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After Escaping Native American Captivity, A 17th-Century Woman Wrote A Best-Seller

Updated 3 Dec 2018 36.1k views12 items

It was the book everyone was talking about in colonial America — a harrowing memoir of a reverend's wife who had been dragged from her home by "bloody heathens" and forced her to march 150 miles. Separated from her children, the woman had only prayers to sustain her... which they did, as she eventually survived and escaped. The Mary Rowlandson captivity narrative tells the horrific story in excruciating detail, from a man "chopped into the head with a hatchet" to others "stabbed with their spears."

Unlike the girl with the Mohave tattoo, who wanted to stay with her captors, Mary Rowlandson vowed to escape. And unlike the Puritan axe murderer who slaughtered her captors, Mary Rowlandson's revenge didn't come from an axe — it came through the writing of her book. Mary Rowlandson's tale recounted her bloody story to other English settlers, warning them that the Indians had been sent by God to scourge them.

A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson became an instant best-seller when it was published in 1682. But Mary completely left out the context of King Philip's War and the reason Native Americans were at war with the white settlers in the first place. Mary portrays herself as a sympathetic victim, but were the Native Americans really "hell-hounds" and "ravenous beasts"?

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