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.
Published by Jonathan Cape in October, 1932.
‘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
- Swallows and Amazons
- Peter Duck
- Winter Holiday
- Coot Club
- Pigeon Post
- We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea
- Secret Water
- The Big Six
- Missee Lee
- The Picts and the Martyrs
- Great Northern?
- Coots in the North and Other Stories
- Illustrating Arthur Ransome
- The Swallows and the Amazons
- Ransome the Artist