Chapter XI: They seemed to know everything

In which we learn about centre boards, pilot books (I had to look them up), and the proper way to carry a heavy barrel.

One of the things I love about this chapter is that even though this is the point where hierarchies are being established, there are huge amounts of respect in both directions.

Mostly, we see John being a bit in awe of the Amazon pirates. He spends most of the chapter trying to work out how he can ask about the harbour markings without seeming ignorant, and in the end he just swallows his pride:

“At last John said, “Look here, Captain Nancy. I wish you’d tell me about the marking of the harbour.”‘

And Nancy immediately trusts him to navigate her precious Amazon.

Meanwhile, while Peggy is enthusiastically celebrating everything the two families have in common:
– Ā “‘We’ve got flagons in our ship,’ said Peggy. ‘They are just like these.'” –
Nancy is lost in her own internal reverie.

“‘Right, I’ve got it. Swallows and Amazons for ever, and death to Captain Flint.'”

I mean – it’s catchy and everything, but if that’s what has been preoccupying her for so long, she should probably leave the wordy stuff to Titty. I don’t think that is it, though – she is also giving a lot of thought to how she can include these new friends in her long-running game-reality without jeopardising the bits that are most important to her. She’s working out how much control she’s willing to relinquish for the sake of making new connections. This is important stuff, and Nancy is not a talker, so it all happens inside her head.

We also get a lot of Captain Flint’s back story. Peggy is very good at exposition, and she shows us something about the naivety of these pirates who ‘know everything’. They are essentially well-meaning kids, and I’m fairly sure that I completely bought into her story when I was a child. Now, as an adult who is actually trying to write something right now (even if it is just a tiny personal blog), I have considerably more sympathy with poor Jim, who can’t get a minute’s peace.

“‘But we thought it wasn’t his fault to be writing a book, and that we would show him we didn’t think any worse of him for it. But he wasn’t pleased at all'”.

I wonder what Titty makes of this casual disregard for writing. She seems to be completely caught up in weaving her story of Captain Flint – probably that’s all that matters to her at this moment. I guess, for her, writing books is entirely compatible with going to war and walking the plank, so Captain Flint is at fault for creating the dichotomy.

And going to war there will be. They’ve eaten their sardines and levelled the playing field; now they can fight.


7 thoughts on “Chapter XI: They seemed to know everything

  1. bryonye

    Sorry if this is the wrong place to post but I saw the trailer for the new S&A film yesterday. It looks like they’ve 39 Stepsed it by adding some horrendous spying plot! I may have shouted at the screen… šŸ˜¦


    1. I have very mixed feelings about the new film, so I’m very deliberately waiting to see it before I comment. I tend to agree with you about the plot addition – it seems completely unnecessary to me and I can’t see how it won’t change the character of the story completely. I read an article suggesting it’s a nod to Ransome’s own life, which mollified me slightly, but I’m still unconvinced. And I am very uncomfortable about the cos-playing element. They didn’t dress up as Amazon pirates, they just were them. But I’m hoping that there will be lots of good and wonderful elements too, and I think it is now my duty to go and watch the film, at least.

      Thank you for commenting! It is very exciting for me when people do.


  2. bryonye

    I will see it too, might see if my dad, who read all the books to me, wants to come with me so we can analyse… And why change Titty’s name if they haven’t changed Roger’s? Grrrrr! But fingers crossed!


    1. Well, I definitely have opinions on the name change. Short version: it’s a name. Yes, people would snigger for the first five minutes, but then they’d forget about it and enjoy the film and just possibly, a generation of children would find the idea of ‘titties’ slightly less funny in future. Long version involves me getting my Feminist on big time, and may well be a post of its own at some point.


      1. bryonye

        Definitely not perfect. My mum enjoyed it most out of the three of us, I think – she has the least memory of the book. My main gripes were that they changed two of the main characters too much to play against their personalities for dramatic effect, and that they didn’t understand that the children’s imagination was the driver of the story. As you pointed out already, the Amazons didn’t need to dress up, they just were. A similar crime was that the corned beef tins in the shop were actually labelled as pemmican! Grrrr! I’ll won’t give you any more spoilers but would definitely like to discuss more when you’ve seen it! Have done all my ranting on facebook already šŸ˜€


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