Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson by Mary Rowlandson

Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson

I know that this picture is insensitive, tasteless and not an excellent piece of photography, but I am ok with it.

Notable for being:

  • a genre starter.
  • the first bestseller in what would become America.
  • the first book on my list authored by a woman!

In 1667 the English settlement of Lancaster, Massachusetts was attacked by Native American tribes including the Narragansett and Wampanoag.  Mary Rowlandson was captured and held for eleven weeks until a group of women in Boston heard about her plight and raised money to buy her back.  In 1682 Rowlandson published an account of her captivity, which was widely popular in its time.

This book is brutal.  She describes the initial raid of Lancaster in vivid, frank and plain detail, so you really get a sense of how horrifying it would be to witness the slaughter of nearly everyone in your town.  On page one Rowlandson sees a man get shot, beg for his life, get knocked on the head, stripped naked and disemboweled.  She is forced out of her burning house into the line of fire.  A bullet goes through her side and into the child she is holding.  Brutal.  Rowlandson and her three children are taken by the “bloody heathen” as she calls them.

For eleven weeks of incredible physical and emotional strain, Rowlandson was held by her captors while they fled from the colonial militia.   Although she was traveling many miles a day, she was barely fed. Her injured daughter had no chance to recover in such difficult conditions and soon passed away.  Her captors tormented her by refusing to give her information about her other two children or by claiming they had died.  If one person took pity on her and gave her a scrap of food, horse liver for example, another would take it from her after she had cooked it.  She eventually learned that she could sew garments and trade them for food, which helped prevent her from starving.

Amazingly, what kept Rowlandson from complete despair was her religious faith.  She had a Bible and continually looked to it for guidance.  Which is pretty boring for the reader, but I have to admire the strength of her faith and conviction.  As I was reading Narrative of Captivity I was amazed over and over again that under her circumstances she was grateful to God.  I would have been enormously angry with him.  I would have started building a Tower of Babel so I could punch him in the face.  The point of the Tower of Babel was to build it so high they could walk right into heaven and chat with God, right?  I might be using the wrong parable here.

Anyway, as the daughter/granddaughter of naturalists, to me the most interesting part of Narrative of Captivity was the description of what they ate.  Which leads us to:

Favorite Snippet:

“As we went along they killed a deer, with a young one in her, they gave me a piece of the fawn, and it was so young and tender that one might eat the bones as well as the flesh, and yet I thought it was very good.”

You might like this book if you are interested in:

  • early Colonial history.
  • early interactions between Colonists and Native Americans.
  • the natural history of North America before we ruined it.
  • non-fiction survival stories.

You might not like this book if:

  • you are a sensitive soul who doesn’t do well with violence.


Final thoughts: Reading this made me wonder what kind of psycho would move their family to the New World.  Not worth it, too risky.  As a kid, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s father, Charles Ingalls, was my hero and model of manhood.  Now I see that he was a crazy person who moved his family into Indian Territory, because he couldn’t bear to hear the sound of another man’s gun.  They could have all been killed!  It completely blows my mind to think of the incredible hazards that settlers exposed themselves to while stealing this country from earlier inhabitants.

4 thoughts on “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson by Mary Rowlandson

  1. Pingback: The Book List « sydneyreadseverything

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