The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Phantom Ship is the most extensive English handling of the legend of the Flying Dutchman (widely known through Richard Wagner’s 1843 operatic version The Flying Dutchman). Philip Vanderdecken’s dying mother tells him of the curse upon his father, for whom he is named. En route to India, Captain Vanderdecken swore that he would round the Cape of Good Hope if it took him until Judgment Day. As a result, he and his crew are cursed to sail the seas in nautical limbo until then. The only way to break the spell is for a family member to present him with a holy relic, a piece of the true cross contained in a necklace. Philip vows to do this.

In a futile attempt to save his dying mother, Philip engages the medical services of Mynheer Poots, who steals the relic. Philip chases Poots to his house and encounters his beautiful half-Arab daughter Amine, with whom he immediately falls in love. She obtains the necklace for him. On the way home, Philip overhears a plot against Poots, Amine, and their property. Philip, with the aid of Amine, foils this attempt and offers the Pootses the safety of his own home, because he is planning to begin at once to seek out his father.

Amine returns his love, and they marry once Poots hears of a fortune in a hidden room on the Vanderdecken property. Summoned by a mysterious sailor named Schriften, Philip sets out on his first voyage and succeeds in sighting the Flying Dutchman. Unfortunately, the...

(The entire section is 587 words.)