Thor Heyerdahl Robert Trumbull - Essay

Robert Trumbull

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Fatu-Hiva"] is an attention-riveting escape book as well as a revealing, if unnecessarily preachy, essay on what white men have done to a once happy South Sea island, and how the island retaliated against a white couple attempting to settle there. Although scarcely the literary equal of some of the work of other authors [such as Robert Louis Stevenson, James Michener, and Herman Melville], or Heyerdahl's own best seller, "Kon-Tiki," it is a valuable contribution to the knowledge of Polynesia and, especially, of Heyerdahl himself and his persuasive, if disputed, theory that the islands were peopled by Western migration from South America. (pp. 10, 12)

[It was on Fatu-Hiva] that Heyerdahl became convinced that Polynesians are the descendants of prehistoric voyagers from South America, rather than from a migration from Southeast Asia. The evidence he adduces in support of his theory—countless cultural similarities, including the practice of trepanning, common in the Pacific Islands and ancient Peru but unknown in East and Southeast Asia in the same period—is fascinating and convincing. This was the beginning, on remote, lonely Fatu-Hiva, of the Kon-Tiki saga. (p. 12)

Robert Trumbull, "Following a Dream," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 21, 1975, pp. 10, 12.