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The Red Man's Revenge A Tale of The Red River Flood   By: (1825-1894)

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The Red Man's Revenge, by R.M. Ballantyne.

Robert Michael Ballantyne was born in 1825 and died in 1894. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, and in 1841 he became a clerk with the Hudson Bay Company, working at the Red River Settlement in Northen Canada until 1847, arriving back in Edinburgh in 1848. The letters he had written home were very amusing in their description of backwoods life, and his family publishing connections suggested that he should construct a book based on these letters. Three of his most enduring books were written over the next decade, "The Young Fur Traders", "Ungava", "The Hudson Bay Company", and were based on his experiences with the HBC. In this period he also wrote "The Coral island" and "Martin Rattler", both of these taking place in places never visited by Ballantyne. Having been chided for small mistakes he made in these books, he resolved always to visit the places he wrote about. With these books he became known as a great master of literature intended for teenagers. He researched the Cornish Mines, the London Fire Brigade, the Postal Service, the Railways, the laying down of submarine telegraph cables, the construction of light houses, the light ship service, the life boat service, South Africa, Norway, the North Sea fishing fleet, ballooning, deep sea diving, Algiers, and many more, experiencing the lives of the men and women in these settings by living with them for weeks and months at a time, and he lived as they lived.

He was a very true to life author, depicting the often squalid scenes he encountered with great care and attention to detail. His young readers looked forward eagerly to his next books, and through the 1860s and 1870s there was a flow of books from his pen, sometimes four in a year, all very good reading. The rate of production diminished in the last ten or fifteen years of his life, but the quality never failed.

He published over ninety books under his own name, and a few books for very young children under the pseudonym "Comus".

For today's taste his books are perhaps a little too religious, and what we would nowadays call "pi". In part that was the way people wrote in those days, but more important was the fact that in his days at the Red River Settlement, in the wilds of Canada, he had been a little dissolute, and he did not want his young readers to be unmindful of how they ought to behave, as he felt he had been.

Some of his books were quite short, little over 100 pages. These books formed a series intended for the children of poorer parents, having less pocket money. These books are particularly well written and researched, because he wanted that readership to get the very best possible for their money. They were published as six series, three books in each series. For instance one of these series is "On the Coast", which includes "Saved by the Lifeboat".

"The Red Man's Revenge" is very authoritatively written, because its setting is the Red River, where Ballantyne had spent all those years in his youth. As so often with Ballantyne's books there are the threads of two stories running throughout. One of these, occupying the last two thirds of the book, concerns the Red River flood of May 1826, when the river rose fourteen feet over a largely level plain, causing much loss and annoyance to the settlers in that region, though the loss of only one life.

The other thread concerns the kidnapping of a young white child in revenge for a fancied insult offered to a Red Indian, Petanawaquat. They are pursued by the boy's older brother and some other settlers, but not found. They return only when Petanawaquat has a change of heart, after meditating some time on the fact that Jesus Christ gave up His life to save the souls of those who considered themselves His enemies.

There are various acutely observed actions, such as a buffalo hunt, various fights with bears, the tracking methods used by the pursuers, foiled only eventually when there is a prairie fire... Continue reading book >>

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