Fiela’s Child


Dalene Matthee

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Themes and Colors
Race and Identity Theme Icon
Parenting Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Nature Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Fiela’s Child, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Parenting Theme Icon

Fiela’s Child is about the relationship between parents and children. The two main families are the Komoeties (a mostly “Coloured” (multiracial) family of farmers who live in a hot, dry region called Long Kloof) and the van Rooyens (a white family descended from Dutch settlers who live in the Forest). Benjamin, whose parents are unknown, unites the two families: over the course of the story, the Komoeties and the van Rooyens both claim Benjamin as their own, but they have opposite approaches to parenting. Fiela Komoetie is a supportive parent who teaches her children to be  independent rather than controlling them. She teaches her children everything they need to survive in the harsh climate of Long Kloof, like how to herd and raise ostriches and how to tap aloe. Fiela understands that she can’t control her children—despite her guidance and nurturing, for instance, her son Tollie struggles with alcohol addiction and ends up in jail. Still, she strives to guide them in a direction that’ll hopefully lead them to become good, independent adults.

On the other hand, the van Rooyens, and particularly Elias, represent a harsher and more controlling method of parenting. On the surface, Elias might seem to resemble Fiela, teaching his children how to cut wood beams just as Fiela teaches her children how to tap aloe. But while Fiela wants her children to become independent and eventually take over her land, Elias cares much more about how he can exploit his own children to make money. Furthermore, he thinks he can force his children to become whatever he wants them to be—and he always fails. For example, though Elias tries to force Benjamin to become “Lukas,” beating Benjamin when he resists, Benjamin ultimately returns to Fiela and reclaims his identity as her son. While Fiela’s parenting doesn’t yield perfect results, she nevertheless achieves more for herself and her children than Elias, whose wife and children fear him more than they respect him, leaving him increasingly lonely as he ages. In this way, Fiela’s Child examines the degree to which a parent can influence their child’s character and determine their future. Through the opposite parenting styles of Fiela and Elias, the book suggests that while parents can guide their children in a direction that will hopefully lead them to become good, independent adults, ultimately parents cannot control the people their children will become.

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Parenting Quotes in Fiela’s Child

Below you will find the important quotes in Fiela’s Child related to the theme of Parenting.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The day the child disappeared the fog came up early and by midday it seemed as if the Forest was covered in a thick white cloud.

Related Characters: Lukas, Elias, Barta, Benjamin, The Magistrate
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Only in retrospect did Fiela take account of the omens—she did not recognize them at first. […] Omens that should have warned her, but her mind was on the ostrich and she did not heed the warnings.

Related Characters: Fiela, Benjamin
Related Symbols: Ostriches
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

‘Listen here, woman, you know as well as I do that there’s something very strange going on here. This can’t be your child but you gave out that he was yours. Where did you get the child from?’

‘He’s my hand-child.’

Related Characters: The Census-Takers (speaker), Fiela (speaker), Benjamin, Lukas, The Magistrate
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

‘When the bigfeet are on you, you can’t choose what you let go of and what you want to keep, woman!’

Related Characters: Elias (speaker), Barta
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

‘You’re making a mistake, Fiela, wait another week or two.’

‘No. I’ve kept them apart long enough, I had them out at pasture for weeks, I’ve put paraffin into their ears so that there wouldn’t be a single tick to worry them, I’ve let Kicker starve—I’m not waiting any longer.’

Related Characters: Selling (speaker), Fiela (speaker), Benjamin
Related Symbols: Ostriches
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

‘Will I still know him?’

Related Characters: Barta (speaker), Benjamin, Lukas, Elias, The Magistrate, Fiela
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

It was late when they got home. His mother took one look at the egg, took down the strap from behind the door and beat their backsides well for them.

The next day she baked a sugar-cake with the egg.

Related Characters: Dawid, Benjamin, Fiela, The Magistrate
Related Symbols: Ostriches
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

‘I’m going to Knysna,’ she announced.

Related Characters: Fiela (speaker), Benjamin, Selling, The Magistrate
Related Symbols: Ostriches
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

‘He’s the forest woman’s child.’

Related Characters: Fiela (speaker), Benjamin, Barta, The Magistrate, Lukas
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

‘I’m your pa! That’s who I am! Say it! Say who I am!’ He was as tough as a piece of ironwood. ‘Say who I am!’



For every answer he gave him a lash. ‘And who are you?’

‘Benja— Lukas.’

‘Lukas who?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Lukas van Rooyen. Say it!’

‘Lukas van Rooyen.’

Related Characters: Elias (speaker), Benjamin (speaker), Barta, Lukas, Nina, Willem, Kristoffel, Fiela, The Magistrate
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

‘The child is back with his rightful parents,’ he said and it seemed as if his jaw had grown stiff. ‘What he had on the day he got lost can make no difference. You can put anything on him now and swear by it in the hope that I will believe you.’

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), Fiela, Benjamin, Lukas, Elias, Barta
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

In fact Petrus did not come riding up the Kloof until late on Thursday. Alone. A sugar-cake was waiting on the kitchen table.

Related Characters: Petrus, Fiela, Selling, Benjamin, The Magistrate
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

‘Pa is a dirty swine.’ Just that.

‘Why do you say that?’

‘It was a trap. An elephant trap.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I went there. There’s a dead elephant calf lying in the pit.’

Related Characters: Nina (speaker), Benjamin (speaker), Elias
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

The year moved slowly. Christmas came. New Year. And as he grew out of Benjamin Komoetie, he also grew out of his cloths and had to wear Willem’s old trousers and a shirt of his pa’s.

Related Characters: Benjamin, Willem, Elias, Lukas
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

But she had thrown away her name: half a crown a week with food and clothing was all the people were prepared to pay. What could he do? Nothing. He had to accept it. But as soon as he could get to the village himself again, he would go and see if he could not get her price raised to three shillings.

Related Characters: Nina, Elias
Related Symbols: Tusks
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

She had to give up Benjamin to the forest people, Dawid to the grave. There was little difference in the bitterness within her. The question she put to God was the same: Why, God, why?

Related Characters: Fiela, Benjamin, Dawid, Selling, The Magistrate
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

‘Go home and tell pa I’m not coming back. I’m finished with the Forest.’

Related Characters: Benjamin (speaker), Nina, Elias, Barta, Elias, Lukas
Page Number: 251
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 29 Quotes

The one wearing the blue shirt.

Related Characters: The Census-Takers (speaker), Lukas, Benjamin, Barta, Elias
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 32 Quotes

The pilot pulled the needle through the thick white cloth. Somewhere in his beard a smile seemed to be lingering. ‘Of course,’ he said.

Related Characters: Mr. Benn (speaker), Benjamin, Nina, Lukas, Fiela
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis: