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"There are not enough women in New France. No men are marrying, and so no babies are being born. The officials in New France put great pressure upon single men, even forbidding them to leave the towns or trade with the Indians unless they wed."
Hélène St. Onge[2]

Alone in an Untamed Land: The Filles du Roi Diary of Hélène St. Onge is the seventh book in Scholastic's Dear Canada series. The book was Maxine Trottier's first in the series. It was published in March 2003 and was released in French later that year. The book was followed by Brothers Far from Home by Jean Little.

The story follows Hélène St. Onge, who accompanies her sister Catherine, a filles du roi, to New France.


"For Lauren Jones, my niece in the 18th century"

Book description[]

"le 22 juin 1666
I stood on deck and watched France disappear in the mist. Catherine stayed inside the ship, below, the captain calls it. But I had to watch. I may never see France again.
I wept. My cheeks were damp with the mist and so I think that no one saw. I did not care if they did. I only wished to be alone inside myself and let the image of France burn into my mind. Then I heard a sound. It was the Indian girl. She had come up on deck and now stood at the ship's rail near me. Her cheeks were as wet with tears as mine were. There was a difference, I soon learned from her. My tears were of loss, born from the idea of leaving France. Hers were tears of joy.
"I am going home," she said.

"Le 22 juin 1666
Je suis restée sur le pont à regarder les côtes de France disparaître au loin. Catherine est restée en bas, dans l'entrepont, comme dit le capitaine. Moi, je voulais regarder. Je ne reverrai peut-être jamais plus la France.
J'ai pleuré. Mais comme mes joues étaient mouillées d'embruns, je crois que personne ne s'en est aperçu. Et puis, peu importe. Tout ce que je voulais, c'était de rester seule et de graver dans ma mémoire l'image de la France que je quittais. Puis j'ai entendu un bruit. C'était la petite Indienne. Elle était montéee sur le pont et se tenait maintenant appuyée au bastingage, juste à côté de moi. Ses joues ruisselaient de larmes, comme les miennes. Mais pas pour les mêmes raisons. Mes larmes étaient des larmes de tristesse, nées du chagrin que j'éprouvais à quitter la France. Les siennes étaient des larmes de joie.
«Je rentre chez moi», a-t-elle dit.


Following the death of their father, Hélène St. Onge and her older sister Catherine are left in debt. They are approached by Monsieur Deschamps, who recruits Catherine to become a filles à marier. Women in France's colony, New France, are scarce, therefore filles à marier are enlisted to marry New France's men. Catherine's passage will be paid by the King of France as a filles à marier. Hélène accompanies Catherine, but as a companion not a filles à marier.

The sisters board a ship called Le Chat Blanc with their chaperones Monsieur Deschamps and Madame Laurent, along with several other filles à marier. On the ship, Hélène befriends Kateri Aubry, a half-Mohawk, half-French girl. In mid-July, Catherine and many of the other girls suddenly become sick. Catherine ultimately dies from her illness, leaving Hélène devastated. Kateri's father, Jean, a widower, later offers her words of comfort.

Monsieur Deschamps pressures Hélène to take her sister's place as a filles à marier. Jean comes to her defense and Hélène delays her answer to Monsieur Deschamps. Ultimately, Hélène decides to become a filles à marier. After reaching Québec, Jean escorts Hélène and the others to Montréal. Hélène moves in with her aunt, Barbe Moitié, and begins working at her tavern. In late October, Kateri comes to spend a few weeks with Hélène, while Jean visits their Mohawk relatives.

Jean finally returns to Montréal in mid-December. On Christmas Day, Hélène visits the Aubrys home, where she finds Jean afflicted with smallpox. Hélène and Kateri slowly nurse him back to health for a month. Jean later asks Hélène for permission to court her, which she accepts. He proposes engagement to her after spending a lot time in together during the spring. In May, Hélène receives word from a French cousin, who offers to arrange a marriage for her. She declines and informs Jean that she accepts his proposal.


Hélène and Jean were married on August 18, 1667. Their wedding became the talk of the town thanks in part to Tante Barbe's food. Hélène moved into Jean's home and formed an even closer bond to Kateri as her stepmother. In the following years, Hélène and Jean had four children together and purchased a new home to accommodate their large family. In 1682, Jean had the journal of Hélène's father printed. It and the original are still owned by Hélène's descendants. Jean passed away in 1702 and Hélène followed the next year. Her wooden cross continues to be passed down through the generations.

At sixteen, Kateri married a warrior named Akonni. They lived on a mission near Montréal and eventually had a large family. Akonni was among the tribesmen present for the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701. Tante Barbe passed away at age sixty-eight and left all of her estate to Hélène. The inn stayed in the family for several years until it burned down during the French and Indian War.

Historical Note[]

Louis XIV of France sponsored a program, now called the filles du roi ("king's daughters"), to increase the population of the colony, New France. The term filles à marier ("marriageable girls") was in use more at the time. The filles du roi faced harsh conditions on the journey. Once in New France, the girls were constantly chaperoned until they married. The filles du roi program ended by 1673 and the non-native population of New France had increased to 6,700. The historical note also discusses smallpox and colonists' conflicts with the Mohawk people and other natives.

The sections includes fifteen pictures depicting scenes from the time and important historical figures. There are also two maps of how New France appeared at the time. Additionally, a list of French and Mohawk words are included along with a 1658 recipe for potage of herbs.


Main article: List of Alone in an Untamed Land characters


Main article: Maxine Trottier

Maxine Trottier is an American-born Canadian author who has won awards for her children's books, Claire's Gift and The Tiny Kite of Eddy Wing. Trottier is the author of three books in Dear Canada, including The Death of My Country and Blood Upon Our Land, as well as Storm the Fortress from I Am Canada. She made several discoveries about her ancestry while researching Alone in an Untamed Land. Marie Moitié, the second wife of her direct ancestor Pierre Chesne dit St. Onge, was a filles du roi and served as the basis for Tante Barbe. After starting the story, Trottier learned of another filles du roi ancestor named Catherine Ducharme.



  • Hackmatack Children's Choice Award (2004) - shortlisted[6]
  • Tiny Torgi Audio Award (2004) - shortlisted[7]
  • Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre (2004) - commended[7]
  • OLA Silver Birch Award (2004) - shortlisted[8]
  • Arts Hamilton Award for Children's Book (2005) - winner[7]
  • Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children (2005) - shortlisted[7]
  • Red Cedar Award, BC Young Readers' Choice (2006) - shortlisted[9]


"Thanks to Barbara Hehner for her careful checking of the manuscript; and to Andrew Gallup, historian, writer and editor of the journal, Interprétant Nouvelle France."



See also[]

Dear Canada

Orphan at My Door | A Prairie as Wide as the Sea | With Nothing But Our Courage | Footsteps in the Snow
A Ribbon of Shining Steel | Whispers of War | Alone in an Untamed Land | Brothers Far from Home | An Ocean Apart
A Trail of Broken Dreams | Banished from Our Home | Winter of Peril | Turned Away | The Death of My Country
No Safe Harbour | A Rebel's Daughter | A Season for Miracles | If I Die Before I Wake | Not a Nickel to Spare
Prisoners in the Promised Land | Days of Toil and Tears | Where the River Takes Me | Blood Upon Our Land
A Desperate Road to Freedom | A Christmas to Remember | Exiles from the War | To Stand On My Own
Hoping for Home | That Fatal Night | Torn Apart | A Sea of Sorrows | Pieces of the Past | A Country of Our Own
All Fall Down | Flame and Ashes | A Time for Giving | These Are My Words

External links[]