Updated August 12, 2002
In the forth-coming months a number of Kelly books are set to be released or re-released. We will be doing reviews and keeping you updated as to when the books hit the stands. For a extensive list of reviews, we recommend ironoutlaw.
Book News - Interview and Review
'EM I DIED GAME The Legend of Ned Kelly'
The following is an Interview with author Dr.Graham Seal, folklorist and cultural historian. Dr. Seal is Deputy Director of Australian Studies at Curtin University of Technology in Perth. His other works include; The Outlaw Legend: a Cultural Tradition in Britain, America and Australia and the Encyclopedia of Folk Heroes.
Graham, congratulations on your book 'Tell em I died game'. I enjoyed
reading it and consider it a quality addition to anyone's Kelly collection.
Was it the current surge in Kelly popularity and demand that inspired
you to revise and re-release your work?
say in your book that as far as the legend of Ned Kelly is concerned it
does not matter if he was a larrikin criminal, or a hero. Do you think
the ongoing debate and 'side taking' on the issue manages to enhance or
detract from the Kelly legend?
that you believe that the 'truth' is not that relevant to the Kelly legend,
do you think the lack of clarity over historical 'facts', enables people
to adjust their ideas of Ned to keep the legend relevant?
note how Ned is described variously at different times in history - that
the characteristics valued by society at any given time are used to depict
and, or admire him. However you have not gone into much detail on the
anti-Ned literature, such as that of Ned's contemporary Frances Hare,
or the modern writings of Edgar Penzig. Do you think a national folk hero
such as Ned Kelly needs such voices speaking against him in order to keep
his supporters passionate in his defense? Is such 'anti-hero' sentiment
essential to maintaining hero status?
address the idea that Aaron Sherritt was "cast in the role of traitor",
and claim his guilt or innocence is no more relevant to the Kelly story
than Ned's. Without Aaron as the turncoat, do you think the police would
have been sufficiently 'villainous' enough for the legend to retain its
explain how over time Kate Kelly has been seen as the prevailing 'heroine'
of the story. The more recent public perception of her importance seems
to have waned, and been spread more between her, Maggie Skillion (nee
Kelly) and various love interests of Ned. Why do you think this has occurred
within the myth?
assert that the Kellys were not actually as motivated by Irish sentiments
as is widely portrayed, but that they "...had no other means of expressing
their anger than through the inherited images and clichés of Irish
nationalism." How important do you think the Irish influence is over
the Kelly legend? Do you believe the legend would have been so widely
accepted if, from the outset, the gang had expressed an 'Australian sentiment'
do you think of the way Ned is portrayed in schools, and do you think
this has/will change over time? Every Aussie school kid learns about the
bushranger Ned Kelly. Is the schoolroom where opinion on Ned is generally
formed? Do you think it is it the nursery for the persistence of the legend?
role, if any, do you see the 'information age' playing in the future of
the legend of Ned Kelly?
you think Ned would recognize himself in the legend?
"Ned Kelly's story is the timeless tale of the hero, the man who transcends the often brutal or mundane realities of his existence to become a symbol of something larger than himself."
Graham explains that there is a common theme in all legends and how this one has all the essential ingredients. In order for a legend to be complete it requires a hero, a heroine, and a 'traitor', and he asserts that the 'truth' of their stories is broadly irrelevant when it comes to the legend. Graham makes a good case for how Ned Kelly fits nicely into the traditional tale of what makes a good folk hero, and that he had personal qualities that are important to the making of his legend. He argues that Ned was wholly aware of the 'ideal' heroic figure and was mindful to adhere to it.
Graham investigates the history not of Ned Kelly 'the man', but of Ned Kelly 'the legend', sourcing its origins to the themes found in folk songs and ballads since Ned's lifetime. He traces how the legend has changed and grown over time, and explores the relevance of various forms of oral folklore and balladry. By differentiating between the weighty voice of the authorities and the enduring and powerful oral voice of the common people, he explains their relative importance and impact on the legend. We see the evolution, he explains, of Ned Kelly's popular image, through oral and media, songs, books, films, tourism, art and even politics.
Comparing the two editions: The updated version has an extra chapter mostly on the current happenings of Ned the legend, the title has changed (interestingly being the same one used by Bill Wannan for his book on bushrangers) and the cover design is new. The publisher is still Hyland House Melbourne. The forward by Russell Ward is acknowledged as being unchanged. Main events have been moved from the back to the front of this edition. Various Kelly cartoons of the day are not included in the new version, also omitted was a letter dictated to a warder by Ned. He includes copies of the Cameron and Jerilderie letters - as they were originally written. There is enough new text to warrant buying the updated version, (even assuming you could find the original).
this book as well worth adding to any Kelly collection.
Review and interview first published 12th of August 2002