Fiela’s Child Summary
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1.Elias and Barta Van Rooyen live in the Knysna forest with their four children., Willem, Kristoffel, Lukas and Nina. Elias cuts beams to earn money. 2.One day, their youngest son Lukas goes missing. They search for him for a long time, but in vain. Seven months later, they find parts of a skeleton possibly belonging to a small child. 3.Nine years into the future, we are introduced to Benjamin. He is the ‘hand-child’ of Fiela and Selling Komoetie. However, he never felt that he was different from Fiela’s four other children and was treated with love and respect by his adoptive parents. 4.Fiela and Selling live in Wolwekraal with their five children (Kittie, Dawid, Emma, Tollie and Benjamin). They are a colored family. 5.They make their living by selling ostrich feathers, goat milk, and animal skins, and by tapping aloe and raising chickens. 6.Fiela purchases an ostrich hen for her male ostrich, Kicker. She wants them to mate so she can have more ostrich feathers from their offspring to sell. 7.Two men from the government come over to Fiela’s home to take a census about the number of people in the area.
8.They discover Benjamin and realize that he is a white child in a colored home, something that was considered highly inappropriate in the racially segregated 19th century South Africa. 9.Benjamin was actually 3 years old when Fiela found him crying on her doorstep in the middle of the night. She took him in and cared for him as though he was her own child. Being very young, Benjamin did not remember anything about his life before Wolwekraal and considered Fiela and Selling to be his parents and their children his siblings.
10.The men believe that Benjamin could possibly be Lukas, the long lost son of Elias and Barta Van Rooyen. They demand that he be placed before the magistrate and his (possibly) real parents to know for certain. 11.This leaves Fiela very fearful and miserable, as she does not want Benjamin to be taken away from her and the only life he has known. 12.In the meantime, we are taken to Elias and Barta in the Knysna forest. It has been nine years since Lukas disappeared. 13.Elias comes across as an opportunist who will do anything to acquire more money. He is almost trampled to death in one of his expeditions to the forest to kill elephants for their tusks.
14. He is also very sexist, as demonstrated in his behavior towards his wife and daughter, Nina, who he finds to be useless, nagging and daft. 15.In Wolwekraal, Fiela and her family have spent three months without Benjamin. 16.When the Van Rooyen’s are informed that their son may have been found, they are overjoyed. 17.Meanwhile, Benjamin has to go alone to the courthouse with complete strangers. There he finds himself conflicted with his identity. Having been raised by an underprivileged section of society, he was taught to behave in a way that the white thought of as inferior and inappropriate for his skin color. The men of the government accompanying him laugh at his lack of knowledge on how to behave and live up to his skin color. 18.He is not sure of what to do and his mind wanders frequently to his family, whom he misses terribly. He was always Benjamin Komoetie and the idea of possibly becoming Lukas Van Rooyen does not attract him at all.