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Typee | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



After being out to sea for six months, the whaling ship Dolly puts in at Nukuheva Bay in the Marquesas Islands. The narrator, known as Tommo, and another sailor named Toby decide to desert the ship because the captain is cruel and violent. They plan to hide out on Nukuheva, surviving on easily foraged tropical fruit until they can find passage on another boat off the island. Their only major worry is being caught by the Typee, an infamously savage and cannibalistic tribe in one of the valleys on the island.

The two flee the boat into the wilds of the island, only to find that neither of them thought to bring food, and the only tropical fruit is in the inhabited valleys of the island. Not wanting to approach any of the populated areas, for fear the inhabitants are either Typee or a friendly tribe who will hand them over to their captain for a reward, Tommo and Toby keep to the wilderness for days. They live on biscuit crumbs and water, and the narrator sustains a mysterious injury to his leg and becomes feverish.

Typee Village

Eventually the pair realize they won't survive without help and make their way down a treacherous ravine to a native village. The islanders are uncertain of the two newcomers but treat them politely. Toby and Tommo can only communicate with a few words in Polynesian, and manage to learn that the islanders in the valley are, in fact, Typee. However, the Typee don't seem intent on causing them any harm.

As the first days pass with the Typee, Tommo's illness worsens and he has to be carried everywhere by a man named Kory-Kory, who has been assigned to look out for him. Tommo becomes attracted to a beautiful girl named Fayaway, and the two men enjoy being fed and treated like special guests. They remain apprehensive about the stories of Typee cannibalism, however, and the first time they eat meat with the tribe Toby won't eat for fear that it's roast baby. The meat turns out to be pork, but the men are still worried about their own fates with the islanders.

Tommo's illness and injured leg worsen, so Toby decides to go for help and European medicine. He gets attacked by an enemy tribe, the Happar, before he can get very far, and returns wounded to the village. Later, there is word of ships down in the nearby bay, and Toby goes with some islanders to meet the ships and see if he can get some help for Tommo. Toby never comes back and the islanders can only give vague reports about what happened to him, so Tommo becomes worried that the islanders did something to Toby.


After a while, when it becomes increasingly clear that the Typee have no intention of letting the narrator leave, he begins to enjoy some aspects of Typee life. He swims with the young girls of the village and spends a lot of time with Fayaway. Tommo also takes time to learn about the different crafts and traditions of the Typee, and makes many anthropological and philosophical observations about the contrast between Typee and European culture.

His anxieties return when the tribe becomes determined to tattoo him in their traditional way. Tommo loathes the tattoos of the tribe and fends them off, but feels increasing pressure to be tattooed. Then the Typee are called away to do battle with the Happar, and when they return they throw a feast that Tommo is not allowed to attend. This makes him suspicious, and his suspicions are confirmed when he sees the remains of a Happar skeleton after the feast. After finding irrefutable evidence that the Typee are cannibals, he becomes determined to escape. Despite the fact that the Typee people never offered him any violence or harm, he cannot stop thinking about their cannibalism.


Marnoo, a member of a different tribe, who has sacred permission to pass unharmed among any tribe, comes to visit the Typee. He speaks a little English and is able to converse with Tommo. Later, more boats come to the bay and Tommo insists on going down to meet them. The tribe is divided into two factions: one that is willing to let him go, and another which wants to forbid him. His insistence and help from the first faction enables him to get to the beach. There he finds a native Hawaiian man from the Dolly. He is in a small boat, trying to trade goods for Tommo's freedom. There is a small skirmish and Tommo manages to jump aboard the boat and escape. Some of his friends in the tribe help him go, while others try to attack the boat. It turns out that the Hawaiian man is now working for an Australian captain who wants to hire on more men, and Tommo is taken to his ship. After three months, Tommo finally recovers from his illness.

Typee Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Tommo and Toby desert the ship and run into the jungle.

Rising Action

2 Tommo is injured and starving.

3 Tommo and Toby are welcomed to the Typee Valley.

4 Toby goes to ask the boats for help and never returns.

5 Tommo witnesses the first signs of cannibalism in the tribe.

6 Marnoo comes to the village again and promises to help.


7 Tommo jumps into Karakoee's boat in hopes of escaping.

Falling Action

8 Karakoee's boat manages to escape the swimming islanders.


9 Three months later, aboard the Julia, Tommo is healed.

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