A Little Bush Maid

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A Little Bush Maid written in 1910 by Mary Grant Bruce, is a work of Australian children's fiction and the first in a series of fifteen novels, collectively known as the Billabong books.

The books, set in outback Australia, are about the adventures of Norah Linton, her father David, her brother Jim, and Jim’s friend Wally Meadows, who reside on the family station "Billabong".

The stories present an idealistic view of life on a station (that’s the equivalent of a ranch, for American tropers) in rural Australia in the early twentieth century. Norah is twelve years old when the first book begins, is in her late twenties at the close of the fifteenth, and remains convinced throughout that there is nowhere in the world like her father’s station Billabong, which continues to be her true home, even after she is married. (She moves no further away than next door.)

The series is characterized by fierce adherence to the Australian way of life, vivid descriptions of the beauty and dangers of the Australian landscape, and humorous and colloquial dialogue. By holding up quintessentially “Australian bush” values such as independence, individual free will, hard physical labor (for women as well as for men), mateship, and hospitality, against more selfish and decadent “urban” or stolid “British” values, the books contributed towards a growing Australian identity in the years before and after the First World War.

The series was also notable for its strong, sensible, competent young heroine, and her close relationship with her father and brother, who never treat her “just like a girl” but rather as a mate with an opinion to be valued. It is also very unfortunately notable for its distinctly racist views of indigenous Australians, and Chinese immigrants. Recent editions have altered offensive content or removed it entirely.


Tropes used in A Little Bush Maid include:
  • Abusive Parents: In Back to Billabong Tommy's step-mother is emotionally and financially abusive towards Tommy, while her father is indifferent. In Billabong Riders Rob Flynn's guardian, Sid Flynn, is physically abusive.
  • Aesop: Averted for most part. This is lampshaded in Bill of Billabong when a surly-tempered Bill is given a book to read about a very good little child, which he throws out of the window of the train he is traveling in.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Used a few times, such as when Wally sees Norah riding in the stampede in Billabong Riders, and when Jim confronts Tommy about selling her car in Billabong's Luck.
  • Beta Couple: Arguably Jim and Tommy, although the relationship did take center stage in Billabong's Luck.
  • Break the Cutie: Tommy's two years in her father's home prior to finding the courage to walk out and go to Australia. The more time that passes after going to Australia, the more assertive and self-assured Tommy becomes.
  • Broken Bird: Kate Benton in Son of Billabong.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Miss de Lisle, the cook the Lintons hire to work in the Home for Tired People.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Tommy goes from living with her wealthy Aunt Margaret in Paris to being an unpaid governess and maid in her step-mother's home.
  • Daddy's Girl: Norah
  • Dance of Romance: Between Norah and Wally in Billabong's Daughter.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The Hermit in A Little Bush Maid has one of these.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mrs Walker.
  • Death by Childbirth: The implied cause of death for both Norah and Jim's mother, and for Bob and Tommy's mother.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Bob and Tommy attempt to conceal their financial difficulties from the Lintons.
  • Dreadful Musician: Tommy's step-mother.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Wally's dream of his brother Edward in Billabong's Daughter, and Norah's dreams in Norah of Billabong and Bill of Billabong.
  • Driven by Envy: Cecil Linton in Mates at Billabong.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Bill's first name is Percival, which he hates. Similarly, Cecilia Rainham goes by her nickname "Tommy".
  • Everybody Smokes
  • Fair for Its Day: Even though some of the views towards women are out-dated nowadays, at the time Norah was considered notable for being a competent worker on the station, as well as an accepted part of her brother's social circle.
  • Fiery Redhead: Bill Blake
  • Friend to All Children: Norah
  • Friend to All Living Things: Norah in particular loves all animals (except for sheep).
  • Friendship Moment: Plenty of them.
  • Funetik Aksent
  • Hair of Gold: Tommy Rainham.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sir John in Jim and Wally
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Jim and Tommy.
  • Large and In Charge: McGill in Billabong Gold.
  • Love Triangle: Averted in Billabong's Daughter. Wally is in love with Norah, but thinks that Norah has feelings for Bob. He's wrong.
  • Missing Mom: Norah and Jim's mother died when Norah was a baby. Tommy and Bob Rainham's mother also died when they were young. Rob Flynn in Billabong Riders is mourning the recent loss of his mother.
  • Old Retainer: Brownie and Murty O'Toole, to name a few.
  • One of the Boys: Within the context of the time period Norah fits into this trope, particularly in A Little Bush Maid and Mates at Billabong.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Jim Linton and Jim the Hermit. David Linton, Dave Boone, and Davie Meadows. Bob Rainham and Rob Flynn. Bill Blake and Billy. This last is commented on by Dick Yorke in Billabong's Gold.
  • Parental Abandonment: Bill Blake's parents spend more time traveling and socializing than they do with their child.
    • Wally's parents both died when he was very young, and his older brothers (not to mention other relatives) seem to have little desire to parent him. Although his family all live in Queensland, he's sent to Melbourne to school and his relatives don't seem to care much that he spends all of his holidays with his friend Jim Linton.
    • Tommy and Bob's mother died when Tommy was born, and their father was only too glad to surrender the responsibility of their care to an aunt.
    • Rob Flynn is another orphan.
  • Put on a Bus: In the last book, Bob Rainham and Bill Blake are not even mentioned.
  • Rescue Romance: This is the incident in Billabong's Daughter where Norah and Wally start to become more aware of their feelings for each.
  • Resentful Guardian: Rob Flynn's uncle. Tommy's step-mother.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Male characters such as Jim, Wally, and Mr Linton consider it only right to protect their female friends and relatives from harm.
  • Sympathetic Criminal: In Billabong's Daughter.
  • Tomboyish Name: Cecilia Rainham is known by her nickname "Tommy" but this trope is subverted here as Tommy is actually a very feminine character.
  • Utopia: Billabong
  • Values Dissonance: By today's standards, the books are considered racist, classist, and sexist. When the books were published again in the 1990's a lot of dialogue containing racially offensive comments, particularly in relation to indigenous Australians, was altered or removed altogether.
    • The books upheld the common view of the time that Anglo-Australians were racially superior to Aboriginal Australians (and other races and cultures). This was particularly evident in the earlier books, but began to be increasingly subverted in later novels. Lee Wing, the Linton’s Chinese gardener, is shown increasing respect, demonstrated particularly in Billabong Riders where Rob Flynn, who is initially distrustful of Lee Wing because of his race, comes to enjoy his company and listen to his advice. The writer’s treatment of indigenous characters also becomes kinder by the fifteenth book, although the views expressed would still be considered far from acceptable by today’s standards.
    • In Billabong Riders Jim doesn't want to take Norah and Tommy droving because they are women.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Norah and Wally.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Tommy and Bob's stepmother.
  • World War I: In From Billabong to London, Jim and Wally, and Captain Jim.