Originally published in Country Life magazine 1939
published in book form by Macmillian 1967
reprinted by Candlewick 2001
The Captain and his oddball crew settle in on an uncharted island where they encounter a creature the color of butter and then... do nothing?
The good Captain is a bruiser who has run through his share of crew. His ship, The Black Tiger, has lost many a men to sharks and the plank leaving only five bizarre scallywags for company. One day they spot an uncharted island and go to investigate, finding among the unusual flora and fauna a pan-like creature the color of butter. "Just exactly the sort I've been wanting!" the Captain says cryptically. Entranced, the Captain quickly spends all his time looking at, doting on, dancing with, and generally hanging out with the Yellow Creature, so much so that the crew are reduced to doing little more than acting as servants or a bored audience. The Captain is so happy with his new life on the island that he finally decides to give up pirating for good. His crew (presumably with the ship) have long departed, and to this day the Captain and his Yellow Creature are there on their island, eating exotic fruit and watching the sun set and dancing hornpipes whenever they please.
|he looked like this|
As for the story itself, my modern reader's brain wants to know a whole lot more about what Peake's intentions were. The Captain has clearly been running through men in search of something, seeking out some unknown something that has driven him at the expense of others. But then when he finds the Yellow Creature the effect is identical to that of falling into a blind, fawning love. The Creature's coy, almost fay expressions seem to acknowledge the Captain's stirrings and perhaps indicate the feelings are mutual.
Is this crazy? A story about a pirate captain at the end of his career finally deciding to retire on a remote, deserted island and setting up home with an exotic native?
|l'après-midi d'un faune?|
By modern standards, what's wrong is that there's no real character development and little plot conflict to speak of. The Yellow Creature is an enigma. There's almost something menacing about his silence and manner, with facial expressions that can be read as innocent or seductive or duplicitous, and understanding his intentions might confuse younger readers.
Or maybe not. Kids don't question an owl and a pussycat sailing to far away lands and getting married by a pig, they don't think twice about forests full of bears who live in houses and sleep in beds and eat porridge, and pirates are simply cool.
Another curiosity no longer in print, though still available in libraries and worth a peek.