January 12, 2024

#08-376: Captains Courageous

Harvey Cheyne Jr. is pulled into a fishing dory (Wikimedia)

Note: Rudyard Kipling is famous for stories in exotic settings--India, for example. But this one happens mainly off the coast of Canada and New England!

Get Ready: Within reason, do you think children should be given anything they ask for, and allowed to do anything they want to? Why or why not?

Fifteen-year-old Harvey Cheyne Jr. was a spoiled brat.

But all that changed when his father, a railroad magnate, sent him on a transatlantic crossing--and he was washed overboard!

This is the beginning of Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling's only book entirely set in North America.

The ship was near the Grand Banks, off Newfoundland, an area famed for its fisheries. When Harvey fell into the ocean, he was rescued by a fishing dory and placed aboard a fishing schooner with the unusual name "We're Here," with a captain who had an equally odd name: Disko Troop.

Disko's young son Dan was about Harvey's age and was also working aboard the ship. He befriended Harvey, who tried to convince the captain to sail to New York and drop him off--"where his father would pay anything any one chose to name."

The captain didn't believe he was that rich, and was loath to lose any time fishing at this season. New York was a thousand miles away, and time is money.

And so Harvey--the "heir to thirty millions"--was hired at $10.50 a month to be "second boy on the schooner," along with food and lodging, of course.

And--no surprise to the reader, but somewhat unexpected by the characters--it made a man out of him.

Kipling works hard (some would say "strains") to capture the diverse speaking styles of his characters: the nasal twang of the Gloucester fishermen; the accents of a German ("efer" for "ever"); an Irishman ("meself" for "myself"); a Portuguese ("dreeft" for "drift"); and so on.

The best part of the book, in my opinion, is the "yarns" the various sailors tell in the evening. In this way Kipling incorporates a lot of "sea lore."

In the end, the "We're Here" put in at Gloucester (after winning a fishing competition against the other boats) and Harvey sent a telegram to his father. The elder Cheyne took his private train car from California to retrieve him.

The Cheynes were overjoyed to learn that that their son was alive, and, what's more, that he had matured so thoroughly in just a few months' time.

Dan Troop went to work in a fleet of freighters owned by Mr. Cheyne, and the cook from the "We're Here" became Harvey's bodyguard. Disko and the crew, of course, would take nothing for helping young Harvey.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. dory
  2. fisheries
  3. loath
  4. lodging
  5. magnate
  6. nasal twang
  7. overboard
  8. schooner
  9. spoiled brat
  10. strains
  1. a kind of rowboat
  2. off of a boat or ship
  3. an exaggerated sound through the nose
  4. a child who behaves badly because he/she is allowed to do anything he/she wants, without being scolded
  5. a place to stay
  6. reluctant; unwilling.
  7. a rich businessperson
  8. fishing grounds
  9. a type of smallish sailing ship
  10. tries too hard

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 12, 2024

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. h; 3. f; 4. e; 5. g; 6. c; 7. b; 8. i; 9. d; 10. j