A Norwegian boy named Hakon (Stian Smestad) is being pushed around by some bullies. He warns them that his father will take care of them when he gets back from sea, and they tell him his father owes so much money he should never come home. But his father does come home, with an injured leg, and with Jens, the man who saved his life. Hakon does not want to go to sea in his place, but when the family risks losing their home, he goes. Jens promises to look after him.
The stern captain tells him, “There is no room for children aboard this ship,” and the crew initiates him by hanging him from the mast, but he watches, learns, works hard, and soon fits in well. At the first port, the captain tells him he has passed muster, and can stay on for the entire voyage. They are joined by a new First Mate — Howell. We know what the captain and Hakon do not — it is a murderer named Merrick passing as Howell. Hakon discovers guns in a crate marked “glass.” Merrick tells him it is a secret. Just as Hakon is about to tell the captain, the captain falls ill — poisoned by one of Merrick’s accomplices. The captain dies and is buried at sea. Merrick takes over.
At the next port, a brave young girl named Mary stows away. Hakon discovers her, and brings her food. She teaches him to read, using a book of Coleridge poetry. When Merrick discovers her, Jens confesses to protect Hakon. Hakon tells Merrick that it was his fault, and Merrick orders Jens to whip Hakon. But just then, the ship is struck by lightning and sinks. Hakon is washed up on an island, where he discovers pirate treasure–and a newspaper clipping with a drawing of Merrick, leader of the pirates. Hakon knows Merrick will come for the treasure, and sets up elaborate booby traps all over the island. Seeing smoke on another island, he builds a small boat, and explores it. He finds Mary and Jens, living with friendly natives. They return to Hakon’s island, just before the pirates come to get the treasure. Between the traps and Mary’s liberation of the ship, they manage to get away with the treasure, and return to Hakon’s home in triumph.
Neglected on its release, this is an exciting adventure, and a lot of fun to watch. Hakon does a lot of growing up. At the beginning he is a young boy who can only fight bullies by telling them to wait for his father. At the end he is a young man who is confident of his ability to protect himself.
Questions for Kids:
· How does Hakon decide whether to tell the captain about the guns he found?
· Why does Jens say that it was he who hid Mary?
· Why does Hakon tell the truth?
· Which part of the movie was the scariest? Which part was the funniest?
Connections: The booby traps on the island are reminiscent of the invasion of the pirates in “The Swiss Family Robinson,” and of course “Home Alone.”
Activities: Find Norway on a map and see if you can chart the course Hakon followed. You might also enjoy reading the Coleridge poem Hakon likes, “Kubla Khan.” Even if it is hard to follow, the language and rhythms are a pleasure to the ear and tongue. And it provides a good beginning for a discussion of dream or ideal places. The “pleasure dome” inhabited by “Citizen Kane” is named Xanadu, a reference to this poem.