Strange Objects Plot Outline
The main character, Steven Messenger, finds a mummified hand inside a large pot which he names the ‘cannibal pot’, a name that sticks. Inside this pot is also a leather journal.
The mummified hand also had on it a gold ring which fell off into Steven’s sleeping bag when the boys on the Biology Camp were throwing the hand around the cave after the teachers left.
The hand and the ring belonged to a girl named Ela who was killed 300 years ago.
The journal is the recordings of Wouter Loos, a sailor who was exiled to the Western Australian coast along with Jan Pelgrom, a punishment for being involved in the murder of 120 women, children and other sailors aboard the Dutch ship Batavia that shipwrecked off the coast of W.A. Everyone else who was involved in these murders was hung.
Back at school an aboriginal character named Charlie Sunrise talks to the boys involved in finding the pot and hand about the significance of the hand. He tells the boys that the hand was cut off in order to preserve the spirit of Ela; the rest of her body was hung in a tree covered in leaves to dry her body out- an ancient aboriginal ritual. He tells the boys that he knows a ring was on that hand originally. It is in this scene that we see Nigel Kratzman as a responsible and helpful boy as he offers Charlie his seat.
Dr Hope Micheals, the Director of the Western Australian Institute of Maritime Archaeology writes a letter to Steven telling him how important the ring is to determining the owner of the ring and asks him to let her know if he knows anything.
Steven finds the ring in his sleeping bag; he decides to keep it.
The ring makes Steven dream and in these dreams are images of another Steven Messenger ( who looks like James Dean) a person who is cooler than he feels he is.
The ring also helps him see into the past and see images and events that happened in the lives of Jan Pelgrom and Ela. He sees Ela and her family (an event no-one else knows about), he sees the cave paintings which tell the story of Wouter and Jan and he adds Ela to the wall himself.
Charlie Sunrise knows that Steven has the ring and begins to follow him. He asks Steven to meet him and he takes Nigel and Steven to the caves where the paintings are. Inside the cave Charlie pulls the ring from his neck and then Steven kills Charlie.
Steven then runs away sending all that he knows about Ela and the ring to Dr Hope Micheals. We also find out that Steven’s father died before the ring incident- even though Steven talks about his father all through the text as being alive.
The text ends strangely, with many questions left unanswered, the main being - is Steven mad or could he really see the past and another Steven Messenger?
The Story of Wouter Loos and Jan Pelgrom is also told within the text through the Journal of Wouter. As already mentioned Wouter and Jan were exiled for murdering and raping women and children. Wouter is in charge of looking after Jan.When they were on the island they struggled to find food. For this reason and because Jan is a psychopath (paralleling Steven Messenger?), he murdered his only companion- a dog named Lucky- for food. The most telling part of Jan’s psychopathic nature is in that Lucky was his friend.
Wouter and Jan then find some aboriginals who are petrified of a white flag flying above the crate they made to pull along their ‘cannibal pot’ and belongings. They are so scared of this white flag because this resembles a ships flag- telling us that the aboriginals had had to deal with ships previously and their experience must have scared them.
The men become inhabitants of the aboriginal tribe but don’t really belong. They try to trade with them but can’t, because what they consider valuable is so different to the Aboriginal values.
They then meet Ela and Jan falls in love with her. He marries her and gives her the gold ring he always wears around his neck.
Jan then kills Ela.