Swallows and Amazons is the first book in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome and was published in 1930. It is set in the Lake District in August 1929 during the last fortnight of the summer holidays.
- Swallows: John, Susan, Titty, Roger [7 yrs. old] Walker
- Amazons: Nancy [Ruth], Peggy Blackett
- Captain Flint [Jim Turner]
- minor characters (those in parentheses are "offstage"): Mary Walker, (Daddy), Vicky Walker [2 yrs. old...see Mysteries page], Nurse, Molly Blackett, Mr & Mrs Jackson at Holly Howe, Mr & Mrs Dixon ("milk farm"), Young & Old Billy the charcoal burners, Sammy Lewthwaite the policeman, (Great Aunt Maria?--Peter Dowden thinks so...see notes), two burglars.
The Walker children (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) sail a borrowed dinghy named Swallow, and the Blackett children (Nancy and Peggy), sail a dinghy named Amazon. The Walkers are staying at Holly Howe (a farm near the lake) during the school holidays and want to camp on an island in the lake; the Blacketts live in a house nearby. The children meet on the island which they call Wild Cat Island, and have a series of adventures involving sailing, camping, fishing and exploreing the island. The story includes a good deal of everyday Lake District life from the farmers to the charcoal burners working in the woods; consumption of pemmican and grog, and occasional references to the stories of Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island.
(numbers are dates in August 1929, names are chapter titles, parentheses denote action outside the time of the book)
(24 July): (The Walkers arrive at Holly Howe -...came a fortnight before to stay for part of the school holidays and until it was time to pack up and go home ... . That evening they see the island for the first time.) (Mother begins making tents soon after they arrive (SA1.)
7 Aug: The Peak in Darien
8 Aug: Making Ready
9 Aug: The Voyage to the Island • The Hidden Harbour • First Night on the Island
10 Aug: Island Life
11 Aug: More Island Life
12 Aug: Skull and Cross-Bones
13 Aug: The Arrow With the Green Feather • The Parley • In Alliance • Leading Lights
14 Aug: The Charcoal-Burners • The Letter From Captain Flint
15 Aug: Captain John Visits Captain Flint • The Birthday Party (Vicky's birthday...2 years old today) • A Fair Wind
16 Aug: A Fair Wind • Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday • The Amazon River • Titty Alone • Swallows in the Dark
17 Aug: Swallows in the Dark • The White Flag • Taking Breath
18 Aug: Grave News From Houseboat Bay • Captain Flint Gets the Black Spot • He Makes Peace and Declares War
19 Aug: The Battle in Houseboat Bay
20 Aug: The Treasure on Cormorant Island • Two Sorts of Fish • The Storm
21 Aug: The Storm • The Sailor's Return
- Daddy's ship is at Malta under orders to Hong-Kong. He sends Mother the famous Duffers telegram.
- The evidence Peter Dowden gives for the Great Aunt being there is the Amazon's need to be back in time for meals, their saying "our natives" are no good this year (not just Uncle Jim), and mentions of other "trouble" with their natives.
- The Walkers were staying at: Holly Howe, the farm where they were staying for part of the summer holidays, also referred to as the farmhouse where their mother had taken lodgings (SA1).
- On Day 1, the book says that On the very evening of their first coming, a fortnight before the Swallows had seen the lake and the island from the point; but later it says the island lay about a mile away .... they had been looking at it for ten days, but the telegram had made it much more real .... (SA1). When parleying on the seventh day of the book John says We discovered this ocean nerly a month ago (SA10).
- So is it ten or fourteen days at Holly Howe before they move to the island? If it was 14 days at Holly Howe , plus the events in the book, that would make a 3 week holiday in all. They had intended to be at the lake for part of the holidays (SA1)
- Titty and Roger had learnt to sail the previous year when Daddy had been home on leave; John and Susan had learnt before (they were both "well able" to handle a boat, and John had learnt to scull "long ago" in Falmouth Harbour).
- John's birthday was just before they had come to the Lake; Susan's is New Year's Day.
- There are several mentions of putting things in the "schoolroom" when home, and there is mention of "going to school" at the end of the summer. From hints in this and other books, the Swallows and the Amazons all go to boarding school.
- Uncle Jim had something to say to Mother about next year--was this setting up the wherry trip for that winter when Peter Duck was told?
The writing of the bookEdit
Arthur Ransome had been working as a journalist with the Manchester Guardian, but decided to become a full-time author rather than go abroad as a foreign correspondent. He continued to write part-time for the press.
The book was inspired by a summer spent by Ransome teaching the children of his friends, the Altounyans, to sail. Three of the Altounyan children's names are adopted directly for the Walker family. Ransome and Ernest Altounyan bought two small dinghies called Swallow and Mavis. Ransome kept Swallow until he sold her a number of years later, while Mavis remained in the Altounyan family and is now on permanent display in the Windermere Steamboat Museum. However, later in life Ransome tried to downplay the Altounyan connections, changing the initial dedication of Swallows and Amazons and writing a new foreword which gave other sources.
The artist chosen for the first edition of the book was Steven Spurrier; however, Ransome objected to his style and so the first edition did not have any illustrations. Spurrier's drawing for the dust jacket had to be used (and the map, which was retained). The second edition contained drawings by Clifford Webb but after Ransome successfully illustrated Peter Duck himself, he decided to do his own drawings for all the books including those already published and Webb's drawings were replaced in later editions.
Places in Swallows and AmazonsEdit
According to Ransome, every place in his book can be found in the Lake District, but he took different locations and placed them in different ways. It is generally accepted that the lake is a fictionalised version of Windermere, but the surrounding countryside more closely resembles that around Coniston. Wild Cat Island, the location of the island camp, has elements from Peel Island in Coniston and Blakeholme in Windermere. 
Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit
In 1962, the BBC produced an adaptation of Swallows and Amazons with John Paul as Captain Flint and Susan George as Kitty. The theme music used was the opening of George Butterworth's "Banks of Green Willow".
In the summer of 1973, EMI adapted the story in colour for the big screen and went to the Lake District National Park in Cumbria to film it on the actual locations of the novel. Released in 1974, directed by Claude Whatham and produced by Richard Pilbrow, the film starred Virginia McKenna and Ronald Fraser in the main adult roles and Simon West (John), Sophie Neville (Titty), Zanna Hamilton (Susan) and Stephen Grendon (Roger) as some of the children. This is available on VHS and DVD in the UK but is not readily available elsewhere.
The Royal National Theatre confirmed in April 2007 that a stage musical adaptation of Swallows and Amazons is in development. The Divine Comedy's frontman Neil Hannon is writing.
In 2008 it was reported that the BBC is to produce a new adaptation.
- 1930, UK, Jonathan Cape, Pub date 1 December 1930, hardback (First edition, unillustrated)
- 1931, UK, Jonathan Cape, Pub date 1931, hardback (First "Clifford Webb" illustrated edition)
- 1931, USA, J.B.Lippincott company, Philadelphia, 1931. Hardback, no full illustrations, front and back plates plus chapter headings by Helene Carter.
- 1938, UK, Jonathan Cape, Pub date 1938, hardback (First "Ransome" illustrated edition)
- 1958, USA, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (ISBN 0-397-30015-8), Pub date ? June 1958, hardback
- 1995, UK, ISIS Audio Books (ISBN 1-85695-974-0), Pub date August 1995, audio book cassette (unabridged)
- 1999, UK, Jonathan Cape (ISBN 0-224-60631-X), Pub date 1999, hardback
- 2001, UK, Red Fox Classics (ISBN 0-09-950391-3), Pub date 5 April 2001, paperback
- 2001, UK, Red Fox (ISBN 0-09-942733-8), Pub date 5 October 2001, paperback
- 2005, UK, Gabriel Woolf (ISBN 0-9550529-0-4), Pub date July 2005, audio book CD
- ↑ Autobiography of Arthur Ransome, Arthur Ransome, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis, 1976
- ↑ The Life of Arthur Ransome, Hugh Brogan, 1984
- ↑ Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk, Christina Hardyment,1984
- ↑ Inthenews.co.uk article revealing the Royal National Theatre's plans for a stage musical adaptation of Swallows and Amazons
- ↑ North West Evening Mail report of new BBC adaptation
- The 1963 TV series at the Internet Movie Database
- The 1974 film at the Internet Movie Database
- The original boats now housed in the Cumbrian museum - BBC photo website
|Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series|
Swallows and Amazons | 'Their Own Story' | Swallowdale | Peter Duck | Winter Holiday | Coot Club | Pigeon Post | We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea | The Big Six | Secret Water | Missee Lee | The Picts and the Martyrs | 'Coots in the North' | Great Northern?