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Literature / Bonnie Dundee

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Bonnie Dundee is a 1983 Young Adult Historical Fiction novel by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Scottish orphan Hugh Herriot becomes a galloper to John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee – or "Bloody Claver'se" to his enemies – leader of King James II's forces against the rebellious Scottish Covenanters. When Catholic James is forced to abdicate and William of Orange takes the throne, Claverhouse and his men in turn become the first Jacobite rebels.

Bonnie Dundee includes examples of:

  • All First-Person Narrators Write Like Novelists: Hugh is writing his memoir for his grandsons.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Hugh retires from soldiering in France when he loses an arm. So the obvious thing to do is take up painting instead.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Hero Dies at Killiecrankie and the Jacobite cause falls apart, while his widow and son die in an accident. Hugh is maimed, but he and Darklis rebuild their lives in the Netherlands.
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  • Canine Companion: Caspar, a mongrel Hugh acquires from the Tinklers.
  • Conflicting Loyalties: Young Hugh initially wavers between his extremist Covenanter family and the forces of law and order. His cousin Alan quickly resolves this for him by executing a teenage soldier in front of him. He feels some misgivings about following Claverhouse back into his native country in a red coat, but quickly resolves that for himself by killing Alan in battle.
  • Fiery Redhead: Hugh's fanatical Covenanter cousin, Alan Armstrong.
  • For Want of a Nail: Happens with great regularity to Hugh – the news of his grandfather's death on a particular day sends him into Jean's household. Replacing a sick rider one day makes him Claverhouse's galloper. The sight of a beggar woman's hands holding a flower leads him to his second career and his reunion with Darklis.
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  • Freakier Than Fiction: Jean dies suddenly several years after the main events of the story, when the roof of the inn she's staying in collapses without warning.
  • Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!: The Scottish Covenanters complain about Claverhouse attacking poor farmers who only want freedom of religion. Claverhouse's men retort that if they want to be left in peace, they should stop shooting at government troopers.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jean Cochrane and her cousin and Lady-in-Waiting Darklis Ruthven. Male examples are common in Sutcliff's work, but female is unusual.
  • Historical Domain Character: The Grahams, Cochranes, and other aristocrats and officers are based on real people. Darklis's family history is from a ballad.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Hugh writes his account of the career of his beloved commander Bonnie Dundee at the behest of his wife, who wants to defend the reputation of their erstwhile employer. Dundee also has a Tagalong Chronicler, real person James Phillip of Amryclose, who wrote The Graemiad on which the novel is partly based.
  • The Lady's Favour: Darklis gives Hugh a pin shaped like a sprig of heather for a token. It's also a sign to the Tinklers that he's under her protection.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The title and epigraph come from the version of the folk-song "Bonnie Dundee" written specifically about Claverhouse by Walter Scott.
  • Marry for Love: John Graham and Jean Cochrane, despite an age difference and the fact that her family are staunch Covenanters.
  • Man in a Kilt: Highlander Coll MacDonald of Keppoch, an anachronism even in 1689.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Darklis's family background is based on a ballad about a Scottish noblewoman who ran off with a Tinkler (Scottish analogue to Irish Travellers). Though she lives with her kinswoman Jean, her Tinkler kinsman Captain Faa keeps a protective eye on her.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Darklis has a vision of the collapse of the Castle of Antwerp Inn in a pool under an elder tree on Midsummer's Eve about a decade before it happens. Given the freak nature of the accident, which really happened, the novel needed something to set it up.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Hugh is the loyal subordinate of The Hero Claverhouse. Of their respective Love Interests, Darklis is a devoted Side Kick to Jean. Darklis and Hugh don't get together until the Grahams, the first objects of their loyalty, are dead.
    Darklis: You always have to follow someone. 'Tis time ye learned to be your own man, Hugh.


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