Admiral
Spirited Conduct of an English Lady

Chapter 4
State of Affairs aboard the Ship
Contents of her Larder
Length of South Seamen's Voyages
Account of a Flying Whaleman
Determination to Leave the Vessel
The Bay of Nukuheva
The Typees
Invasion of their Valley by Porter
Reflections
Glen of Tior
Interview between the old King and the French Admiral

Chapter 5
Thoughts previous to attempting an Escape
Toby, a Fellow Sailor, agrees to share the Adventure
Last Night aboard the Ship

Chapter 6
A Specimen of Nautical Oratory
Criticisms of the Sailors
The Starboard Watch are given a Holiday
The Escape to the Mountains

Chapter 7
The other side of the Mountain
Disappointment
Inventory of Articles brought from the Ship
Division of the Stock of Bread
Appearance of the Interior of the Island
A Discovery
A Ravine and Waterfalls
A sleepless Night
Further Discoveries
My Illness
A Marquesan Landscape

Chapter 8
The Important Question, Typee or Happar?
A Wild-Goose Chace
My Suffering
Disheartening Situation
A Night in a Ravine
Morning Meal
Happy Idea of Toby
Journey towards the Valley

Chapter 9
Perilous Passage of the Ravine
Descent into the Valley

Chapter 10
The Head of the Valley
Cautions Advance
A Path
Fruit
Discovery of Two of the Natives
Their singular Conduct
Approach towards the inhabited parts of the Vale
Sensation produced by our Appearance
Reception at the House of one of the Natives

Chapter 11
Midnight Reflections
Morning Visitors
A Warrior in Costume
A Savage Aesculapius
Practice of the Healing Art
Body Servant
A Dwelling-house of the Valley described
Portraits of its Inmates

Chapter 12
Officiousness of Kory-Kory
His Devotion
A Bath in the Stream
Want of Refinement of the Typee Damsels
Stroll with Mehvi
A Typee Highway
The Taboo Groves
The Hoolah-Hoolah Ground
The Ti
Timeworn Savages
Hospitality of Mehevi
Midnight Misgivings
Adventure in the Dark
Distinguished Honors paid to the Visitors
Strange Procession and Return to the House of Marheyo

Chapter 13
Attempt to procure Relief from Nukuheva
Perilous Adventure of Toby in the Happar Mountain
Eloquence of Kory-Kory

Chapter 14
A great Event happens in the Valley
The Island Telegraph
Something befalls Toby
Fayaway displays a tender Heart
Melancholy Reflections
Mysterious Conduct of the Islanders
Devotion of Kory-Kory
A rural Couch
A Luxury
Kory-Kory strikes a Light à la Typee

Chapter 15
Kindness of Marheyo and the rest of the Islanders
A full Description of the Bread-fruit Tree
Different Modes of preparing the Fruit

Chapter 16
Melancholy condition
Occurrence at the Ti
Anecdote of Marheyo
Shaving the Head of a Warrior

Chapter 17
Improvement in Health and Spirits
Felicity of the Typees
Their enjoyment compared with those of more enlightened Communities
Comparative Wickedness of civilized and unenlightened People
A Skirmish in the Mountain with the Warriors of Happar

Chapter 18
Swimming in company with the Girls of the Valley
A Canoe
Effects of the Taboo
A pleasure Excursion on the Pond
Beautiful freak of Fayaway
Mantua-making
A Stranger arrives in the Valley
His mysterious conduct
Native Oratory
The Interview
Its Results
Departure of the Stranger

Chapter 19
Reflections after Marnoo's Departure
Battle of the Pop-guns
Strange conceit of Marheyo
Process of making Tappa

Chapter 20
History of a day as usually spent in the Typee Valley
Dances of the Marquesan Girls

Chapter 21
The Spring of Arva Wai
Remarkable Monumental Remains
Some ideas with regard to the History of the Pi-Pis found in the Valley

Chapter 22
Preparations for a Grand Festival in the Valley
Strange doings in the Taboo Groves
Monument of Calabashes
Gala costume of the Typee damsels
Departure for the Festival

Chapter 23
The Feast of Calabashes

Chapter 24
Ideas suggested by the Feast of Calabashes
Inaccuracy of certain published Accounts of the Islands
A Reason
Neglected State of Heathenism in the Valley
Effigy of a dead Warrior
A singular Superstition
The Priest Kolory and the God Moa Artua
Amazing Religious Observance
A dilapidated Shrine
Kory-Kory and the Idol
An Inference

Chapter 25
General Information gathered at the Festival
Personal Beauty of the Typees
Their Superiority over the Inhabitants of the other Islands
Diversity of Complexion
A Vegetable Cosmetic and Ointment
Testimony of Voyagers to the uncommon Beauty of the Marquesans
Few Evidences of Intercourse with Civilized Beings
Dilapidated Musket
Primitive Simplicity of Government
Regal Dignity of Mehevi

Chapter 26
King Mehevi
Allusion to his Hawiian Majesty
Conduct of Marheyo and Mehevi in certain delicate matters
Peculiar system of Marriage
Number of Population
Uniformity
Embalming
Places of Sepulture
Funeral obsequies at Nukuheva
Number of Inhabitants at Typee
Location of the Dwellings
Happiness enjoyed in the Valley
A Warning
Some ideas with regard to the Civilization of the Islands
Reference to the Present state of the Hawiians
Story of a Missionary's Wife
Fashionable Equipages at Oahu
Reflections

Chapter 27
The Social Condition and General Character of the Typees

Chapter 28
Fishing Parties
Mode of distributing the Fish
Midnight Banquet
Timekeeping Tapers
Unceremonious style of eating the Fish

Chapter 29
Natural History of the Valley
Golden Lizards
Tameness of the Birds
Mosquitos
Flies
Dogs
A solitary Cat
The Climate
The Cocoa-nut Tree
Singular modes of climbing it
An agile young Chief
Fearlessness of the Children
Too-Too and the Cocoa-nut Tree
The Birds of the Valley

Chapter 30
A Professor of the Fine Arts
His Persecutions
Something about Tattooing and Tabooing
Two Anecdotes in illustration of the latter
A few thoughts on the Typee Dialect

Chapter 31
Strange custom of the Islanders
Their Chanting, and the peculiarity of their Voice
Rapture of the King at first hearing a Song
A new Dignity conferred on the Author
Musical Instruments in the Valley
Admiration of the Savages at Beholding a Pugilistic Performance
Swimming Infant
Beautiful Tresses of the Girls
Ointment for the Hair

Chapter 32
Apprehensions of Evil
Frightful Discovery
Some remarks on Cannibalism
Second Battle with the Happars
Savage Spectacle
Mysterious Feast
Subsequent Disclosures

Chapter 33
The Stranger again arrives in the Valley
Singular Interview with him
Attempt to Escape
Failure
Melancholy Situation
Sympathy of Marheyo

Chapter 34
The Escape

Appendix: Provisional cession to Lord George Paulet of the Sandwich Islands
Sequel: The Story of Toby
Appendixes: List of Textual Expurgations; List of Textual Emendations
The Typee Manuscript: A Reading Text
Explanatory Notes

What People are Saying About This

D. H. Lawrence

Melville at his best invariably wrote from a sort of dream self, so that events which he relates of actual facts have a far deeper reference to his own soul and his own inner life.

John Updike

We are, perhaps, after a century of literary wasteland, able to read not only a personal predicament but a general truth in Melville's blasted island, bedeviled ships, misshapen houses, falling towers, kicking tables, and blank brick city walls. The appetite for truth is what gives Melville's narrative a persistent interest and, even under the spell of discouragement, that untoward verbal energy...like Billy Budd, Melville when a sailor on a man-of-war was a top man, at home on the highest yarns, enjoying the ride of few...Melville instinctively aspired to the grandest scale, and even his shorter works offers vast inklings and resonance of cosmic concerns.

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