Forgotten One

Forgotten One

and Other True Tales of the South Seas

by James Norman Hall
©1950, Item: 92455
Hardcover, 246 pages
Not in stock

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It was in 1920 that James Norman Hall first came to the island of Tahiti. He was a young veteran aviator who had just returned to the United States after four years of fighting in France, and who was now seeking a quiet refuge in which to write. He found a furnished room in the village of Papeete and there in the company of his good friend and fellow aviator, Charles Nordhoff, he settled down to enjoy, to assimilate, and to write about the South Seas.

He soon made friends with the captains of the little trading schooners, and accompanied them on their voyages to the remote atolls. He trusted and was trusted by the Chinese traders, he helped straighten out a literary beachcomber like Robert Dean Frisbie, and over the years in his direct and friendly way he won the confidence of the recluses, the white exiles from England and Europe, who had found a new way of life for themselves in Polynesia. It is these "forgotten ones" that the author makes us know so intimately in the masterful and touching stories of experience which comprise this book.

These stories center on Hall when he was in his early thirties, and they have in them all the ardor of a young man seeking to find himself, all the mystery of the South Seas and the greater mystery of the South Seas and the greater mystery of lonely men, all the beauty of the Islands in a time of peace; they are charged with affection, nostalgia, and the love of solitude.

The reader will not soon forget Ronald Crichton, the "forgotten one" of the title story, a mysterious Englishman who had fled to the last horizon of solitary men where he might live alone with his guilty secret; Crichton might well have been the hero of a tale by Joseph Conrad.

Or the good Hop Sing, a Chinese neighbor of the author, who lifted him out of poverty and dejection and brought him a rich and varied harvest in return for the gift of a dollar's worth of seed.

Or Captain Handy, ancient and drunk, who had spent half a century voyaging in the South Pacific and could remember only his trading deals. He wanted Hall to help him write his incredible memoirs and share fifty-fifty in the profits, "not a penny more."

Or the deeply moving story of Rivnac, the great Czech, who owned a little hotel on the island of Tahiti, and how he shared his love of Dvorák's music with the author and what happened to him with news of Munich came over the radio.

Or the saga of Robert Dean Frisbie and his "Puka Puka kids"—Johnny, Jakey, Elaine, and Nga, and his endless quest to find himself and the boat of his dreams. It will be the rare reader, indeed, who will not be profoundly touched by the tragedy of "Frisbie of Danger Island," the longest narrative in the book, which was originally serialized in the Atlantic

Jacket design by Samuel Bryant

from the dust jacket


This was Hall's last book, a collection of six short stories about Americans and Europeans he knew personally during his years on Tahiti. The title story, The Forgotten One, is probably the most interesting. Written half a century ago, it tells the tale of an Englishman who couldn't come to terms with own sexuality and fled to a remote atoll in the Tuamotu Islands to be alone. The story seems strange today when gays are largely accepted, but during the 1950s such cases were plausible. The final story in the collection, Frisbie of Danger Island, is an annotated series of letters Hall received from his good friend, Robert Dean Frisbie, or 'Ropati' as the Cook Islanders called him. Frisbie's one literary success, The Book of Puka Puka, [is still in print from Eland Classics]. Hall's story chronicles Frisbie's years of poverty and rejected manuscripts, as well as his famous experience of a hurricane on Suwarrow Atoll. By the way, if you'll be visiting Tahiti, a James Norman Hall Museum opened recently in his original home at Arue just outside Papeete. If you've read any of his books, the museum is a must.

David Stanley on

5.0 out of 5 stars stories of expats lost in the South Seas

Reviewed in the United States on April 9, 2002



  1. The Forgotten One
  2. Captain Handy's Memoirs
  3. Sing: A Song of Sixpence
  4. A Happy Hedonist
  5. Rivnac
  6. Frisbie of Danger Island


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