Call It Courage

Armstrong Sperry

"It happened many years ago, before the traders and missionaries first came into the South Seas, while the Polynesians were still great in numbers and fierce of heart..."

So begins the story of Matafu, The Boy Who Was Afraid. Matafu, which means "Stout Heart," is the son of the Great Chief of Hikueru, an island in the South Pacific. Matafu is terrified of the sea, so his people scorn him as a coward. By the time he is fifteen years old he cannot bear being an outcast any longer, and leaves on a solitary voyage to conquer his fear of the sea and find his courage – even if it means dying in the attempt.

I loved this book when I first read it at about the age of 10. I recently found a new paperback edition of it with the original illustrations, and find that I love it as much now as I did then, fifty years ago. Like Ransome, the book reflects the culture and attitudes of its time (it was written in 1940), and also like Ransome the writing is simple, direct, and powerful. Heartily recommended!

Reviewed by Dave Thewlis, August, 2003

This article is ©2003 by Dave Thewlis, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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