Storm Boy by Colin Thiele: Themes & Quotes

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson explores themes of animal welfare, wildlife protection, hunting, and indigenous populations in Colin Thiele's ''Storm Boy'' through quotes from the novel.

A Boy and his Pelican

In Storm Boy (1964), Australian author Colin Thiele tells the bittersweet story of a boy and his pelican. 11-year-old Storm Boy lives with his father, Hide-Away, and their Aboriginal friend, Fingerbone, on the edge of a wildlife sanctuary on the coast of South Australia. They rescue an orphaned baby pelican and as the bond between bird and boy grows, Storm Boy can't bear to re-release his new friend back into the wild.

Storm Boy tackles themes related to animal welfare, wildlife protection, hunting, and indigenous populations.

Animal Welfare

Storm Boy lives a quaint life on the shores of Coorong, in South Australia. All he wants is for the birds and other wildlife to be free and safe. Moorhens, Ibis, Fairy Penguin, Pelican, and Crane: Storm Boy knows them all.

''A wild strip it is, windswept and tussocky, with the flat shallow water of the South Australian Coorong on one side and the endless slam of the Southern Ocean on the other. They call it the Ninety Mile Beach. From thousands of miles round the cold, wet underbelly of the world the waves come sweeping in towards the shore and pitch down in a terrible ruin of white water and spray.''

Storm Boy and Hide-Away think of the wildlife sanctuary as more than just a legal designation. It's not just the land, the fences, or the remoteness of the geography that makes the animals safe. It comes down to the fact that people have the responsibility to be the stewards of land and animal.

The day comes when they have to bring the young pelicans back to the wilderness. Hide-Away tells his son, ''Mr. Proud, Mr. Ponder, and Mr. Percival will have to go back to the sanctuary where they came from. We just can't afford to feed them any more.''

Three pelicans: Proud, Ponder and Percival

Through Storm Boy's appeal to wildlife welfare, the novel makes a strong powerful statement against hunting. Coorong is a national park and wildlife sanctuary, but it's also a popular spot for bird hunters. Storm Boy detests the hunters who frequent his sandy shores. Several times in the novel, Storm Boy and Hide-Away witness the travesties that befall the native birds at the hands of the hunters. Hide-Away has to explain to his son that there are all sorts of people in the world - both good and bad. In making this statement, the father insinuates that the hunters are bad. Wildlife defenders are good. One tragic scene in particular drives Hide-Away's point home: when Mr. Percival is killed.

'''B-But why did they shoot Mr… Mr. Percival? He wasn--wasn't hurting anyone; jus-just warning the ducks like always.'''
'''In the world,' Hide-Away said sadly, 'there will always be men who are cruel, just as there will always be men who are lazy or stupid or wise or kind. Today you've seen what cruel and stupid men can do.'''

The novel's beautiful final paragraph reinforces the strength of the human-animal bond and the importance of the stewardship of land and wildlife. ''And everything lives on in their hearts - the wind-talk, the wave-talk, and the scribblings on the sand; the Coorong; the salt smell of the beach; the humpy; and the long days of their happiness together. And always, above them, in their mind's eye, they can see the shape of two big wings in the storm clouds and the flying scud - two wings of white with trailing black edges - spread across the sky.''

Mr. Percival is gone, but his brothers, Proud and Ponder, survive. Life renews, as long as it is fostered.

Aboriginal Life and Culture

In addition to the themes of wildlife and sanctuary, the life and culture of indigenous Australian life and culture of the Aboriginal peoples play an important part in the story and setting of Storm Boy.

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