Tony’s Notes From The Bony Novels (Part 20)

Posted on Tue 04/26/2011 by



What I have attempted specifically to do with this series of notes is to mention in as much detail things from these Upfield novels that provide a common thread throughout most of those novels.

While each of those novels is a separate novel in the Crime Fiction Genre, Upfield very skilfully integrated Aboriginal Culture as part of his text.

In a way, we are lucky that he did do this.

I’m not going to enter the argument that Upfield reinforced stereotypes when he wrote of the aborigines and their ways and culture. Many have said that something of this nature is for the aborigines to write themselves, and I agree with that premise.

Having said that, Upfield introduced his Bony character in 1929, based around a character he first considered and started to write about some years prior to having this first Bony novel published.

At that time, it would not have even been a consideration for a book about aboriginal culture to be published, let alone one written by an aborigine.

Even today, reference books of this nature are quite thin on the ground.

What Upfield did was to actually incorporate these things into his novels.

Even someone not specifically looking for these things could not have missed the way Upfield did include things of this nature.

This was the only way of getting any of this out to a reading public.

Looking back now with vision from the 21st Century, it could be asked what right did Upfield have to write about this from the perspective of a white man.

However, at the time, this was all there was.

What also needs to be taken into account here is that Upfield had been contributing numerous articles to magazines on the poor tresatment that the aborigines were getting from the white establishment, so including things of this nature in his novels was just an extension of that.

Careful reading of those novels sees that Upfield in fact was sympathetic to the aborigines in every way.

What he wrote about at that time were skills that the aborigines had, matters of their culture, and aspects of the way they were being treated.

These are skills that we have no need of in this day and age, and they have slipped into the realms of legend, and the connotations of disbelief that legends carry with them.

The same can be said for virtually all of the things relating to the aborigine. We, as white people cannot understand, let alone comprehend, things that the aborigine took for granted, things that for them were their way of life. They had to do all these things to just survive.

We have tried to make them like us, and when that has failed as miserably as it has failed, we however have only succeeded to do one thing. We have caused them to forget all these things.

Just imagine the skills that have been lost over the generations since the white man has been here in this vast land.

These skills can never be recovered.

A vast knowledge was being passed down from tribal elders to the young aborigines they were mentoring up to the time of the First Fleet’s landing. This vast store of knowledge took virtually a lifetime to pass on. Each of the previous generations added a little something to this vast store of knowledge.

When that First Fleet arrived in 1788, the mind set of most of the white people would probably have been to kill all the aborigines, as they were perceived as being only nomadic savages.

If we take the average generation as being twenty five years, then there have been at least eleven generations since the landing of that First Fleet. This being the case, then for maybe the first two or three generations, some of those skills would have been passed down, however, most probably to a lesser degree.

As the generations passed even farther along, white blood became intermingled with aboriginal, and the skills would have started to become diluted and even lost at a much increased rate.

Now we have reached the stage where these skills have been lost altogether, or have become almost a thing of only remembered legend.

These skills, now totally lost, can never be recovered.


They are gone.

The same can be said of virtually all aboriginal culture.

We treat it with such disdain, mostly because we have no comprehension of even the first inkling about it. We give it lip service, yet we secretly believe that it’s all mumbo jumbo.

Simple logic tells us that, before we came along, they had lived happily here for tens of thousands of years. They survived, and most probably prospered.

They lived with each other, knew their boundaries, had laws that were rigidly adhered to, more rigidly than we adhere to ours.

They were a moral people who lived in peace.

We did not understand their ways then, and we still don’t to this day.

The only thing that has happened is we have caused them to lose all they ever had, and in doing so, we have lost something.

We have lost skills that we can now only read about, and wonder at how they could do those things. We try and explain things with science, things that they did automatically, just part of their everyday life.

That civilisation is now lost.

Aboriginal writers can tell of those skills now in their own way.

What Upfield did was to detail these things, starting almost 80 years ago. He did it in a manner that was not obvious in one respect, but glaringly obvious when the reader takes the time to actually carefully read these novels.

Upfield was decades ahead of his time.

He’s criticised roundly now, with eyes attuned to Political Correctness, but he was courageous in actually detailing these things at a time when no one was even looking for them.