Wednesday, March 23, 2005

- View of ‘distorted’ Andaman

No pygmy race has been accounted for in volumes of anthropology. The characteristics fit none of the living tribes. But by 1889, when the Sign of the Four was first published, the distant islands had already gained notoriety in England. They had been colonised in 1789 and abandoned in 1796 due to difficult climate, only to be re-established as a penal colony in 1858.

Holmes reads out this passage from a gazetteer to Watson: “The aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps claim the distinction of being the smallest race upon this earth… They are a fierce, morose, and intractable people, though capable of forming most devoted friendships when their confidence has once been gained…”

This lively image fits none of the natives of the Andamans (there is no reference to the Nicobars).