Werner's Reviews > A Friend of the Seminole

A Friend of the Seminole by George Ethelbert Walsh
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's review
Apr 29, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: adventure-fiction
Recommended for: Readers who like wilderness adventure, and old-fashioned fiction
Read in January, 1961

This book, set in the Florida Everglades during the author's own time, pits two brothers in their early twenties against the dangers (natural and human) of a region that was then largely still trackless wilderness; the older brother is a surveyor responsible for trying to map the region. Although I read it as a kid, it was not, as far as I know, written as a children's book (and though the publisher, David C. Cook, is known today as a Christian publishing house, I don't recall any religious elements). Given that it's not well- known today, and out-of-print, it may seem like an odd selection to review; but I liked it, and the memories of it have always stayed with me. Two of its best features are a very strong ethic of conservation and respect for the majesty and beauty of wild nature (when it was written, the bird population of the Everglades was being slaughtered by plume hunters --a class of people the Winthrop brothers have no use for-- to adorn women's hats), and social-political sympathies that are entirely with the Seminoles in the recounting of their heroic and unequal struggle against U.S. government aggression. These messages helped to confirm and cultivate leanings I already had as a kid.

Of course, the prose is rather old-fashioned, and some of the dialogue stilted by our standards (many people in that era really spoke that way, however), and the villain not much more three-dimensional than Snidely Whiplash. But the evocation of the setting --especially the vast, reed-infested inland seascape of Lake Okeechobee-- is really masterful, with a you-are-there emotional effect; the plot is genuinely absorbing, with adventures such as poisonous snake bite; and the other characters the two meet in their travels, such as the Seminole warrior Osprey Feather, are interesting and well -drawn. (Walsh uses snatches of actual Seminole language, which he obviously understood, in the latter's conversations with the surveyor, which are translated for the younger brother's --and the reader's :-) -- benefit.)
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Werner In re-reading my review just now, I noted that I'd misused the word "decimated" (which technically means to kill one-tenth of a given group); so I've changed it to "slaughtered," so as to be pedantically correct. :-)

Recently, I had occasion to visit the Everglades for the first time. The picture of the region I'd formed from reading this book (which the trip brought back to mind) proved to be pretty accurate. It was a really special experience to actually see this unique place firsthand!

message 2: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie I see this was published in 1911. Is it in the public domain?

Werner Yes, Bonnie, it should be in the public domain. You can usually figure that anything written before 1922 is in the public domain. Under U.S. copyright law (the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" rammed through Congress by the Disney empire) any work produced after that is covered by an extremely long copyright, designed to outlast most of our lifetimes. :-(

message 4: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie yes indeed, yet I can't find it online - can you add a quote or two, or do you know if there's a link to it?

Werner Hmmm! I can recall general approximations of parts of the text, but usually not completely exact words (except for Osprey Feather's comment "White man no good"); and I don't know of any full-text link. (What I read was the hardcover edition, of course.) Contrary to what most people nowadays believe, not everything in the public domain is available in full-text online, and this may be an example, especially since it isn't a very well-known book that would be a high priority to digitize. But I'll try to do some searching in the next couple of days, and will post a link if I find one.

If you'd like to read it, you might want to try to get it by interlibrary loan; I'm pretty sure it's in World Catalog, because I think I added it to the Goodreads database, and that would be where I got my information. (For years, I only remembered the title.) Though it might be that the only OCLC (your librarian will know what that means) libraries that have it are in the U.S., so that could be a problem if your local public library doesn't borrow from outside of Canada. (International ILL can be problematic because of the postage.)

message 6: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie thanks Werner...I was only mildly curious. I did find this old history book from 1920, The Seminoles of Florida http://archive.org/details/cu31924097...
there's some pictures in there too. I love the 'voice' of these old books, and it's a concept that I'm thinking about right now because I'm reading Cloud Atlas, which is amazing in how it captures that voice, and indeed the mind set behind it, and the subject itself. Here's a sample of the Seminoles of Florida,

THE Seminole's unwritten verdict of the WHITE RACE.
" Es-ta-had-kee, ho-lo-wa-gus, lox-ee-o-jus " (White man no good, lie too much.) In some mysterious way, the Seminole's conception of the Decalogue neither to lie, nor steal, nor cheat, is the foundation stone upon which he builds his character, principle and honor, for it is taught to the race, from the cradle to the grave, to the swinging papoose on its mother's shoulders, all through life, till the Great Spirit calls to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Let the reader stop and consider that here is a community of hundreds, living in open palmetto camps. No locks, no doors, no courts, and no officers to keep the law; a people, who for generations have lived, pure in morals, with no thieving, no trespassing, and no profanity (for the Seminole has no oath in his language). With his conception of the Deity, he reverences the name of the Great Spirit, and "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," he venerates, as did the Hebrews in the days of Moses.

Werner Bonnie, thanks for sharing that quote! I could still remember the first two Seminole words there (though I don't know if Walsh spelled them exactly identically, and he didn't use the syllable-by-syllable breakdown); that was one of the "snatches of actual Seminole language" I mentioned in the review. :-)

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