Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter Seventeen



DAY after day wore on, and still there was no perceptible change
in the conduct of the islanders towards me.  Gradually I lost all
knowledge of the regular recurrence of the days of the week, and
sunk insensibly into that kind of apathy which ensues after some
violent outburst of despair.  My limb suddenly healed, the
swelling went down, the pain subsided, and I had every reason to
suppose I should soon completely recover from the affliction that
had so long tormented me.

As soon as I was enabled to ramble about the valley in company
with the natives, troops of whom followed me whenever I sallied
out of the house, I began to experience an elasticity of mind
which placed me beyond the reach of those dismal forebodings to
which I had so lately been a prey.  Received wherever I went with
the most deferential kindness; regaled perpetually with the most
delightful fruits; ministered to by dark-eyed nymphs, and
enjoying besides all the services of the devoted Kory-Kory, I
thought that, for a sojourn among cannibals, no man could have
well made a more agreeable one.

To be sure there were limits set to my wanderings.  Toward the
sea my progress was barred by an express prohibition of the
savages; and after having made two or three ineffectual attempts
to reach it, as much to gratify my curiousity as anything else, I
gave up the idea.  It was in vain to think of reaching it by
stealth, since the natives escorted me in numbers wherever I
went, and not for one single moment that I can recall to mind was
I ever permitted to be alone.

The green and precipitous elevations that stood ranged around the
head of the vale where Marheyo's habitation was situated
effectually precluded all hope of escape in that quarter, even if
I could have stolen away from the thousand eyes of the savages.

But these reflections now seldom obtruded upon me; I gave myself
up to the passing hour, and if ever disagreeable thoughts arose
in my mind, I drove them away.  When I looked around the verdant
recess in which I was buried, and gazed up to the summits of the
lofty eminence that hemmed me in, I was well disposed to think
that I was in the 'Happy Valley', and that beyond those heights
there was naught but a world of care and anxiety.  As I extended
my wanderings in the valley and grew more familiar with the
habits of its inmates, I was fain to confess that, despite the
disadvantages of his condition, the Polynesian savage, surrounded
by all the luxurious provisions of nature, enjoyed an infinitely
happier, though certainly a less intellectual existence than the
self-complacent European.

The naked wretch who shivers beneath the bleak skies, and starves
among the inhospitable wilds of Tierra-del-Fuego, might indeed be
made happier by civilization, for it would alleviate his physical
wants.  But the voluptuous Indian, with every desire supplied,
whom Providence has bountifully provided with all the sources of
pure and natural enjoyment, and from whom are removed so many of
the ills and pains of life--what has he to desire at the hands of
Civilization?  She may 'cultivate his mind--may elevate his
thoughts,'--these I believe are the established phrases--but will
he be the happier?  Let the once smiling and populous Hawiian
islands, with their now diseased, starving, and dying natives,
answer the question.  The missionaries may seek to disguise the
matter as they will, but the facts are incontrovertible; and the
devoutest Christian who visits that group with an unbiased mind,
must go away mournfully asking--'Are these, alas!  the fruits of
twenty-five years of enlightening?'

In a primitive state of society, the enjoyments of life, though
few and simple, are spread over a great extent, and are
unalloyed; but Civilization, for every advantage she imparts,
holds a hundred evils in reserve;--the heart-burnings, the
jealousies, the social rivalries, the family dissentions, and the
thousand self-inflicted discomforts of refined life, which make
up in units the swelling aggregate of human misery, are unknown
among these unsophisticated people.

But it will be urged that these shocking unprincipled wretches
are cannibals.  Very true; and a rather bad trait in their
character it must be allowed.  But they are such only when they
seek to gratify the passion of revenge upon their enemies; and I
ask whether the mere eating of human flesh so very far exceeds in
barbarity that custom which only a few years since was practised
in enlightened England:--a convicted traitor, perhaps a man found
guilty of honesty, patriotism, and suchlike heinous crimes, had
his head lopped off with a huge axe, his bowels dragged cut and
thrown into a fire; while his body, carved into four quarters,
was with his head exposed upon pikes, and permitted to rot and
fester among the public haunts of men!

The fiend-like skill we display in the invention of all manner of
death-dealing engines, the vindictiveness with which we carry on
our wars, and the misery and desolation that follow in their
train, are enough of themselves to distinguish the white
civilized man as the most ferocious animal on the face of the

His remorseless cruelty is seen in many of the institutions of
our own favoured land.  There is one in particular lately adopted
in one of the States of the Union, which purports to have been
dictated by the most merciful considerations.  To destroy our
malefactors piece-meal, drying up in their veins, drop by drop,
the blood we are too chicken-hearted to shed by a single blow
which would at once put a period to their sufferings, is deemed
to be infinitely preferable to the old-fashioned punishment of
gibbeting--much less annoying to the victim, and more in
accordance with the refined spirit of the age; and yet how feeble
is all language to describe the horrors we inflict upon these
wretches, whom we mason up in the cells of our prisons, and
condemn to perpetual solitude in the very heart of our

But it is needless to multiply the examples of civilized
barbarity; they far exceed in the amount of misery they cause the
crimes which we regard with such abhorrence in our less
enlightened fellow-creatures.

The term 'Savage' is, I conceive, often misapplied, and indeed,
when I consider the vices, cruelties, and enormities of every
kind that spring up in the tainted atmosphere of a feverish
civilization, I am inclined to think that so far as the relative
wickedness of the parties is concerned, four or five Marquesan
Islanders sent to the United States as Missionaries might be
quite as useful as an equal number of Americans despatched to the
Islands in a similar capacity.

I once heard it given as an instance of the frightful depravity
of a certain tribe in the Pacific that they had no word in their
language to express the idea of virtue.  The assertion was
unfounded; but were it otherwise, it might be met by stating that
their language is almost entirely destitute of terms to express
the delightful ideas conveyed by our endless catalogue of
civilized crimes.

In the altered frame of mind to which I have referred, every
object that presented itself to my notice in the valley struck me
in a new light, and the opportunities I now enjoyed of observing
the manners of its inmates, tended to strengthen my favourable
impressions.  One peculiarity that fixed my admiration was the
perpetual hilarity reigning through the whole extent of the vale.

There seemed to be no cares, griefs, troubles, or vexations, in
all Typee.  The hours tripped along as gaily as the laughing
couples down a country dance.

There were none of those thousand sources of irritation that the
ingenuity of civilized man has created to mar his own felicity.  
There were no foreclosures of mortgages, no protested notes, no
bills payable, no debts of honour in Typee; no unreasonable
tailors and shoemakers perversely bent on being paid; no duns of
any description and battery attorneys, to foment discord, backing
their clients up to a quarrel, and then knocking their heads
together; no poor relations, everlastingly occupying the spare
bed-chamber, and diminishing the elbow room at the family table;
no destitute widows with their children starving on the cold
charities of the world; no beggars; no debtors' prisons; no proud
and hard-hearted nabobs in Typee; or to sum up all in one
word--no Money!  'That root of all evil' was not to be found in
the valley.

In this secluded abode of happiness there were no cross old
women, no cruel step-dames, no withered spinsters, no lovesick
maidens, no sour old bachelors, no inattentive husbands, no
melancholy young men, no blubbering youngsters, and no squalling
brats.  All was mirth, fun and high good humour.  Blue devils,
hypochondria, and doleful dumps, went and hid themselves among
the nooks and crannies of the rocks.

Here you would see a parcel of children frolicking together the
live-long day, and no quarrelling, no contention, among them.  
The same number in our own land could not have played together
for the space of an hour without biting or scratching one
another.  There you might have seen a throng of young females,
not filled with envyings of each other's charms, nor displaying
the ridiculous affectations of gentility, nor yet moving in
whalebone corsets, like so many automatons, but free,
inartificially happy, and unconstrained.

There were some spots in that sunny vale where they would
frequently resort to decorate themselves with garlands of
flowers.  To have seen them reclining beneath the shadows of one
of the beautiful groves; the ground about them strewn with
freshly gathered buds and blossoms, employed in weaving chaplets
and necklaces, one would have thought that all the train of Flora
had gathered together to keep a festival in honour of their

With the young men there seemed almost always some matter of
diversion or business on hand that afforded a constant variety of
enjoyment.  But whether fishing, or carving canoes, or polishing
their ornaments, never was there exhibited the least sign of
strife or contention among them.  As for the warriors, they
maintained a tranquil dignity of demeanour, journeying
occasionally from house to house, where they were always sure to
be received with the attention bestowed upon distinguished
guests.  The old men, of whom there were many in the vale, seldom
stirred from their mats, where they would recline for hours and
hours, smoking and talking to one another with all the garrulity
of age.

But the continual happiness, which so far as I was able to judge
appeared to prevail in the valley, sprang principally from that
all-pervading sensation which Rousseau has told us be at one time
experienced, the mere buoyant sense of a healthful physical
existence.  And indeed in this particular the Typees had ample
reason to felicitate themselves, for sickness was almost unknown.

During the whole period of my stay I saw but one invalid among
them; and on their smooth skins you observed no blemish or mark
of disease.

The general repose, however, upon which I have just been
descanting, was broken in upon about this time by an event which
proved that the islanders were not entirely exempt from those
occurrences which disturb the quiet of more civilized

Having now been a considerable time in the valley, I began to
feel surprised that the violent hostility subsisting between its
inhabitants, and those of the adjoining bay of Happar, should
never have manifested itself in any warlike encounter.  Although
the valiant Typees would often by gesticulations declare their
undying hatred against their enemies, and the disgust they felt
at their cannibal propensities; although they dilated upon the
manifold injuries they had received at their hands, yet with a
forbearance truly commendable, they appeared to sit down under
their grievances, and to refrain from making any reprisals.  The
Happars, entrenched behind their mountains, and never even
showing themselves on their summits, did not appear to me to
furnish adequate cause for that excess of animosity evinced
towards them by the heroic tenants of our vale, and I was
inclined to believe that the deeds of blood attributed to them
had been greatly exaggerated.

On the other hand, as the clamours of war had not up to this
period disturbed the serenity of the tribe, I began to distrust
the truth of those reports which ascribed so fierce and
belligerent a character to the Typee nation.  Surely, thought I,
all these terrible stories I have heard about the inveteracy with
which they carried on the feud, their deadly intensity, of hatred
and the diabolical malice with which they glutted their revenge
upon the inanimate forms of the slain, are nothing more than
fables, and I must confess that I experienced something like a
sense of regret at having my hideous anticipations thus
disappointed.  I felt in some sort like a 'prentice boy who,
going to the play in the expectation of being delighted with a
cut-and-thrust tragedy, is almost moved to tears of
disappointment at the exhibition of a genteel comedy.

I could not avoid thinking that I had fallen in with a greatly
traduced people, and I moralized not a little upon the
disadvantage of having a bad name, which in this instance  had
given a tribe of savages, who were as pacific as so many
lambkins, the reputation of a confederacy of giant-killers.

But subsequent events proved that I had been a little too
premature in coming to this conclusion.  One, day about noon,
happening to be at the Ti, I had lain down on the mats with
several of the chiefs, and had gradually sunk into a most
luxurious siesta, when I was awakened by a tremendous outcry, and
starting up beheld the natives seizing their spears and hurrying
out, while the most puissant of the chiefs, grasping the six
muskets which were ranged against the bamboos, followed after,
and soon disappeared in the groves.  These movements were
accompanied by wild shouts, in which 'Happar, Happar,' greatly
predominated.  The islanders were now seen running past the Ti,
and striking across the valley to the Happar side.  Presently I
heard the sharp report of a musket from the adjoining hills, and
then a burst of voices in the same direction.  At this the women
who had congregated in the groves, set up the most violent
clamours, as they invariably do here as elsewhere on every
occasion of excitement and alarm, with a view of tranquillizing
their own minds and disturbing other people.  On this particular
occasion they made such an outrageous noise, and continued it
with such perseverance, that for awhile, had entire volleys of
musketry been fired off in the neighbouring mountains, I should
not have been able to have heard them.

When this female commotion had a little subsided I listened
eagerly for further information.  At last bang went another shot,
and then a second volley of yells from the hills.  Again all was
quiet, and continued so for such a length of time that I began to
think the contending armies had agreed upon a suspension of
hostilities; when pop went a third gun, followed as before with a
yell.  After this, for nearly two hours nothing occurred worthy
of comment, save some straggling shouts from the hillside,
sounding like the halloos of a parcel of truant boys who had lost
themselves in the woods.

During this interval I had remained standing on the piazza of the
'Ti,' which directly fronted the Happar mountain, and with no one
near me but Kory-Kory and the old superannuated savages I have
described.  These latter never stirred from their mats, and
seemed altogether unconscious that anything unusual was going on.

As for Kory-Kory, he appeared to think that we were in the midst
of great events, and sought most zealously to impress me with a
due sense of their importance.  Every sound that reached us
conveyed some momentous item of intelligence to him.  At such
times, as if he were gifted with second sight, he would go
through a variety of pantomimic illustrations, showing me the
precise manner in which the redoubtable Typees were at that very
moment chastising the insolence of the enemy.  'Mehevi hanna
pippee nuee Happar,' he exclaimed every five minutes, giving me
to understand that under that distinguished captain the warriors
of his nation were performing prodigies of valour.

Having heard only four reports from the muskets, I was led to
believe that they were worked by the islanders in the same manner
as the Sultan Solyman's ponderous artillery at the siege of
Byzantium, one of them taking an hour or two to load and train.  
At last, no sound whatever proceeding from the mountains, I
concluded that the contest had been determined one way or the
other.  Such appeared, indeed, to be the case, for in a little
while a courier arrived at the 'Ti', almost breathless with his
exertions, and communicated the news of a great victory having
been achieved by his countrymen: 'Happar poo arva!--Happar poo
arva!' (the cowards had fled).  Kory-Kory was in ecstasies, and
commenced a vehement harangue, which, so far as I understood it,
implied that the result exactly agreed with his expectations, and
which, moreover, was intended to convince me that it would be a
perfectly useless undertaking, even for an army of fire-eaters,
to offer battle to the irresistible heroes of our valley.  In all
this I of course acquiesced, and looked forward with no little
interest to the return of the conquerors, whose victory I feared
might not have been purchased without cost to themselves.

But here I was again mistaken; for Mehevi, in conducting his
warlike operations, rather inclined to the Fabian than to the
Bonapartean tactics, husbanding his resources and exposing his
troops to no unnecessary hazards.  The total loss of the victors
in this obstinately contested affair was, in killed, wounded, and
missing--one forefinger and part of a thumb-nail (which the late
proprietor brought along with him in his hand), a severely
contused arm, and a considerable effusion of blood flowing from
the thigh of a chief, who had received an ugly thrust from a
Happar spear.  What the enemy had suffered I could not discover,
but I presume they had succeeded in taking off with them the
bodies of their slain.

Such was the issue of the battle, as far as its results came
under my observation: and as it appeared to be considered an
event of prodigious importance, I reasonably concluded that the
wars of the natives were marked by no very sanguinary traits.  I
afterwards learned how the skirmish had originated.  A number of
the Happars had been discovered prowling for no good purpose on
the Typee side of the mountain; the alarm sounded, and the
invaders, after a protracted resistance, had been chased over the
frontier.  But why had not the intrepid Mehevi carried the war
into Happar?  Why had he not made a descent into the hostile
vale, and brought away some trophy of his victory--some materials
for the cannibal entertainment which I had heard usually
terminated every engagement?  After all, I was much inclined to
believe that these shocking festivals must occur very rarely
among the islanders, if, indeed, they ever take place.

For two or three days the late event was the theme of general
comment; after which the excitement gradually wore away, and the
valley resumed its accustomed tranquility.

Herman Melville