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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some Thoughts on R. M. Ballantyne

The books written by R. M. Ballantyne, considered to be one of the greatest novelists of his day, have been devoured by generations of young men. Ballantyne wrote exciting and fascinating stories, lived a tremendously adventurous life, and through all, walked humbly before the Lord.

Many of R. M. Ballantyne’s books took place in exotic locations around the world. He loved writing about unique geographical places, such as South America, or the Arctic. In order to have reliable information about the area, he often traveled to the countries in which his stories occurred, conducting on-the-spot research. Another common action for Ballantyne was to center his plot around an important cause or movement. Subjects such as lifeboats, the London fire brigade, or a ministry to soldiers would be combined with an exciting plot of adventure and intrigue. R. M. B. was careful to weave into his story the facts necessary to increase public awareness of the central theme.

R. M. Ballantyne’s own life was quite as adventurous as some of his fictional characters. At age sixteen he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company and spent the next six years as a clerk in the wilds of North America. His first two books, Hudson’s Bay and The Young Fur Traders, were both based on his time in North America. Later in life, because of his determination to visit the locations about which he wrote, he experienced many diverse and exciting adventures. While writing The Pirate City in Algiers, Ballantyne disguised himself and went unnoticed into the Muslim quarter, which would have put him in danger had he been discovered. He also participated in other activities which included firefighting, underwater diving, and train driving. Ballantyne truly was a tough and hardy man, much different from many fiction authors.

Although physically strong and sturdy, R. M. Ballantyne was spiritually meek and humble, living an earnest Christian life. An elder of the Free Kirk of Scotland, Ballantyne kept active in church life, fulfilling his responsibilities solemnly but with great joy. Records also show that he gave generously to the various causes supported by the Free Kirk. Throughout his books, a strong gospel message is firmly endorsed. Ballantyne encouraged his young readers to love the Lord, and give their lives to Him. So strongly did he emphasize this point, that after his death, some publishers would take these references out of his books, while still leaving the adventure. At the time that Ballantyne wrote, however, Christian principles were accepted throughout the nations, and parents were glad for their children to be reading such material. They were also glad that their children’s’ “role model” led such a biblically sound life.

For many years, R. M. Ballantyne’s books almost disappeared from the literary field. Recently, however, they have begun to slowly push their way back into the light of day, strongly recommended to Christian parents because of the steadfast life of the author. In a generation where demonic sorcery and vampire thrillers are accepted as good literature, Ballantyne’s books are a breath of fresh air, reminding readers what true spirituality is, and of the noble actions and principles of days gone by.

To find out more about R. M. Ballantyne, visit



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