Treasure Island

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Treasure Island
Treasure Island-Scribner's-1911.jpg
Cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth from 1911
AuthorRobert Louis Stevenson
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreAdventure fiction
Young Adult Literature
PublisherLondon: Cassell and Company
Publication date
1883
 
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Treasure Island
Treasure Island-Scribner's-1911.jpg
Cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth from 1911
AuthorRobert Louis Stevenson
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreAdventure fiction
Young Adult Literature
PublisherLondon: Cassell and Company
Publication date
1883

Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "buccaneers and buried gold". First published as a book on 23 May 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881 and 1882 under the title Treasure Island or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola with Stevenson adopting the pseudonym Captain George North.

Traditionally considered a coming-of-age story, Treasure Island is a tale noted for its atmosphere, characters and action, and also as a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality – as seen in Long John Silver – unusual for children's literature. It is one of the most frequently dramatized of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perceptions of pirates is enormous, including such elements as treasure maps marked with an "X", schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Stevenson's map of Treasure Island
Jim Hawkins sitting in the apple-barrel, listening to the pirates

PART I — "THE OLD BUCCANEER"
An old sailor, calling himself "the captain" — real name "Billy" Bones — comes to lodge at the Admiral Benbow Inn on the west English coast during the mid-1700s, paying the innkeeper's son, Jim Hawkins, a few pennies to keep a lookout for a one-legged "seafaring man." A seaman with intact legs shows up, frightening Billy — who drinks far too much rum — into a stroke, and Billy tells Jim that his former shipmates covet the contents of his sea chest. After a visit from yet another man, Billy has another stroke and dies; Jim and his mother (his father has also died just a few days before) unlock the sea chest, finding some money, a journal, and a map. The local physician, Dr. Livesey, deduces that the map is of an island where a deceased pirate — Captain Flint — buried a vast treasure. The district squire, Trelawney, proposes buying a ship and going after the treasure, taking Livesey as ship's doctor and Jim as cabin boy.

PART II — "THE SEA COOK"
Several weeks later, Trelawney sends for Jim and Livesey and introduces them to "Long John" Silver, a one-legged Bristol tavern-keeper whom he has hired as ship's cook. (Silver enhances his outre attributes — crutch, pirate argot, etc. — with a talking parrot.) They also meet Captain Smollett, who tells them that he does not like the crew or the voyage, which it seems everyone in Bristol knows is a search for treasure. After taking a few precautions, however, they set sail on Trelawny's schooner for the distant island. During the voyage the first mate, a drunkard, disappears overboard. And just before the island is sighted, Jim — concealed in an apple barrel — overhears Silver talking with two other crewmen. They are all former "gentlemen o'fortune" (pirates) in Flint's crew and have planned a mutiny. Jim alerts the captain, doctor, and squire, and they calculate that they will be seven to 19 against the mutineers and must pretend not to suspect anything until the treasure is found, when they can surprise their adversaries.

PART III — "MY SHORE ADVENTURE"
But after the ship is anchored, Silver and some of the others go ashore, and two men who refuse to join the mutiny are killed – one with so loud a scream that everyone realizes there can be no more pretense. Jim has impulsively joined the shore party and covertly witnessed Silver committing one of the murders; now, in fleeing, he encounters a half-crazed Englishman, Ben Gunn, who tells him he was marooned here and can help against the mutineers in return for passage home and part of the treasure.

PART IV — "THE STOCKADE"
Meanwhile Smollett, Trelawney, and Livesey, along with Trelawney's three servants and one of the other hands, Abraham Gray, abandon the ship and come ashore to occupy a stockade. The men still on the ship, led by the coxswain Israel Hands, run up the pirate flag. One of Trelawney's servants and one of the pirates are killed in the fight to reach the stockade, and the ship's gun keeps up a barrage upon them, to no effect, until dark, when Jim finds the stockade and joins them. The next morning Silver appears under a flag of truce, offering terms that the captain refuses, and revealing that another pirate has been killed in the night (by Gunn, Jim realizes, although Silver does not). At Smollett's refusal to surrender the map, Silver threatens an attack, and, within a short while, the attack on the stockade is launched.

PART V — "MY SEA ADVENTURE"
After a battle, the surviving mutineers retreat, having lost six men, but two more of the captain's group have been killed and Smollett himself is badly wounded. When Livesey leaves in search of Gunn, Jim runs away without permission and finds Gunn's homemade coracle. After dark, he goes out and cuts the ship adrift. The two pirates on board, Hands and O'Brien, interrupt their drunken quarrel to run on deck, but the ship – with Jim's boat in her wake – is swept out to sea on the ebb tide. Exhausted, Jim falls asleep in the boat and wakens the next morning, bobbing along on the west coast of the island, carried by a northerly current. Eventually, he encounters the ship, which seems deserted, but getting on board, he finds O'Brien dead and Hands badly wounded. He and Hands agree that they will beach the ship at an inlet on the northern coast of the island. But as the ship is finally beached, Hands attempts to kill Jim, but is himself killed in the attempt. Then, after securing the ship as well as he can, he goes back ashore and heads for the stockade. Once there, in utter darkness, he enters the blockhouse – to be greeted by Silver and the remaining five mutineers, who have somehow taken over the stockade in his absence.

PART VI — "CAPTAIN SILVER"
Silver and the others argue about whether to kill Jim, and Silver talks them down. He tells Jim that, when everyone found the ship was gone, the captain's party agreed to a treaty whereby they gave up the stockade and the map. In the morning the doctor arrives to treat the wounded and sick pirates, and tells Silver to look out for trouble when they find the site of the treasure. After he leaves, Silver and the others set out with the map, taking Jim along as hostage. They encounter a skeleton, arms apparently oriented toward the treasure, which seriously unnerves the party. Eventually they find the treasure cache – empty. Two of the pirates charge at Silver and Jim, but are shot down by Livesey, Gray, and Gunn, from ambush. The other three run away, and Livesey explains that Gunn has long ago found the treasure and taken it to his cave.

In the next few days they load the treasure onto the ship, abandon the three remaining mutineers (with supplies and ammunition) and sail away. At their first port, where they will sign on more crew, Silver steals a bag of money and escapes. The rest sail back to Bristol and divide up the treasure. Jim says there is more left on the island, but he for one will not undertake another voyage to recover it.

Background[edit]

Stevenson conceived of the idea of Treasure Island (originally titled, "The Sea Cook: A Story for Boys") from a map of an imaginary, romantic island idly drawn by Stevenson and his stepson on a rainy day in Braemar, Scotland. Stevenson had just returned from his first stay in America, with memories of poverty, illness and adventure (including his recent marriage), and a warm reconciliation between his parents had been established. Stevenson himself said in designing the idea of the story that, "It was to be a story for boys; no need of psychology or fine writing; and I had a boy at hand to be a touchstone. Women were excluded... and then I had an idea for Long John Silver from which I promised myself funds of entertainment; to take an admired friend of mine... to deprive him of all his finer qualities and higher graces of temperament, and to leave him with nothing but his strength, his courage, his quickness, and his magnificent geniality, and to try to express these in terms of the culture of a raw tarpaulin." Completing 15 chapters in as many days, Stevenson was interrupted by illness and, after leaving Scotland, continued working on the first draft outside London. While there, his father provided additional impetus, as the two discussed points of the tale, and Stevenson's father was the one who suggested the scene of Jim in the apple barrel and the name of Walrus for Captain Flint's ship.

Two general types of sea novels were popular during the 19th century: the navy yarn, which places a capable officer in adventurous situations amid realistic settings and historical events; and the desert island romance, which features shipwrecked or marooned characters confronted by treasure-seeking pirates or angry natives. Around 1815 the latter genre became one of the most popular fictional styles in Great Britain, perhaps because of the philosophical interest in Rousseau and Chateaubriand's "noble savage." It is obvious that Treasure Island was a climax of this development. The growth of the desert island genre can be traced back to 1719, when Daniel Defoe's legendary Robinson Crusoe was published. A century later, novels such as S. H. Burney's The Shipwreck (1816), and Sir Walter Scott's The Pirate (1822) continued to expand upon the strong influence of Defoe's classic. Other authors, however, in the mid 19th-century, continued this work, including James Fenimore Cooper's The Pilot (1823). During the same period, Edgar Allan Poe wrote "MS Found in a Bottle" (1833) and the intriguing tale of buried treasure, "The Gold-Bug" (1843). All of these works influenced Stevenson's end product.

Specifically, however, Stevenson consciously borrowed material from previous authors. In a July 1884 letter to Sidney Colvin, he writes "Treasure Island came out of Kingsley's At Last, where I got the Dead Man's Chest - and that was the seed - and out of the great Captain Johnson's History of the Notorious Pirates." Stevenson also admits that he took the idea of Captain Flint's skeleton point from Poe's "The Gold-Bug," and he constructed Billy Bones' history from the pages of Washington Irving, one of his favorite writers.

One month after he conceived of "The Sea Cook," chapters began to appear in the pages of Young Folks magazine. Eventually, the entire novel ran in 17 weekly installments from October 1, 1881, through January 28, 1882. Later the book was republished as the novel Treasure Island and the book proved to be Stevenson's first financial and critical success. William Gladstone (1809-1898), the zealous Liberal politician who served four terms as British prime minister between 1868 and 1894, was one of the book's biggest fans.

Treasure Island is arguably one of the greatest works of storytelling in the English language. Stevenson created other novels, with greater depth and insight, but the highlight of Treasure Island is the combination of colorful and poetic prose that distinguishes his tale of piracy and boyhood adventure from the rest of the field of other adventure books.

Main characters[edit]

Minor characters[edit]

"Blind Pew" redirects here. For other uses, see Blind Pew (disambiguation).

Among other minor characters whose names are not revealed are the four pirates who were killed in an attack on the stockade along with Job Anderson; the pirate killed by the honest men minus Jim Hawkins before the attack on the stockade; the pirate shot by Squire Trelawney when aiming at Israel Hands, who later died of his injuries; and the pirate marooned on the island along with Tom Morgan and Dick.

Time frame[edit]

Stevenson deliberately leaves the exact date of the novel obscure, Hawkins writing that he takes up his pen "in the year of grace 17—." Stevenson's map of Treasure Island includes the annotations Treasure Island Aug 1 1750 J.F. and Given by above J.F. to Mr W. Bones Maste of ye Walrus Savannah this twenty July 1754 W B. The first of these two dates is likely the date at which Flint left his treasure at the island; the second, just prior to Flint's death. Flint is reliably reported to have died at least three years before the events of the novel (the length of time that Ben Gunn was marooned). Other dates mentioned include 1745, the date Dr. Livesey served as a soldier at Fontenoy and also a date appearing in Billy Bones's log.

Historical allusions[edit]

Real pirates and piracies[edit]

Other allusions[edit]

Robert Louis Stevenson

Possible allusions[edit]

Characters[edit]

Treasure Island[edit]

Dead Chest Island as viewed from Deadman's Bay, Peter Island
View of Fidra from Yellowcraigs
Map of Unst Island within Shetland

Various incompatible claims have been made that one island or another inspired Treasure Island:

Admiral Benbow[edit]

Spyglass Tavern[edit]

Flint's death house[edit]

The Pirate's House in Savannah, Georgia is where Captain Flint is claimed to have spent his last days,[19] and his ghost is claimed to haunt the property.[20]

Related works[edit]

Sequels and prequels[edit]

References in other works[edit]

Adaptations[edit]

Film and TV[edit]

There have been over 50 movie and TV versions made.[28] Some of the notable ones include:

Film

Poster for the 1934 film Treasure Island, the first talkie adaptation of the novel

TV

A number of Return to Treasure Island sequels have been produced, including a 1986 Disney mini-series, a 1992 animation version, and a 1996 and 1998 TV version.

Theatre and radio[edit]

There have been over 24 major stage and radio adaptations made.[30] The number of minor adaptations remains countless.

Books[edit]

Music[edit]

Software[edit]

A computer game based loosely on the novel was issued by Commodore in the mid-1980s for the Plus/4 home computer, written by Greg Duddley. A graphical adventure game, the player takes the part of Jim Hawkins travelling around the island dispatching pirates with cutlasses before getting the treasure and being chased back to the ship by Long John Silver.

A game based on the book is also available for the ZX Spectrum. It was released in 1984 by Mr. Micro Ltd.

In 1985 another adventure game was named Treasure Island and based upon the novel. It was published by Windham Classics.[32]

Disney has released various video games based on the animated film Treasure Planet, including Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon.

Treasure Island (2010) is a hidden objects game launched by French publisher Anuman Interactive.[33]

Original manuscripts[edit]

Half of Stevenson's original manuscripts are lost, including those of Treasure Island, The Black Arrow and The Master of Ballantrae. Stevenson's heirs sold Stevenson's papers during World War I; many of Stevenson's documents were auctioned off in 1918.[34]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Cordingly, David (1995) Under the Black Flag: the romance and reality of life among the pirates; p. 7
  2. ^ Adams, Cecil The Straight Dope: Did pirates bury their treasure? Did pirates really make maps where "X marks the spot"? 5 October 2007
  3. ^ Brantlinger, Patrick (2009), Victorian Literature and Postcolonial Studies, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 978-0-7486-3304-3, p 33
  4. ^ "The Coral Island", Children's Literature Review, January 2009, retrieved 4 May 2012 – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  5. ^ Reed, Thomas L. (2006). The Transforming Draught: Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Victorian Alcohol Debate mustache. Pages 71-73.
  6. ^ Hothersall, Barbara. "Joseph Livesey". Retrieved 24 December 2009. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Where's Where" (1974) (Eyre Methuen, London) ISBN 0-413-32290-4
  8. ^ At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies (1871)
  9. ^ David Cordingly. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. ISBN 0-679-42560-8.
  10. ^ Robert Louis Stevenson. "To Sidney Colvin. Late May 1884", in Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Page 263.
  11. ^ "Brilliance of 'World's Child' will come alive at storytelling event", (Scotsman, 20 October 2005).
  12. ^ Richard Harding Davis (1916). Adventures and Letters of Richard Harding Davis. See page 5[dead link] from Project Gutenberg.
  13. ^ [1][dead link] History of Brielle
  14. ^ "Fidra". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 18 June 2008. 
  15. ^ Unst island website
  16. ^ "Bristol's history". Visit Bristol. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  17. ^ "Admiral Benbow in Penzance, Mousehole, Land's End Peninsula, Pubs". Intocornwall.com. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  18. ^ Townsend (9 December 2007). "Hole in the Wall Queen Square Bristol". Flickr. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "The Pirates House history". Thepirateshouse.com. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  20. ^ "Ghost of Captain Flint". CNN. 31 October 2003. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  21. ^ Stevenson, Robert Louis. Fables.
  22. ^ John Drake books at WorldCat
  23. ^ Return to Treasure Island at WorldCat
  24. ^ "Treasure Island: The Untold Story or The Real Treasure Island". New Maritima Press. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  25. ^ Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion – review by Ian Sansom in The Guardian, 30 March 2012
  26. ^ "Strong Winds Trilogy: The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones and Claudia Myatt". The Bookbag. June 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  27. ^ "Characters develop nicely in book two". Otago Daily Times. 18 February 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  28. ^ Dury, Richard. Film adaptations of Treasure Island.
  29. ^ "SilentEra entry". Silentera.com. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  30. ^ Dury, Richard. Stage and Radio adaptations of Treasure Island.
  31. ^ "Tom Hewitt Is Long John Silver in Treasure Island, Opening March 5 in Brooklyn". Playbill. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  32. ^ Treasure Island at MobyGames; Treasure Island at GameFAQs; Sol Guber: Treasure Island, Antic Vol. 5 Nr.1, 5/1986, p.81.
  33. ^ http://www.mcvuk.com/press-releases/read/anuman-interactive-announces-the-signing-of-a-distribution-agreement-with-nobilis/087169
  34. ^ "Bid to trace lost Robert Louis Stevenson manuscripts". BBC News. 9 July 2010. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Editions