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By: Herman Melville

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life is the first book by American writer Herman Melville, published in early part of 1846, when Melville was 26 years old. Considered a classic in travel and adventure literature, the narrative is based on the author's actual experiences on the island Nuku Hiva in the South Pacific Marquesas Islands in 1842, supplemented with imaginative reconstruction and research from other books. The title comes from the valley of Taipivai, once known as Taipi. Typee was Melville's most popular work during his lifetime; it made him notorious as the "man who lived among the cannibals".

A whaling ship stops at a remote Polynesian island. The crew aboard is exhausted after a grueling six-month voyage in which they suffered ill-treatment and drudgery. Two men decide to abandon ship and hide on the island, living off the fruit of the land, until they can get on board a more conducive ship. However, to their consternation they discover that part of the island paradise is peopled by a savage and cannibalistic tribe called the Typees. As destiny would have it, they fall into the hands of the very people they dread. In time, life among the Typees seems very different from their apprehensions, till one day, one of the men mysteriously disappears...


Typee by Herman Melville is reputed to have been the inspiration for various South Sea sagas by writers like Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London. Based partially on Melville's own experiences, the book is a blend of fact and fiction. He spent many months on one of the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific as a captive of one of the tribes. The book was received with some skepticism initially though many of the facts were corroborated by a fellow castaway. Today most of us know Herman Melville as the author of Moby Dick, yet in his own lifetime, Typee was his most famous and popular work.


Modern-day readers may find some of the propositions about race quite outdated. However, Melville himself was a staunch critic of missionaries who tried to “civilize” the native races. He also decried the unwholesome influence of Western civilization on the people of other cultures. The book was published in 1846 in England and America, though many of the critical references to Christianity and missionaries were removed in the American edition.


An interesting book which explores the different aspects of human culture and civilization besides being a tale of adventure on the high seas.

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Herman Melville

United States

Melville's growing literary ambition showed in Moby-Dick (1851), which took nearly a year and a half to write, but it did not find an audience and critics scorned his psychological novel Pierre: or, T...

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