Wednesday, November 17, 2021

No. 446: The Bounty Trilogy

Recently I completed some pleasurable reading. I decided to prepare this blog post in case some of you might want to do the same.

The Bounty was a small English warship that in 1787 set out on a very long voyage to Tahiti to pick up breadfruit trees, which would provide a source of inexpensive food for slaves in the West Indies. Lieutenant William Bligh captained the Bounty. Fletcher Christian was the Master's Mate on the Bounty and the leader of the mutineers.

Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall wrote a trilogy of historical novels describing the voyage. The titles of the three books, all published in the early 1930s, are Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea, and Pitcairn's Island. The first book is about the mutiny and its immediate aftermath. Instead of killing Bligh, the mutineers put him and 18 others in a small open boat, called a "launch," with food and supplies, and set them adrift. The second book is about Bligh's incredibly long and successful voyage in the launch, after which he returned to England. The third book is about a remote island where Christian and some of the mutineers settled permanently and destroyed the Bounty.

I read the trilogy about 70 years ago. Recently, on a whim, I decided to reread Mutiny on the Bounty. In addition to describing the mutiny, it also discusses what happened in the first several years after the mutiny, and, in an epilogue, what happened many years after the mutiny.

Several movies have been made about the Bounty. My favorite is the 1935 black-and-white film starring Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian and Charles Laughton as William Bligh. The narrator was Englishman Roger Byam, who was played in the film by actor Franchot Tone.