The Storm Boy Story Line
Storm Boy is a 1976 classic Australian film. It is a story of communion between a boy and a pelican. The movie was promoted in 2001 DVDs as “His free spirit roams with his pet Pelican, Mr Percival, and his secret Aboriginal friend Fingerbone Bill.”
Fingerbone Bill gives the boy the name Storm Boy. The way of life for Storm Boy and his father is hard and remote. Their survival, like Fingerbone’s survival, is connected to and reliant upon the land. They are living in Coorong a coastal area of South Australia. While his father is fishing for their livlihood Storm Boy has solitary time to paddle his raft and explore the wetlands.
The central characters are storm boy (played by Greg Lowe), his father (Peter Cummings) and Fingerbone. These characters demonstrate living with the land. By this I mean living from what nature offers as opposed to altering nature and trying to force the land to produce. Fingerbone is played by David Gulpilil with his trademark brilliance. David’s work is a credit to the Aborinial people of Australia.
The movie is visually spectacular with lovely water, sky and birdlife images.
The movie has a strong conservation message. At the time hunting and dune buggies was permitted in the Coorong. Shamefully the shooting was indiscriminate. Dune buggies damaged fragile dune ecosystems.
The sound track is beautiful. It is clear and haunting. It accompanies the imagery and use of silence very effectively. Silence is very effectively used in this movie. In Aboriginal communication, and in spiritualism, silence is very important.
Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level. The relationship between Storm Boy and Mr Percival is clearly an extraordinary communion. Fingerbone brings the focus to spiritual matters by sharing the traditional story of Pelican and foretelling a storm will follow the killing of a pelican. After this death Storm boy becomes foster parent for the orphan pelican hatchlings.
The Pelican chicks are raised. Storm Boys relationship with Mr Percival is special. When set free Mr Percival returns. There are beautiful images of them playing and finding comfort with Mr Percival sitting on Storm Boys lap.
With shooters again in the Coorong it seems Mr Percival may have been killed. Storm boy searches everywhere and he cannot find Mr Percival. The scene is sad and lonesome as Storm Boy walks along the beach in the bleak last light of day. His father offers him words of comfort and the hope “if he’d been killed you would have found him”. But the heavy rain, wind and thunder can be heard. Storm Boy is silent. He knows a pelican has been killed.
With the new day Fingerbone comes for Storm Boy. Fingerbone found Mr Percival and he was dead. He has buried him. Fingerbone shows storm boy the grave … and a clutch of new pelican chicks.
This movie in the context of communicating aboriginal spiritualism and in the concept of communion between people and animals contains a glaring inconsistency. Aboriginal spiritualism and communion with regard to Pelican is beautifully done. However the scene with the Red Belly Black Snake is unnecessary, inconsistent with the treatment of Pelican, and an incorrect portrayal of aboriginal spiritualism.
In this scene the snake comes towards Fingerbone Bill and Storm Boy while they sit on a log reading. Storm Boy is frightened and Fingerbone shoots and kills the snake.
Killing the snake was unnecessary as it posed no risk and safe conduct around snakes has been known by Aborigines for many thousand years. Killing the snake is the same as killing pelican in the spiritual context. Aboriginal people respect the snake as much as the bird and a much as the person. Aboriginal spiritualism does not allow them to kill any animal unnecessarily. There is no concept of snakes being bad. Snakes have their essential role in nature.
Communion is subtle and real. Sometimes dramatisation take communion so far the plot requires an animal to comprehend a range of steps and perform a rescue. In Australia there was a long running television series “Skippy” where a kangaroo assists the park rangers to perform rescue and capture crooks. Similar concepts in the televisions shows “Lassie” and “Flipper.” In my view it is unnecessary and inconsistent for the pelican Mr Percival to be essential to a rescue of men stranded at sea during a storm. Storm Boy is the movie adaption of the 1964 novel of Colin Thiele. I have not read the book but am curious to see if this aspect of the plot was included in the book.
Coorong National Park
The novel was published in 1964. In 1966 Coorong Nationa Park was established. The National Park is a 447 square kilometer park south east of Adelaide, South Australia. The wetlands of this area are internationally significant and provide a breeding ground for many water bird species. The species include pelican, ducks terns, swans, grebes, cormorants. Many migratory species visit these wetlands. The geography consists of sweeping sand dunes on the Younghusband Peninsular which shelters a series of saltwater lagoons and wetlands.
The Coorong is the tradition land of the Ngarrindjeri people. The land is the center of every aspect of aboriginal life. Saying that land is culturally significant to aboriginal people does not express the full meaning of the land to aboriginal people.
I look forward to visiting Coorong National Park one day it will be a fantastic place for photography, bush walking and canoeing.
If you have been to the Coorong, or seen Storm Boy, I would love to hear from you.