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Ballantyne, R M

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1825-1894) Scottish author whose family fortunes were blighted by the bankruptcy of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) in 1826: his uncle owned the Ballantyne Press, Scott's printer, and his father transcribed Scott's manuscripts in order to preserve their anonymity. His professional experiences in Canada with the Hudson's Bay Company shaped his first book, Hudson's Bay; Or, Every-Day Life in the Wilds of North America (1848). Most his fiction, almost exclusively for boys, is also based on documentary evidence. His most famous novel, The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean (1858), is a Robinsonade whose Imperialist assumptions are too nakedly brutal for the tale to have remained popular; William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954) is in part a savage riposte to this book. Ballantyne's only work of direct sf interest, The Giant of the North: Or Pokings Around the Pole (dated 1882 but 1881), is a Lost World tale set in Greenland and later Arctic Canada, where prehistoric Monsters are encountered; Chingatok, the giant of the title, a seven-foot-two-inch Eskimo (now properly Inuit), is presented with a minimum of racist condescension. [JC]

Robert Michael Ballantyne

born Edinburgh, Scotland: 24 April 1825

died Rome, Italy: 8 February 1894

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