Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

Peter Duck

Background to Peter Duck

Ransome began an early version of Peter Duck before writing Swallowdale. Entitled Their Own Story, his early draft had the Swallows and Amazons living aboard a wherry on the Norfolk Broads during the Christmas holidays. The story of Peter Duck was to have been his fictitious characters’ fictitious creation, imagined by them during long, dark evenings aboard the wherry.

He wrote two chapters of Their Own Story before giving up. (These were subsequently published in Christina Hardyment’s Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint’s Trunk, in 1984). When he returned to Peter Duck after completing Swallowdale, he wrote from a more conventional perspective. Yet something of his early idea survives, because Peter Duck reads as if it is a finished book written by the Swallows and Amazons. His characters also make references to their winter wherry holiday, and to having created the Peter Duck story, when they are reunited in their “real” world in Swallowdale. Ransome was to revisit this unusual technique in his tenth Swallows and Amazons novel, Missee Lee.

Ransome wrote much of Peter Duck in Aleppo, whilst visiting the Altounyans. The book itself owes much to Ransome’s Baltic sailing experiences: the schooner they use to voyage to the Caribbean is an ex-Baltic trading schooner, Peter Duck himself is firmly based on the Ancient Mariner of Racundra’s First Cruise, and it was during that cruise that Ransome saw a waterspout for himself.


The Swallows and Amazons face sharks, storms and the evil pirate Black Jake, when they voyage with Captain Flint and the ancient mariner, Peter Duck, to look treasure on a deserted Caribbean Island.

First publication

Published by Jonathan Cape in October, 1932.


  • In Print
  • Jonathan Cape (hb) ISBN 978-0224021258
  • Vintage (pb) ISBN 978-0099573647
  • Red Fox (pb) ISBN 978-0099427162
  • E-book: Random House Digital Editions
  • Audiobook:
  • Abridged Audiobook: Gabriel Woolf

Ransome's drawing of two flags, used in Peter Duck, our swallows and amazons series logo

‘That’s much the best way in a story,’ said Titty. ‘Something always goes wrong, and it’s much better for it to go wrong with the people you don’t really like.’


Also in Swallows & Amazons Series


Continue exploring Ransome’s bibliography:

Ransome's drawing of two children discovering a cave, our discover ransome logoRansome's drawing of a wooden hut in snow, our bibliography logoRansome's drawing of a dog on weighing scales, our books by ransome logoRansome's drawing of two flags, our swallows and amazons series logoRansome's drawing of a parrot, our story telling logoRansome's drawing of a hand holding a candle, our literary criticism logoRansome's drawing of two children in a boat, our sailing literature logoRansome's drawing of a cormorant eating a fish, our fishing literature logoRansome's drawing of a crucible held in iron bars, our political literature logoRansome's drawing of a pestle and mortar, our essay collections logoRansome's drawing of an armadillo, our world about him logoRansome's drawing of three pigeons, our autobiography logo