Central character analysis and metaphors

Creative Writing


Gerard Smith for 'Tailsman' was shortlisted for the NZSA Lilian Ida Smith Award 2015 and received a highly commended for the NZSA Lilian Ida Smith Award 2015.


I have been writing creatively for six years and my main focus has been on the completion of my novel “Tailsman.’ Please visit my writing blog at gerardsmithpens.com.









‘Talisman’ is an historical novel set in New Zealand. The two main characters, Ron and Rongomai, are of Māori descent. Both characters, although living their lives in different time periods, are intrinsically linked through the spiritual power of a talisman - an ancient jade pendant. The story explores their interacting physical and spiritual journeys.


Ron is a war veteran aged in his nineties. His tale starts in modern times when he takes his fishing boat out to sea in a storm, to meet his fate on his own terms, rather than face the ‘business end’ of terminal cancer. From there his story counts back in time, through his life and loves, to the moment he is wounded on a World War 2 battlefield, in Italy. At this point his life and destiny is fused to the ancient jade pendant he is wearing. His life story encompasses moments of joy, despair and prejudice, every moment influenced and driven by the talisman’s prehistoric power.


Interwoven through the book, every alternate chapter is about Rongomai. He is a teenage Māori boy living in pre-European times. Rongamai journeys through tribal Māori New Zealand to collect the precious jade, pounamu, from the distant rivers where it is found in the South Island. Rongomai needs to earn the prestige and status of a jade discover to have any hope of pressing his suit to marry his childhood sweetheart, Areta, who is high-born and promised to another. Over the journey Rongomai has the chance to prove his worth, but the adventure ends in disaster after he is enslaved by a cannibal tribe.


Through the story the talisman is on its own journey. The stone is infused with the essence of the land where it was created, and Ron and Rongomai temporarily interrupt its slow path through the mineral cycle. The jade exerts spiritual pressure on the characters in the story to return it to its natural destination. The final chapters in the book link the three journeys and the interwoven plots.


This is my first novel but I have plans for another two in this series following the jade’s journey across history, interacting with people. There is a two hundred and thirty year gap between the lives of Ron and Rongomai and I have other ‘Hollow Ones’ planned to carry the jade pendant on through time, and to its destiny.



The Synopsis
The Central Themes

The connection between mankind and our ancestors, through the medium of heirloom, is the main concept conveyed through the novel. This theme is central to most cultures, and the book explores the power an individual invests into a precious object, and how these talisman remind us of our connection to the land of our birth and our predecessors. The existence of these talisman, that humans manifest power into, can assist us in achieving perspective, gaining solace and help anchor us to our place on this earth.


The religious connotations for these cross-cultural ‘icons’ are also expressed through the vocations and life-choices that people make; these are often influenced by the paths our ancestors chose to follow.


The Jade’s perspective is weaved through the novel, helping demonstrate how human culture is caught up with its own time-scale and issues. The natural forces of the earth are operating to their own schedule, separate from us. Mankind is powerless to stop this, and by comparison, the agenda that we are operating under is deemed to be inconsequential in ‘the grand scheme’. As humans we have often used religion to explain to ourselves this diminished, personal view that we hold, set against the scale of nature and the universe. We petition Gods to intercede on our behalf, and use them to bridge the gap between our world and the daunting reality of events out of our control. Religion was the earliest ‘science,’ used by previous generations, to explain our place on this earth. The stories of the tribal people featured in ‘Talisman’ explore this idea.



Ron is the quiet, solid personality around whom events break, and yet he remains the rock. Unbeknown to those observing, Ron’s destiny is bent towards the jade’s will and demands. All other distractions and motivations are secondary; it is almost as if events conspire to keep Ron on his predestined course. Ron can be seen to represent the Māori people’s displacement from their traditional, rural lands and marae. Secondary motivations have disrupted this traditional culture and the generational urban-drift, which has been witnessed by Ron’s generation, is reflected in the story. Ron is part-Māori and the blend of the cultures and the ‘price of full citizenship,’ paid throughout the two World Wars, is also examined. Ron is the outsider.


Rongomai is about discovery. His talents, skills, and teenage energy fuses with the jade pendant. He becomes an intermediary between jade’s demands to return to its natural place [universal order] and the world of men’s distractions and agendas [cultural forces], pulling them in a different direction. Through Rongomai’s fusion with the jade and the transference of his gifts, to other jade carriers, he can be viewed as a demi-god. A Maui-like figure, interceding between the natural world and the cultural demands of men. His sacrifice and redemption holds a strong and obvious religious connotation. Rongamai is the pathfinder.


Te Koha Moana is about concern. He is predestined to arrive at Rongomai’s village and facilitate the journey. He is the mentor and protector. His character can be viewed as a cleric, motivated by anxiety and dammed by dogma. Te Koha Moana is the guardian.


Awhero is about true strength. She is young and in need of protection when she first comes into the story, but she blends the power she inherits from the jade with her own new found strength of survival. She is the link who understands Rongomai-in-the-jade, and the importance of being the vehicle. Awhero is the porter.


Chapter 1 available here