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“The future looked grim. Ferdinand was thirty-five years old, lame, and unpopular. People called him Clubfoot behind his back.” -Who Was Ferdinand Magellan?      

Who Was Ferdinand Magellan?

by Sydelle Kramer 
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Ferdinand Magellan lived during the 1480s. His family lived in Portugal. When Ferdinand turned twelve, he went to the capital to be a page. He loved to go to the harbor and watch the ships come and go. Even though Ferdinand was poor, he dreamed of one day having his own ship.

In order to import spices, Portugal wanted to find a way to travel to India without going through Africa. When the Arab navy attacked, Ferdinand volunteered to go to war. He had hoped to gain enough wealth to become a ship’s captain. Because Ferdinand was unpopular though, no one would help him buy a ship. The King of Portugal rejected Ferdinand’s pleas for funding so Ferdinand decided to leave his country.

In desperation, Ferdinand went to Spain to seek funding. Spain’s king funded Ferdinand’s travels and with four ships, Ferdinand set out to find el paso, a straight that would allow Spain to travel to India over water. During the long trip, Ferdinand faced many hardships, including his men trying to mutiny several times. In the end, Ferdinand died in a strange land. However, his ship became the first one to circle the globe.

Ferdinand’s determination to become a ship’s captain is inspiring. Despite many obstacles, he never gives up on his dream. Because of his gruff manner, the other ships’ captains threatened to mutiny, but Ferdinand used his brains to stop them. Even though Ferdinand was a devout Christian and a bold explorer, many people disliked him because he kept his distance, and was a “gruff man who never seemed to laugh.”

Who Was Ferdinand Magellan? teaches about life in the 1400s and the conflict over the spice trade route. The book has an easy-to-read format with large font. Large black-and-white illustrations appear on almost every page. Many of the illustrations show maps, people, and objects from the time period. For example, there is an illustration of a knight’s armor, a crossbow, and a shield. Scattered throughout the book are one-page infographics that tell more about the time period, such as giving information about ships of the day. The end of the book includes a timeline of Magellan’s life and a timeline of the world.

Even though Magellan was not a likable person, his journey will inspire readers to persevere. Who Was Ferdinand Magellan? would be a good book to use for research. Additionally, anyone who wants to learn more about the time period will enjoy reading about Magellan’s journey. The wide array of illustrations and the short chapters will help keep readers’ interest until the very end.

Sexual Content

  • None


  • The Portuguese and Arabs fought for control of the spice trade. When Ferdinand went to war, “he was wounded so badly that he was in a hospital for close to five months.” When he went back to war, “a lance wounded him in the knee.”
  • Two Spanish captains try to mutiny. “One of Ferdinand’s men grabbed him [a captain] and stabbed him to death. As the rebel captain’s body was hung up for all to see, the crew of the Victoria surrendered.” Both captains were beheaded.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One reason spices were so important is that they were used to make beer.


  • None


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Ferdinand had a deep faith in God and “believed his destiny was to go to sea.”
  • Ferdinand went to war because “he believed God would protect him.”
  • As Ferdinand looked for el paso, he was convinced that “God would help him locate it. He declared it was just a little farther south. Then he prayed silently that it was true.”
  • When Ferdinand and his men thought they found the straight, they prayed.
  • For 98 days, the sailors were at sea. When they finally saw land, one sailor said, “Praise God, land! Land! Land!” All of the sailors prayed.
  • When Ferdinand and his men come to an island, the natives welcome them. Ferdinand “believed that it was his duty to bring God and Christianity to the natives. He felt driven to save souls and preach about Jesus.” Not all of the natives converted to Christianity so Ferdinand and his men attacked. The natives “knocked off his [Ferdinand’s] helmet with stones. Then a spear came out of nowhere and sliced into his face. . . He collapsed face down in the surf. So many natives fell upon him that he disappeared from sight.”
  • Ferdinand was an intolerant man. “His religious beliefs had to be everyone else’s beliefs.”
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“The future looked grim. Ferdinand was thirty-five years old, lame, and unpopular. People called him Clubfoot behind his back.” -Who Was Ferdinand Magellan?      

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