Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Chapter 12 : I Hear of the "Red Fox" | Summary



Alan and David remain in the roundhouse as the Covenant sails toward the coast of Scotland. Alan tells David all about the allegiances of the highlands and his family, the Stewarts. Alan was in the English army before he deserted and eventually joined the French army. He returns to England once a year in secret to collect the rents that Scottish tenants still pay to their exiled chieftain, which amounts to them paying double rent: a forced rent to the English king and a generous rent to their beloved chieftain. The tenants suffer for their generosity and are nearly forced from their lands by the local ruler appointed by the king, Colin of Glenure, the so-called "Red Fox." Red Fox is from the Campbell family, whose clan is an enemy to Alan's clan, but whose members are related to David's minister at Essendean, Mr. Campbell.


David begins to learn about the allegiances of clans that define the political and familial associations of the highlands. For David, who knew so little about his father's family, the intensity of the highland allegiances and conflicts between clans are strange. Alan hates anyone with the last name Campbell, but David knows a perfectly wonderful Mr. Campbell, so he does not understand how Alan's system of relationships can possibly be correct. At the same time, he marvels at people so loyal that they will pay double rent simply to support a leader whose rebellion has failed and is forced to live in exile.

These familiar associations play into the cruelty with which the Red Fox manages the region under his control. He is appointed factor—a property manager—by the English king and is required to follow and enforce the rule of law established by the king. He does so in a way that harshly punishes the people of the clans that he does not like. His actions may be unjust, but the hatred between the clans suggests that if the opposing clans were to gain power, they would oppress his own clan. The family relationships that define loyalty and goodness between people are also the cause of wars, oppression, and suffering.

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