| Stories involving the taking of slaves are often located in idealized African natural settings that are disrupted by violence, resulting in painful family separations. When evoking African images, writers appealed to the conscious and subconscious responses of white people by minimizing cultural differences between black and white peoples, by picturing blacks as innocents, and encouraging whites to imagine themselves in the position of blacks.
In “The Bechuana Boy” from Friendship’s Offering of 1830, Thomas Pringle takes the reader into an African slave’s experience so as to more closely understand his behavior. According to the narrative in the poem, Pringle brought an orphaned Kaffir boy to England to be educated as a missionary on his return to his tribe. The severity of the English winter caused the Kaffir’s death, but he was immortalized in one of Pringle’s best poems. Pringle offered the following narrative. A Bechuana boy of nine or ten approached Pringle’s tent on the edge of the desert and asked to become his servant. His village had been attacked by a band of marauders, who killed every man, burned the huts, and took the women, children, and livestock captive. Three days they were driven without food or water, and many died. When they reached a great river, they were forced to cross and many drowned; the survivors were sold into slavery. Marrosi, the boy, was separated from his mother and sister. Now a slave and without companionship, he rescued a fawn from wild dogs. The animal comes to love Marrosi, but his master takes the fawn and gives it to his own child. In the darkness of the night, Marrosi retrieves the animal and they flee into the desert. Finally, the boy places himself at the mercy of Pringle. John Doyle gives this interpretation of Pringle's poem:
Because Pringle wanted to reach a broad section of humanity, he introduced lyric qualities to the poem in eight line stanzas using four rhymes. The images depicting action are drawn from the animal world. Slavery becomes a fact of color - though it is only when white enters that he names a color. In the process of capturing slaves, it is black against black; in buying them, it is black and white making a trade. The rescue of the springbok following the boy’s loss of freedom and all those he loves, gives the boy ownership of a being that loves him. The final indignity is to have the fawn taken from him and given to the master’s pampered son. (Doyle 149)
Pringle struck the hearts of his many sympathetic readers by creating an artistic image of the young slave deprived of all human needs and finally of life.
Another narrative relates the capture of a fictional girl. Fiction allows the author imaginative latitude. The following account could be a compounding of a number of actual experiences. “The Booroom Slave” by Mrs. T. E. Bowdich-Lee from the Forget-Me-Not for 1828 contains the following vivid description of the capture and treatment of African slaves prior to their being loaded aboard the slave trading ships:
In the village of Melli, in the country of Booroom lived Inna, the chief’s daughter, who one day wandered away from the protection of the village compound and was seized by two men. They fastened a piece of stick across her mouth to prevent her screams and tied her ankles and wrists together. The tightness of her bonds, the tearing of her flesh by the underbrush in their hurried escape, her fright and horror, soon rendered her insensible. She did not regain consciousness until a violent gushing of blood from her nose relieved her head, and she found herself surrounded by a hundred other victims bound hand and foot, crowded together in readiness to start for the coast to be sold to the slave traders. These victims were linked two by two with a thick cord running along connecting them in a long line. The males were followed by females, one or two of whom were mothers torn from their husbands and families and bearing their offspring to share their misery and bondage. When one of these poor mothers dropped from fatigue, her poor infant was snatched from her and hurled to the ground and died. The wretched mother screamed in agony, but was goaded on until her whole nature seemed to sink into apathy, and she passed along, alike indifferent to the commiseration of her companions and the lashes of her torturer. Much of this insensibility seemed to pervade the greater number, and it forms a part of the Negro character under great suffering. Without it many of the captives could not survive to reach their market, nor could they endure the cruelties practiced on them when in bondage to their own countrymen. The captives’ flesh was mangled by thorns, their feet swollen by fatigue; their unwashed skins were cracked by the sun and peeled off in long scales, their cheeks were hollow, their eyes inflamed, their lips parched, their limbs wasted and cut by manacles. Food and drink were given in scanty portions and only at night. A murmur was punished with blows; attempt to escape was prevented by heavy irons; refusal to go on was followed by a prick of the spear. Some sunk under it, and when, from their appearance, it was deemed impossible to take them further, they were unbound, and the kaffle passed forward, leaving them to perish alone in the wilds, without a drop of water to allay their thirst, or strength to escape the fierce animals who seized them while living as their prey. One morning the kaffle emerged from a thick forest, and ...beyond was the sea where a large vessel and numerous small craft were riding at anchor. (Bowdich-Lee 37)