Friday, August 29, 2014

The Coral Island & The Gorilla Hunters, by R. M. Ballantyne

R. M. Ballantyne

     Robert Michael Ballantyne was one of the most popular boys' authors of the Victorian era, and deservedly so.  He was a Christian writer of adventure stories, and thoroughly researched his subject before writing; often visiting the location he would be describing, in order to understand and portray it better.  It has been said that "what G. A. Henty did for a boy's understanding of history, Ballantyne did for his understanding of geography."  His books however are not mere traveling guides, but tell an interesting story, full of action and humor; always from a Christian perspective.  Occasionally there will be an issue, especially when the books involve romance, such as the main character speaking to a girl of love before talking to her father, but this is not very common.
     In most of Ballantyne's books, especially those dealing with unreached, savage tribes, he strongly addresses the need for missionaries to preach the Gospel, and presents a clear Gospel message in the story.

The Coral Island

     This is Ballantyne's best known book.  It is the story of three boys:  Jack Martin, Ralph Rover, and Peterkin Gay; shipmates who are wrecked in the Pacific Ocean.  They live every adventurous boy's dream:  living for months on an uninhabited island, encountering cannibals, who later become friends; and finally being paid a visit by pirates, who capture Ralph, but finally become their (unintentional) deliverers.
     Please note:  This book includes graphic descriptions of the cruelties of the South Sea Islanders.  These parts are best skipped for young readers/ listeners.  Ballantyne's clear purpose in including these passages is to stir up the British churches to send missionaries to these islands, and he portrays the difference made in the islanders' lives by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This book is available on:
Librivox (audiobook)
a slightly abridged recording is available here on Internet Archive.*
*I clipped out a few of the most graphic parts of this book from the Librivox recording, and have uploaded the abridged version to Internet Archive.  Please see the description there for more details.

The Gorilla Hunters, sequel to The Coral Island

     The Gorilla Hunters is one of my favorite books by Ballantyne, sharing that honor with its prequel, The Coral Island.  It continues the adventures of the three friends, who had parted with vows of eternal friendship, only for Ralph to discover that he had forgotten to ask his friends for their addresses.  Six years later, he receives a surprise visit from Peterkin, and is immediately invited by him on a gorilla-hunting trip to Africa.  Accompanied by Jack, they travel through the country:  exploring, hunting, studying the animals shot, making friends with the natives, rescuing their guide's betrothed wife, and thwarting slave traders.  Ballantyne weaves the serious with the comical with his usual skill, and the way in which the slave traders are defeated is especially humorous (and very effective).
     This book, like The Coral Island, does include graphic descriptions of savage practices, both by the natives and the slave traders, but is still an excellent read. 

This book is available on:
Google Books (but I can't link to it for some reason...)


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