Literature: Castaways of the Flying Dutchman

While decades turn to centuries, as down throughout the ages
a boy and dog, forever young, tread history's vast pages.
Sharing times, both good and bad, a friendship formed in smiles and tears,
Guided by their angel's hand, two innocents roam the years.

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman is a supernatural adventure series penned by Redwall creator Brian Jacques.

The series, a three-book trilogy, is made up of three titles: Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, The Angel's Command, and Voyage of Slaves. In a major departure from his Redwall books, Jacques uses human characters and viewpoints in addition to deliberately religious overtones.

Book One begins in 17th-century Denmark, at a typical port city. The Hero, as yet unnamed, is being chased by his stepbrothers, who intend to lock him in their father's cellar. They accidentally knock him unconscious into the wharf and he is rescued by the crew of the Flying Dutchman and given the name Nebuchadnezzar ("Neb"); he also rescues a black Labrador dog that he names Denmark ("Den"). When the ship unsuccessfuly tries to make it around Tierra del Fuego, Captain Vanderdecken rages against the heavens, and an angel appears, cursing the ship to sail the seas for eternity for their captain's blasphemy.

Neb and Den are swept into the sea in the storm, and the angel, seeing their innocence of heart, lifts the curse from them and instead grants them eternal youth, with the purpose of spreading joy and peace to others. The two - who rename themselves Ben and Ned - gain a telepathic connection, and spend their years Walking the Earth, helping others wherever they end up.

This series contains examples of:

  • A Boy and His X: A boy and his dog.
  • Abusive Parents: Neb's stepfather kept him locked in a cellar and treated him little better than a dog.
  • The Ageless: Ben and Ned are eternally young.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Luis is badly wounded, but he refers to Neb as his "son from the seas", comments on the death of the ewe that he was trying to save, and he tells Neb what kind of shape he's in. Once Neb brings him back in the hut, the last things he says are how cold and tired he is.
  • Animal Talk: Animals can communicate with each other telepathically. Ben and Ned can understand each other, but Ben needs Ned to translate what other animals are saying.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Captain Vanderdecken does this:
    "I am Vanderdecken, master of the Flying Dutchman! I take orders from neither God nor man! Nothing can stop me, nothing in this world or the heavens above."
  • Blessed with Suck: Ben and Ned get to live forever and be able to meet and help a lot of people, but they also can never put down roots, and they're haunted with nightmares of the Flying Dutchman.
  • The Bully: Wilf's gang. They're trying to drive everyone out of town.
  • Chekov's Gun: The ram at Luis' house. They spend their days herding the sheep with its help, and the bell it wears ends up being their signal to move on.
  • Dirty Coward: Wilf and his gang. He brings his gang with him when he invites Ben to "talk", and later on, when he dares Alex to go inside Jon's house and Jon (aware of the dare and agreeing to play up the "scary hermit" role) grabs Alex, the gang flees and Wilf stays in bed the next day thinking that he'd killed Alex and that he was going to be in trouble.
  • Disney Villain Death: Not a villain, but Luis is blown off a cliff during a storm and dies shortly afterward.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Inverted. Ned is particularly intelligent, and he finds other animals (particularly the cat, Horatio, in the first book) to not be as smart as him.
  • Flashback Nightmare: The two often have nightmares about the Flying Dutchman.
  • Flying Dutchman: Inspired by the legend.
  • Heroic Dog: Ned likes to protect people, and he's rather smart, too.
  • I Can't Feel My Legs: Said by Luis after he falls off the cliff and is badly injured.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The angel knows that Ben and Ned are pure of heart, and grants them eternal youth allows them to leave the ship.
  • The Nameless: The hero is unnamed at the start of the series.
  • Old Dog: Ned's several centuries old, although he doesn't age.
  • Psychic Link: Ben and Ned have one with each other.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Vanderdecken, unsuccessful at getting past Tierra del Fuego again, flies into a rage, cursing everything including the Lord. This blasphemy is what brings the curse upon him.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Ben and Ned, although Ben doesn't reveal it to the people he meets on his journey. Still, some can tell by his eyes that he's a lot wiser than an average fourteen-year-old.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Neb and Den change their names over the years to Ben and Ned.
  • Sickly Green Glow: An eerie green glow envelops the ship when the curse takes hold.
  • Sneaky Departure: At the end of the first book, Ben and Ned quietly slip away without anyone noticing.
  • The Unpronounceable: Petros considers the name "Nebuchadnezzar" to be this and simply calls the boy "Neb" instead.
  • Walking the Earth: Ben and Ned wander the earth, helping anyone they can.