Read The Phantom Ship by Frederick Marryat Free Online
Book Title: The Phantom Ship|
The author of the book: Frederick Marryat
ISBN 13: 9780935526851
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 981 KB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1169 times
Reader ratings: 5.4
Edition: McBooks Press
Date of issue: October 25th 2000
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So, at my day job, I was looking at material to include in a forthcoming GOTHIC story e-book collection (we like to throw in some novels as bonuses), and I decided to process this classic Gothic novel about the Flying Dutchman, as it was long on my reading list anyway so why not kill two birds with one stone?
Prior to this, my knowledge of the Flying Dutchman myth was his appearance in an episode of LAND OF THE LOST when I was a kid, and general knowledge that a lush filmed version had been made at one time.
It should be noted early on that despite curses and ghostly ships and magic rituals (and even a werewolf!), this is decidedly a Gothic novel and not a Horror novel (although the questions it raises about religion and the disposition of one's soul would have nudged it closer to the realm of disturbing for readers at the time of publication).
And what a Gothic novel it is! It opens on a lurid, small scale scene with a mother's bloody death throes and the revealed secret of a sealed room. Our main character, Philip Vanderdecken - a brooding, violent youth, quick to anger - is told of an ages-old ghostly visitation to his mother by her seafaring husband. The Captain cursed God in the teeth of a storm and now is fated to sail the seas until Judgment Day, an ill omen to all sailors, unless his son can track him down in his spectral wanderings and present him a sacred relic, a piece of the True Cross, upon which he must weep in contrition. And so Philip swears to save his father's soul and sets forth on dangerous journeys around the world...
Huge and sprawling, this book takes in many events and characters. Mynheer Poots (the greedy, conniving doctor) and his beautiful, exotic Arabic daughter Amine (raised as a Muslim and tutored in occult magic by her Mother), Schriften (a sardonic, one-eyed sailor - "It was not a man with one eye, but one eye with a man attached to it" - forever tittering and cruelly taunting, turning up like a bad penny at the worst of times and possessed of more knowledge than he lets on), Krantz (a stalwart friend of Philip, with his own mysterious background) and Father Mathias (who takes it upon himself to council and convert Amine). There are (as might be expected) shipwrecks and storms, desert islands and castaways and naval battles, but also skullduggery and greed and even...(not so unexpectedly)... the Spanish Inquisition!
You'll get a history lesson about the Dutch East India shipping company, Christianity spreading in Japan and, in the climax, the cruel, corrupt and devious bureaucratic machinations of The Inquisition. You'll meet a quirky captain who keeps a bear as a shipboard pet, one who talks to his boat as if it were a living woman, there's desertion, mutiny, a hanging, a gunfight with robbers and an attempted poisoning (followed by an accidental one).
Some memorable moments: Amine thinks Philip a ghost on his first return home from the sea; a ship's crew - spooked by sighting the Dutchman and driven by the prompts of the sinister Schriften - become deliberately intoxicated in the teeth of a dangerous gale and drunkenly wreck the ship; a prophetic, visionary dream of riding on a seashell and encountering a mermaid; a horrific scene of rafts coming apart in heavy seas with woman and children drowned and crushed; a ruse whereby Dutch sailors suffering from scurvy pretend to be English when finally reaching a Spanish port - Spain and Denmark being at odds at the time; the Flying Dutchman runs a pursuing ship aground by "sailing" onto dry land and later plunging straight *through* Vanderdecken's ship; a raft full of greedy, backstabbing wretches plot against each other as they sail on a quiet sea under a starry sky, later gambling away their worthless money and slaying each other when stuck on a desert island ("gold is a curse")...
The characters and the moral/spiritual conundrums they face are also surprisingly interesting: Philip, aware that he is cursed, can't justify buying a ship to pursue and free his father, as he would knowingly be putting the crew at risk, but neither can he sign up as crew on another's craft until he contrives a way to compensate for and share the danger. Later, debate is made over whether Philip should pursue his father's spirit or just follow the Catholic prescription of lighting mass candles for him (Catholicism and the Papacy, as usual for Gothic novels, gets raked over the coals quite a bit - when Amine is stuck in a convent later in the book she finds it a hive of gossips).
Amine Vanderdecken (nee Poots) is, in fact, a fascinating character - bold, resourceful, forthright and courageous (she rallies the crew of a storm tossed ship at one point, purely through her strength of character) she is also "other" - a woman, a Muslim and a practitioner of "heathen" magic. While these aspects cause her endless problems (even until the shocking climax) one can't help but be impressed by her portrayal, constantly making well-reasoned arguments against the restrictive and reductive doctrine of the Catholic religion (Amine dares to believe in spirits as a source of positive guidance, not just infernal trickery, and her final fate is determined by hypocritical, pompous, arrogant men, not God). She even argues the case for suicide at one point! A scene where she renounces Christianity (after honestly considering it but judging the religion by the actions of its followers) as she is cast adrift in the ocean, is well done.
The twin climaxes are also extremely powerful and quite satisfying, even poetic (the reveal of Schriften's true identity took me by surprise), after the epic ordeal of the narrative.
Two minor notes - a chapter from this book is often excerpted as "The White Wolf Of The Hartz Mountains" (when sailor Krantz reveals his own background involving evil forest spirits and werewolves) and appears in many anthologies - it was nice to finally read it in context here, although the final disposition of Krantz in the narrative following his story is surprisingly perfunctory. Also, I really liked that the cursed Flying Dutchman, when finally engaged and not just encountered in a storm, sends over a seaman carrying the ship's mail to ask if it can be delivered as they have all been "a long while out" and their loved ones must be worried (not realizing that decades have passed)...
In all honesty, this was one of the most entertaining Gothic novels I have ever read!
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Read information about the authorCaptain Frederick Marryat was a British Royal Navy officer and novelist, an early pioneer of the sea story.
For more information, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic...
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