The Captain and the Cannibal: An Epic Story of Exploration, Kidnapping, and the Broadway Stage (New Directions in Narrative History)

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James Fairhead

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Product Overview

The astounding saga of an American sea captain and the New Guinean nobleman who became his stunned captive, then ally, and eventual friend

Sailing in uncharted waters of the Pacific in 1830, Captain Benjamin Morrell of Connecticut became the first outsider to encounter the inhabitants of a small island off New Guinea. The contact quickly turned violent, fatal cannons were fired, and Morrell abducted young Dako, a hostage so shocked by the white complexions of his kidnappers that he believed he had been captured by the dead. This gripping book unveils for the first time the strange odyssey the two men shared in ensuing years. The account is uniquely told, as much from the captives perspective as from the Americans.

Upon returning to New York, Morrell exhibited Dako as a cannibal in wildly popular shows performed on Broadway and along the east coast. The proceeds helped fund a return voyage to the South Pacificthe captain hoping to establish trade with Dakos assistance, and Dako seizing his chance to return home with the only person who knew where his island was. Supported by rich, newly found archives, this wide-ranging volume traces the voyage to its extraordinary ends and en route decrypts Morrells ambiguous character, the mythic qualities of Dakos life, and the two mens infusion into American literatureas Melvilles Queequeg, for example, and in Poes Pym. The encounters confound indigenous peoples and Americans alike as both puzzle over what it is to be truly human and alive.


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