While he is on the path towards Knysna to find Nina as his father has ordered him to do, Lukas spontaneously goes to see the ghost-ship he hears people talking about. When he reaches the seaside, he is struck by the sight of the abandoned ship, which Lukas sees as being "horribly dead and desolate." This image of the destroyed ship stirs something deep inside him, reminding him of his childhood love of toy boats in the Long Kloof and thus symbolizing his loss of innocence since living in the forest. The ship's sails hanging like "dirty, tattered rags" mirrors the van Rooyens' disheveled way of dressing and their self-neglect. This moment marks when he begins to consider his identity beyond being Lukas van Rooyen.
There is a terrible drought during the summer in which we are first introduced to the Komoeties. The earth is described as bare and every new day brings another disappointment, because “the thunder-clouds that swelled out behind the mountains” disappeared “without leaving a drop of rain in the dust.” If only the clouds would come and bring some rain “before the ostriches had to go to pasture,” everything would be fine. This is one of the most difficult periods for people in the Kloof, as living through the drought means surviving the harshest of conditions. This imagery evokes a strange mix of hopefulness and despair as Fiela tries to stay strong and tame the worries that gnaw at her. The drought at the beginning of the story also serves as one of the omens which foretell the tragic events to occur.
The descriptions of the characters, especially Nina, illustrate each of their unique personalities and attitudes towards life. Nina is painted as being “thin and wispy, just like a goat,” and constantly "climbing and jumping” in the forest without any care in the world. The portrayal of Nina as wild and uncontrollable contrasts with the tightly controlled manner in which Elias and Barta conduct themselves. Towards the end of the book, there is a passage describing how Lukas sees Nina, where he notices the "untamed" and "hidden" quality of her beauty. This unrestrained way of carrying herself is what inspires Lukas to start seeking out his own freedom.
The presence of fog comes and goes throughout the story. It is there in the first chapter, when Lukas is lost as a 3-year-old and the opacity of the fog creates a precarious situation for finding a small boy. Towards the end of the book, when Lukas is working by the sea with Kaliel, the fog appears again as a "thick grey-white cloud around [Lukas]." The impenetrable fog mirrors Lukas' internal struggle to understand who he really is and why he has feelings for Nina, who is supposed to be his sister. Whenever fog imagery appears, Matthee is representing the confusion and paralysis experienced by her characters.
Fiela’s Child Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fiela’s Child is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.