'Mark this Watson, these are fierce and morose people'

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The Independent Online
IN 1890, in The Sign of Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave a Victorian view of the Andaman islanders:

'NOW THEN, where are we to find our savage?'

'South America,' I hazarded.

He stretched his hand up and took down a bulky volume from the shelf. 'This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being published. It may be looked upon as the very latest authority. What have we here?

'Andaman Islands, situated 340 miles to the north of Sumatra, in the Bay of Bengal.

'Hum] hum] What's all this? Moist climate, coral reefs, sharks. Port Blair, convict barracks. Rutland Island, cottonwoods - Ah, here we are]

'The aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps claim the distinction of being the smallest race upon this earth, though some anthropologists prefer the Bushmen of Africa, the Digger Indians of America, and the Terra del Fuegians. The average height is rather below four feet, although many full-grown adults may be found who are very much smaller than this. They are a fierce, morose, and intractable people, though capable of forming most devoted friendships when their confidence has once been gained.

'Mark that, Watson. Now, then listen to this.

'They are naturally hideous, having large, misshapen heads, small fierce eyes, and distorted features. Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small. So intractable and fierce are they, that all the efforts of the British officials have failed to win them over in any degree. They have always been a terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the survivors with their stone-headed clubs or shooting them with their poisoned arrows. These massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast.'