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List of literary allusions in the texts, the chapters where they appear and the original source (if known)

Swallows and Amazons[]
  • =====Chapter head quote: Or like stout Cortez ... silent, on a peak in Darien. see John Keats's sonnet "On first looking into Chapman's Homer".=====
  • =====Titty had named the peak Darien ... she had heard the sonnet read aloud at school (SA1).=====
  • ====='Wraggle Taggle Gipsy' is actually a song=====
  • ====="And what happened to Don't Care?" (Mary Walker, SA2) "Came to a bad end", said Roger. A traditional nursery rhyme: "Don’t care didn’t care / Don’t care was wild / Don’t care stole plum and pear / Like any beggar’s child. / Don’t care was made to care / Don’t care was hung / Don’t care was put in a pot / And boiled till he was done." A New York Times article of 29 Sept. 1870 criticising, inter alia, the lax observation of harbour quarantine regulations, begins: ' "Don't care came to a bad end" was a maxim which old-time story-books endeavored to impress upon the youthful mind, and with tolerable success. ...'=====
  • =====He comes dancing on to the scene. "'And well,' says he, 'and how are your arms and legs and liver and lungs and bones afeeling now?' Don't you remember?": From John Masefield's "One of the Bo'sun's Yarns" part of his Saltwater Ballads. The first part of the quote comes from an earlier verse but John has put them together.=====
  • =====Books taken to Wild Cat Island by the Swallows:=====
    • =====Titty took Robinson Crusoe: "It tells you just what to do on an island." (SA2). Later: "So you really are Robinson Crusoe," said mother, "and I am Man Friday in earnest." (SA18).=====
    • =====John took The Seaman's Handybook. (The only result for this in Google Books is SA and a couple of other books about Arthur Ransome, so this might be a fictional book.)=====
    • =====John took Vol 3 of The Baltic Pilot: The Baltic pilot: comprising directions for the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Finland, and Gulf of Bothnia, Great Britain. Hydrographic Office, Printed for the Hydrographic Office, Admiralty, 1888 (Google Books)=====
    • =====Susan took Simple Cooking for Small Households: (As with The Seaman's Handybook above, the only result for this in Google Books is SA and a couple of other books about Arthur Ransome, however an unrelated reference seems to confirm this was an actual publication.) (Query, whether Jessie Conrad, Simple cooking: precepts for a little house (1921), with a preface by her husband, Joseph Conrad, and subsequently titled A handbook of cookery for a small house').=====
  • =====Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh (SA2): see Elizabeth I and Walter Raleigh=====
  • =====Chapter 3 header by Thackeray:=====
There were three sailors in Bristol city Who took a. boat and went to sea.
But first with beef and captain's biscuit And pickled pork they loaded she.


'Their Own Story'[]


  • When the Amazons do not meet them John says We'd better start the fire first, if they're watching for it and Titty says We'll rouse them with the red glare like the burghers of Carlisle .... from Macaulay's poem The Armada (SD2).
  • The GA wants Nancy and Peggy to learn a poem, so Captain Flint suggests Casabianca, and mother went out of the room in a hurry. It is a pretty long poem says Titty, but Peggy says we knew it already, and Uncle Jim knew that we knew it. We had to learn it at school; so she rattles off The boy stood on the burning deck ... (SD24).
  • Later on Kanchenjunga Nancy mentions Skiddaw and Titty again thinks of Carlisle: And the red glare on Skiddaw roused the burghers of Carlisle Peggy says the poem is worse than Casabianca but Titty says I like it because of the beacons (SD27).
  • Moving it at all reminded him of the mermaid who had to walk on sharp knives (Roger with a wounded foot; SD29): see Wikipedia:The Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen

Peter Duck[]

  • He turns his head, but in his ear.. (Quote opening PD1): 'John Winter' by Binyon, see Wikipedia: Robert Laurence Binyon
  • Joseph's coat (a brightly-coloured fish, PD19): 'Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors.' (Genesis 37) - a reference to a biblical character with a brightly-coloured coat, see Wikipedia: Joseph (son of Jacob)
  • Captain Flint was reading aloud to them out of one of the little volumes of Hakluyt that made up part of the little library in the deckhouse bookshelf; he came across a passage ... by Master Thomas Masham, who sailed with Sir Walter Raleigh to Guinea ... in the year 1596 (PD36). For Hakluyt’s Voyages see Wikipedia: Richard Hakluyt
  • Titty found herself wondering who it was who asked the executioner to sharpen his axe and cut boldly, when the clumsy fellow got nervous and took three blows to lop off a head of English chivalry or something like that (PD20). The death of several British people (including Mary, Queen of Scots) took three or more strokes, see Decapitation.

Winter Holiday[]

  • the Ds think of what was happening when the light left distant stars like the Pleiades (which were referred to by Tennyson in Locksley Hall): Shakespeare ... Queen Elizabeth ... Sir Walter Raleigh ... Battle of Bannockburn, 1314' (WH2).
  • With the snow Dorothea thinks of Good King Wenceslaus, the Ice Queen, Ib and Little Christina, and the little girl who sat on her wedding chest in the winter forest, waiting for the coming of Frost (WH6).
  • Nancy said we're going to be back at school messing about with Magna Carta ... (WH6).
  • Is this a Dorcas party? asked Mrs Blackett (WH9) when they are making quarantine flags from scraps of material; a reference to the New Testament disciple Dorcas who made clothes for the poor; see wikipedia:Dorcas.

Coot Club[]

  • Castles in Spain came crashing down (CC2): ?
  • They folded their tents like the Arabs and silently stole away (Mrs Barrable, CC16): “And the night shall be filled with music, and the cares, that infest the day, shall fold their tents, like the Arabs, and as silently steal away.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Mr Toad got out of prison disguised as a washerwoman (Dorothea, CC13): see wikipedia:The Wind in the Willows

Pigeon Post[]

We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea[]

  • When mother hopes that they'll do what they are told, Titty cheerfully says We'll have to .... or he'll stiffen us out rusty corps and dump us to the fish like the man in the poem (WD3). This is an allusion to the poem Cape Horn Gospel II by John Masefield: "Jake was a dirty Dago lad, and he gave the skipper chin,/ An' the skipper up an' took him a crack with an iron belaying-pin / Which stiffened him out a rusty corp, as pretty as you could wish, / An' then we shovelled him up in a sack an' dumped him to the fish."
  • [Jim might have met an] ancient mariner with skinny hand and glittering eye (Titty, WD7): "For he heard the loud bassoon. The bride hath paced into the hall, Red as a rose is she; .... I FEAR thee, ancient Mariner! I fear thy skinny hand! And thou art long, and lank, and brown, As is the ribbed sea-sand. I fear thee and thy glittering eye ..." 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • The wind came first... (Roger, WD11): "When the wind's before the rain, soon we may set sail again [or "topsails remain"]; when the rain's before the wind, bring topsails in" - sailors' proverb
  • Bridget would be like the mermaid walking on knives (WD 'At Pin Mill'): The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen
  • Bridget would be like the princess with peas in her shoes (WD 'At Pin Mill'): Mother may be thinking of The Princess and the Pea (under her mattress) by Hans Christian Andersen
  • And hear the drowning folks lament the absent chicken coop (Titty, WD17): A Ballad of John Silver by John Masefield.
  • Goblin would be like the Revenge in the middle of the Spanish fleet (Titty, WD18): This is a probably a reference to The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet by Wikipedia:Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The Big Six[]

  • inscription on the title page quoting Dorothea: It's the Big Five really. They are the greatest detectives in the world.: According to the Metropolitan Police website, 'By 1906 Scotland Yard were regularly assisting provincial forces to investigate murders, invariably by the "Big Five" Chief Inspectors Arrow, Dew, Fox, Frost and Cane.' (see Metropolitan Police History
  • Indignant a letter-writer to the local paper writes of a seaport town in the district which has done much to remove the blot on its scutcheon (Browning) made by the behaviour of certain longshore pickers up of unconsidered trifles (Shakespeare) (BS10).
  • Bill and then Pete say I ain't no Jonah (BS12): Biblical character who brings bad luck on a ship's crew (Jonah 1:7 "And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.") See w:Jonah.
  • You and your young Portia (Dr Dudgeon, BS24) and He called you Portia by mistake (Tom Dudgeon, BS25): Shakespeare character, see w:Portia.
  • The Cachalot is to be a bleating kid to attract the ravening tiger (The fisherman, BS26). Stalky says ‘Member Galton’s Art of Travel [one of the forms had been studying that pleasant work] an’ the kid whose bleatin’ excited the tiger?’ in “The Moral Reformers”; Chapter 5 of Stalky & Co by Rudyard Kipling.

Secret Water[]

  • "You look like Ben Gunn already" (Mary Walker, SW4): Ben Gunn, fictional character in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. See Wikipedia:Treasure Island.
  • "And we'll have to call all this the Red Sea." ... "Why?" asked Roger. "Pharoah and the Israelites," said Titty. (SW7): "And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. ... Exodus ch 14. See Wikipedia:Book of Exodus.
  • "The Walker Expedition" (Nancy's suggested title for the Secret Archipelago Expedition, SW11): see Wikipedia:Walker Expedition to Quebec
  • Titty remembered her mother's story of the Obeah woman (SW14): see Wikipedia:Obeah

Missee Lee[]

  • They find a copy of Virgil's Aeneid in the temple (ML5), and later study the Aeneid and Caesar's Gallic War in Miss Lee's classics class (ML14,16).
  • Titty says A pinnace like a fluttered bird came flying from far away ... after hearing that some traders have sailed past without paying their dues (protection money). Roger recognises the line as about Sir Richard Grenville. It is also from The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet by Tennyson. (ML18).

The Picts and the Martyrs[]

  • .... a scarab .... a beetle thousands of years old. A sacred beetle (PM1).
  • Books being read by the Ds on the train: Sailing by EF Knight, Pocket Book of Birds (probably an RSPB publication, seeWikipedia: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), The Common Objects of the Countryside (a Victorian natural history book), The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini, originally published in 1915, set in 1588–1593 (PM2).
  • Picts? said Nancy. Ancient Britons ... Prehistorics ... I heard Father talking about it said Dorothea (PM3).
  • Nancy, referring to the Great Aunt's visit, says We've got to soothe the savage breast (PM3): "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast" William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697
  • Dorothea says of the plan for the visit It's the velvet glove instead of the iron hand and Timothy says The trouble with Nancy's velvet glove is that it's usually got a knuckleduster inside it (PM7).
  • Dorothy says about Nancy: I expect the real martyrs were just the same. The more the lions roared, the less they let Nero or anybody see they cared (PM13).
  • After tea Nancy and Peggy have to play the piano, with a dose of Chaminade on the pianoforte (PM18): Cécile Chaminade, a French composer; see Wikipedia: Cécile Chaminade
  • Timothy asks for Volume II of Duncan's Quantitative analysis. Dick eventually finds it in the study bookshelf: pushed far in between two others, a grey book, with the lettering worn faint on its back (PM18,19,20).
  • The Great Aunt was ... not exactly afraid ... Defiant was the word thought Dorothea, and remembered the picture of the stag at bay on the bedroom wall at Dixon’s farm: probably a reproduction of the 19th century painting Stag at bay by Sir Edwin Landseer (PM28).

'Coots in the North'[]

Great Northern?[]

  • It's a Pict-house ... Prehistoric ... like that one they showed us on Skye said Dorothea (GN4).
  • Titty says that the castle (lairds's house) they see is just the place for a Bluebeard and refers to Sister Anne (the sister of Bluebeard's wife) (GN5).
  • Dot compares Dick to their father: Once in Egypt, when he couldn’t be sure whether a tomb was third or fourth dynasty (he) couldn’t think of anything else at all until he found out (GN7); and When father found (a Pharaoh’s tomb) he spent two winters working at nothing else (GN10).
  • While locked up by The McGinty Titty says We ought to be carving farewell messages on the walls and Dot says French Revolution .... guillotine .... Prisoners in the dungeon (GN24).