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.
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:
- 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.
- Anachronic Order: The first books skips from 1621 Tierra del Fuego to 1896 Chapelville, England, while the sequels move back to the earlier setting and continue from there.
- 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.
- Bad Boss: Captain Teal is incompetent and incredibly rude to his crew, and is eager to punish as well.
- Bittersweet Ending: Pretty much the case in each book with Ben having to leave the friends he's made behind.
- 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. His father, Obadiah Smithers is the grown-up version using legal trickery gain his ends.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Mr. Braithwaite, the librarian is eccentric and often gets sidetracked, but is a highly capable scholar.
- Chekhov'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.
- Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Winn.
- 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:
- Dogs Are Dumb: Inverted by Ned. He is particularly intelligent, and he finds other animals (particularly the cat, Horatio, in the first book) to not be as smart as him.
- Everyone Has Standards: Downplayed. Obadiah Smithers does not want Maud Bowe bringing in hired thugs to bully the villagers... but has no qualms about using his son's gang to hound Mrs. Winn and is more concerned with his reputation and the legal consequences than any moral qualms.
- Father Neptune: John Preston, a old sailor who served with Captain Winn.
- 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 and allows them to leave the ship.
- Never Given a Name: The hero is unnamed at the start but gains the name Neb as the series progresses, before reversing it to Ben.
- Noodle Incident:
- Ben and Ned's adventures in South America.
- Ben and Ned were in Kansas City on April 9, 1865 for some reason and ran into renegades.
- Old Dog: Ned's several centuries old, although he doesn't age.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Obadiah Smithers is against using hired goons since it would reflect badly on his reputation. He's proven right as the goons blunder so badly they bring down the police.
- 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.
- Saving the Orphanage: The quest to save Chapelville as a whole.
- Sarcastic Confession: Ben tells Jon Preston his first voyage was on the Flying Dutchman. Jon thinks he's joking and responds by claiming he sailed with Sir Francis Drake on the Golden Hind.
- 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.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Karay fears spiders, and Dominic is afraid of snakes.
- Your Mom: Ned insults a dog owned by the Razan by calling his mother a donkey.