Here’s another chapter of my ongoing translation of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s 1667 travelogue. I’ve introduced a paragraph division for legibility.
Chapter 9: Madagascar and Réunion
Madagascar or Saint Lawrence is an island located in Africa under the Tropic of Capricorn [Madagascar’s southern point, where NMK is likely to have landed, is indeed just south of the Tropic.] which is considered to be at least as large as England and Scotland, its inhabitants being completely black and Muslims. It is a fertile land with abundant cattle, sheep and goats. Instead of bread they eat a kind of root which they call patatas. These they boil and they taste like parsnip.
We could not go far from the shore before they stole our people away, because two boatswains got too daring and went ahead of us high up on the beach, and were gone. For this reason the Captain kept all the natives on the ship locked up until he received news of our boatswains. Only one of these Kaffirs or black Africans he sent out to tell what the case was with his brothers, that is, that 18 were imprisoned on the ship for two Christians. The people who had abducted the boatswains took them straight to the King, who resided in a town named Manapatan. When the messenger reached the King and told him all about his brothers’ circumstances on the ship, then the King was very angry about this and immediately sent, as they said when they came back, a message to another King, who lived eastward in the land at Arpoat, to ask him for advice whether he should keep these two Christians and abandon his own people, or no. And since the Frenchman has his meeting place there on the land, for this reason the Frenchmen who were employed by the King advised him that the two Christians would be of more use to him than 30 or 40 of his own people if he could only persuade them with kindness.
In the meantime we captured more and more of the natives, and so the King had to release our Christians. To show them his tyrannical heart, however, he had all the hairs that they could see on their loins pulled out before they left him. Let everyone consider the pain they suffered, because they said that only one hair was pulled out at a time. When the Captain and crew saw the tyranny that had been committed against these poor people, it was decided that as retribution we would keep 16 healthy individuals of the natives that we had imprisoned, which were then sold. Four pairs were tied up back to back and thrown overboard into the sea. One had his nose and ears cut off and was then sent back to the King. They told us that this king had many elephants walking around his court. As far as I could tell, it was a populous and fertile land with all sorts of foodstuffs. We collected large fine oysters there from trees on the shore, and from the same tree we took sour limefruits which we ate with the oysters.
The French have a settlement here with a little fort named Saint Apollonia [Réunion, not on Madagascar’s mainland.]. They do no work here on the land, but lie here and pass the time until the Persians and Mughals [Mogoller: people from the Mughal Empire in India.] sail across the Persian Gulf and into the Red Sea to Muhammad’s tomb. Then they go tacking, taking the goods, sinking the vessel and killing the people. Then they sail into Arabia and sell the goods, and live at Dilpe and Roszciel.