The Sailor-Boy's Tale Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

While en route from Marseilles to Athens during a gale, the young sailor-boy Simon spots a bird that is stuck high in the rigging of his ship. Seeing that the bird is a peregrine falcon, the boy climbs up in order to free it. The ungrateful falcon rewards Simon for his kindness by hacking him in the thumb so hard that he bleeds, and the boy responds in kind by giving the bird a strong blow to its head.

Two years later Simon experiences the full consequences of this seemingly unimportant incident. He is now a crew member on another ship that is docked in northern Norway, in order to buy herring at Bodø, a thriving and gregarious market town. While on shore leave one evening, Simon meets a young girl named Nora, to whom he gives an orange in exchange for the promise of a kiss. The following night he goes ashore again in order to collect his payment. He ends up in the company of Russian sailors, however, and one of them, Ivan, tries to prevent him from going to meet Nora, saying that he wants Simon to stay with them so that they can show him a good time. Simon responds to Ivan’s advances by stabbing him to death.

Simon proceeds to his meeting with Nora. Although she is uncomfortable with the realization that Simon has killed a man, she acknowledges that it was a necessity, especially because he would have otherwise been unable to come to her. After promising never to marry anyone else, Nora gives Simon the kiss that she owes him—an...

(The entire section is 563 words.)