Mardi, and a Voyage Thither Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The narrator of the story, a young American sailor, is picked up at Ravavai, a Pacific island, by a whaling vessel, the Arcturion. The voyage of the Arcturion is not a successful one, and when the ship begins to head for the cold climate of the Bay of Kamchatka, the young narrator and his special friend in the forecastle, Jarl, decide to leave the ship. Knowing the captain will not land them anywhere, they provision a small boat and in it escape from the ship under cover of darkness.

Heading westward, the two men hope to reach some hospitable islands. After sailing for many days, they come upon a drifting ship that seems to be a derelict. Finding it in fairly seaworthy condition, they board it. The following morning, a native man and woman are found in the rigging, where they had hidden from the narrator and Jarl. With the help of the natives, who had escaped with the ship from an unfriendly tribe of islanders after the latter had killed the ship’s crew, the narrator and Jarl continue their voyage in search of land.

After many days of voyaging, the vessel is becalmed. In the storm that follows, the vessel is wrecked. Jarl and the narrator, with the native man, Samoa, set out in a little whaleboat. The native woman is killed during the storm. Many days later, they see a sail in the distance. Taking up their oars to aid the force of the sail, they slowly close in on the craft they had spotted. As they draw close, they see it is a strange arrangement of two native canoes with a platform built over them. After some discussion between the native priest in charge of the craft and the narrator, the sailor and Samoa board the native vessel. Once aboard the craft, they discover a beautiful blonde girl, but they have to force a passage through the natives to regain the whaleboat. In the scuffle, they take two of the natives prisoners. From the natives, they learn that the blonde girl is the priest’s prisoner. Going back aboard the native craft, the sailor and Samoa rescue the girl and escape with her from the natives.

The girl, whose name is Yillah, wishes to return to her native islands. The narrator soon falls in love with her, and the girl, in native fashion, returns his affection. The narrator then decides that he will remain with her on her island home. Sighting a group of islands at last, the party heads for the nearest beach. Before they reach the shore, however, natives swim out to the whaleboat and give them an excited welcome. Towing the boat into shallow water, the natives pick it up and carry it ashore on their shoulders. The visitors are completely puzzled by their reception until they learn that the narrator has been mistaken for the natives’ god, Taji, who, according to an ancient prophecy, would one day revisit them in human form. The natives also think that the other three occupants of the...

(The entire section is 1168 words.)