Scott O'Dell Jean Fritz - Essay

Jean Fritz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Since good story ideas do not come along like streetcars even to master storytellers, it is a happy day when a compelling writer like Scott O'Dell meets a compelling subject like William Tyndale, the sixteenth-century martyr who first translated the Bible into English. An unlikely subject, one may think, for the author of "Island of the Blue Dolphins," "The King's Fifth," and other books set on the Pacific Coast. Yet Mr. O'Dell [in "The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day"] seems completely at home in Europe in a conniving, turbulent age, and his subject gives him scope to examine a theme that has obviously haunted him for some time….

That this new story has some symbolic relation for [O'Dell] with his past books is apparent as soon as one sees that the name of Tom Barton's ship is the same as one of Scott O'Dell's earlier books—"The Black Pearl." Why "The Black Pearl"?

Before finding the answer, one must ship aboard with young Tom Barton, the narrator, and take part in the dangerous adventures that await anyone smuggling into England the new English Bible…. It is a race against time—for William Tyndale a race to get his Bible off European presses before his enemies, the heretic-hunters, stop him; for Tom Barton, Tyndale's friend, a race to avoid having to take on two of these very enemies as his partners.

Who wins the race? The enemies, it would appear, for William Tyndale, betrayed by one who has posed as his friend, is strangled and burned at the stake. That is the way Tom saw it, for he went, armed, to kill the traitor. Yet he does not kill because he remembers that Tyndale, who had himself (like Esteban in "The King's Fifth") refused escape when given the chance, would not have condoned murder. So it becomes clear that Tom along with Tyndale and along with Ramon of the earlier book, "The Black Pearl," are the real winners. Not evil but love overcomes evil.

Jean Fritz, in a review of "The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day," in The New York Times Book Review, February 22, 1976, p. 18.