On Marco Polo’s voyage to India, he passes through many islands. One of the islands he comes across is Andaman. There is no description of his journey or how his journey led him to this island.
One of the first things Marco Polo says about the island is its greatness in size. He then discusses the defining aspects of the island. He says, “the people have no king. They are idolaters and live like wild beasts” (Marco Polo, 258). Marco Polo goes into more detail about the native people of Andaman and their physical characteristics. He says that the men of the island are worth describing and speaks of their animalistic features. He describes the men saying, “all the men of this island have heads like dogs, and teeth and eyes like dogs; for I assure you that the whole aspect of their face is that of big mastiffs” (258). He then defines them as a cruel race that feasts on outsiders to their land.
Marco Polo sets up the culture of the island as a place that is vastly different in comparison to his Western culture or what he considers to be civilized. He begins saying that the people do not have a ruler suggesting the island has a lack of authority and structure. He also says they are idolaters which Marco Polo uses negatively to suggest they have anti-Christian beliefs. Marco Polo moves onto describe the native people of Andaman. He compares the people to dogs, specifically to mastiffs in not only their facial features but further says they act like ferocious dogs in how they devour the people who do not belong to their land. Marco Polo’s racist views are evident in this passage. He already looks down on their culture for their lack of order and differing beliefs. Marco Polo expresses his opposition even further using fearsome descriptions of the Andaman natives. His descriptions of the people in Andaman suggest the cruelty of the entire race. It seems Marco Polo is using race as a signifier of personal attributes. Even further, it seems Marco Polo is alluding to the fact that the people who look and act in this dog-like manner must have something to do with their lack of authority and in their (what he believes) sinful views.
Marco Polo also focuses on the island’s goods and location. He says the island has an “abundance of spices of every kind” (158). Additionally, he says Andaman has food such as milk, rice, and “every sort of flesh.” Marco Polo emphasizes their fruits such as, apples and coconuts, and says they have others that are different from the ones in his home country. He then describes the difficulties ships have reached the island. He says the island is situated in a treacherous sea that does not allow ships to anchor or sail from the island. Marco Polo explains this is so because the sea is so strong it is able to eat away at the shore and drag trees from their roots into the gulf. Ships then get stuck in the gulf in the mass of trees and are unable to get out.
It is typical of Marco Polo to express interest in goods and resources due to his position as a trader. His emphasis on the different fruits on the island shows the reader that he intends on relaying to Westerns about the differences in land and culture. The passage about the unbelievable strong seas seems intentionally included in order to attract readers and make his journey sound thrilling. There is also a contradiction in the last section since it does not explain how Marco Polo was able to reach and depart from this said treacherous sea. This could either be read as a false assertion or that Marco Polo never traveled to the island.