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Literature / Odtaa

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Odtaa is a novel by John Masefield, first published in 1926.

It is a prequel to Sard Harker, and is set during the events briefly described in the opening pages of that novel: the 1887 rebellion, led by Don Miguel de Encinitas, against the tyrannical Don Lopez de Meruel, Dictator of Santa Barbara.

The protagonist of the novel is Highworth Ridden, a young Englishman sent by his father to Santa Barbara to make something of himself, who finds himself caught up in the rebellion on the side of Don Miguel's supporters.


The title, which is not explained within the text, is an acronymous allusion to Elbert Hubbard's remark that "Life is just one damn thing after another."

This novel provides examples of:

  • Banana Republic: Santa Barbara, complete with a foreign corporation, the United Sugar Company, propping up the dictatorship in support of its own economic interests.
  • Blasphemous Boast: When Don Lopez goes right off the deep end, he proclaims himself God and announces that henceforth no other religion shall be permitted in Santa Barbara, and that all churches must be turned over to worship of himself.
  • The Caligula: Don Lopez.
  • Cannibal Tribe: The Pituba Indians are reputed to be cannibals, but we never see evidence of it, and Rosa says their reputation is overstated: "They don't eat all the babies they're credited with. They may munch a finger here and there."
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  • Direct Line to the Author: One of the "Appendices and Notes" at the end is a letter from Hi to the author, commenting on the preceding text and giving an update on how he's been doing since.
  • Doomed by Canon: Anyone who's read Sard Harker knows how the rebellion turns out, and the fates of the key figures on both sides. (That still leaves room for uncertainty about Hi and Rosa, neither of whom are mentioned in Sard Harker.)
  • Latin Land: Santa Barbara.
  • Prequel: To Sard Harker.
  • Taking the Veil: Rosa retires to a convent at the end of the novel, following the failure of the rebellion and the deaths of Carlotta and of Rosa's remaining family. The narrator makes a point of assuring us that she found true happiness, not merely relief from tragedy, there.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Carlotta de Leyva, who is Doomed by Canon to be dead by the end of the book, is a young woman of remarkable beauty and grace, loved by all who meet her. (Except the villains, of course.)
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  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The "Appendices and Notes".