Scott O’Dell Captivates
When I was 10 years old I read Island of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and it captured my imagination. I used to pretend that I was Karana, alone on an island. I fashioned a bow and arrow out of wood lying around my neighborhood. I liked the idea of being self-sufficient and being able to survive on my own. I admired her strength and had fun imagining her adventures as I wandered my own suburban neighborhood.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that Scott O’Dell had also written The King’s Fifth, which my favorite cartoon, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, had been loosely based on. In the book The King’s Fifth Estéban a black slave and a teenage cartographer of the Spanish Conquistador Army. The story starts when he is imprisoned. Esteban is awaiting trial finding a treasure without submitting the Quinto Real, also known as the King’s Fifth. In this journal Estéban describes how he joined a small army band of Spaniards to seek the Seven Golden Cities of Cíbola. Their guide on this dangerous journey was a teenage Native American girl named Zia. Zia is the only one to preserve both her life and freedom. The book also includes Mendoza, a wily adventurer who arrived in the Americas by becoming a navigator on the ship to the New World.
I devoured the book the search for El Dorado and continued onto his Seven Serpents Trilogy. The Captive, The Feathered Serpent and The Amethyst Ring all took place in South America. I learned how to recognize the Mayan numbers from the numbering of the chapters in those books and they enhanced my fascination with the Mayan, Aztec and Incan Cultures. The cartoon and the books led to me doing a great deal of research and longing to visit Mexico and Peru. I jumped at the chance to visit Peru in 2001. However, I have yet to make it to Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Severn Serpents trilogy follows Julian Esteban travels to the new world. He is shipwrecked and separated from the crew he arrived with. He is taken in by the Mayans because they think that he the one who was prophesied as returning—that he is the white god known Kukulcán. He is a Captive of the Mayans and a puppet for a powerful priest. Later, in The Feathered Serpent, he travels the Aztec city where Hernando Cortez has invaded. In The Amethyst Ring, Kukulcán’s followers captured Rodrigo Perdoza, a bishop carrying a message to Cortés to detain Julián. Julián wants to be a priest and asks the bishop many times to make him one, but in the end he lets the Mayan priest sacrifice him, and Julián takes the bishop’s amethyst ring. He then runs into Francisco Pizarro who is on his way to steal gold from the Inca’s in Peru.
I don’t know if Scott O’Dell ever traveled to the far-away places he wrote about. I do know that Scott O’Dell was born O’Dell Gabriel Scott but his name was published wrong on a book and he decided to keep the name Scott O’Dell. He was born on Terminal Island in Los Angeles, California, to parents May Elizabeth Gabriel and Bennett Mason Scott. He attended multiple colleges. After serving in the Air Force during WWII, he became a full time writer. He won many awards during his lifetime and has remained on reading-lists in schools throughout the USA. He made history accessible and interesting to children and young adult, and for that he will not be forgotten.