“Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life” was Herman Melville’s first novel. Originally published in 1846, “Typee” was partially based on Melville’s own experiences as a beachcomber in the South Pacific Marquesas Islands. A romanticized travelogue of the Pacific island paradise Nuku Hiva, “Typee” is the story of Tommo, a Yankee sailor and his four month stay on the island. One of Melville’s most popular works during his lifetime, “Typee” gives the reader a captivating look into the cultures and traditions of the natives living in the islands of the South Pacific.
Six months at sea! Yes, reader, as I live, six months out of sight of land; cruising after the sperm whale beneath the scorching sun of the Line, and tossed on the billows of the wide–rolling Pacific—the sky above, the sea around, and nothing else! Weeks and weeks ago our fresh provisions were all exhausted. There is not a sweet potato left; not a single yam. Those glorious bunches of bananas which once decorated our stern and quarter–deck, have, alas, disappeared! and the delicious oranges which hung suspended from our tops and stays—they, too, are gone! Yes, they are all departed, and there is nothing left us but salt–horse and sea–biscuit.
Oh! for a refreshing glimpse of one blade of grass—for a snuff at the fragrance of a handful of the loamy earth! Is there nothing fresh around us? Is there no green thing to be seen? Yes, the inside of our bulwarks is painted green; but what a vile and sickly hue it is, as if nothing bearing even the semblance of verdure could flourish this weary way from land. Even the bark that once clung to the wood we use for fuel has been gnawed off and devoured by the captain’s pig; and so long ago, too, that the pig himself has in turn been devoured.