Treasure Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Treasure Island
Treasure Island-Scribner's-1911.jpg
Cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth from 1911
AuthorRobert Louis Stevenson
Cover artistN.C. Wyeth
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreAdventure
Young Adult Literature
PublisherLondon: Cassell and Company
Publication date1883
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Treasure Island
Treasure Island-Scribner's-1911.jpg
Cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth from 1911
AuthorRobert Louis Stevenson
Cover artistN.C. Wyeth
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreAdventure
Young Adult Literature
PublisherLondon: Cassell and Company
Publication date1883

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 known 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 now or then. It is one of the most frequently dramatized of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perceptions of pirates is enormous, including treasure maps marked with an "X", schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen carrying parrots on their shoulders.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

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

The novel is divided into six parts and 34 chapters: Jim Hawkins is the narrator of all except for chapters 16–18, which are narrated by Doctor Livesey.

The novel opens in the seaside village of Black Hill Cove in south-west England (to Stevenson, in his letters[2] and in the related fictional play Admiral Guinea,[3] near Barnstaple, Devon) in the mid-18th century. The narrator, James "Jim" Hawkins, is the young son of the owners of the Admiral Benbow Inn. An old drunken seaman named Billy Bones arrives at the inn singing "that old sea-song"

"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest--Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

Bones becomes a long-term lodger at the inn, only paying for about the first week of his stay. Jim quickly realizes that Bones is in hiding, and that he particularly dreads meeting an unidentified seafaring man with one leg. Some months later, Bones is visited by a mysterious sailor named Black Dog. Their meeting turns violent, Black Dog flees and Bones suffers a stroke. While Jim cares for him, Bones confesses that he was once the mate of a notorious late pirate, Captain Flint, and that his old crewmates want Bones' sea chest. Some time later, another of Bones' crew mates, a blind man named Pew, appears at the inn and forces Jim to lead him to Bones. Pew gives Bones a paper. After Pew leaves, Bones opens the paper to discover it is marked with the Black Spot, a pirate summons, with the warning that he has until ten o'clock to meet their demands. Bones drops dead of apoplexy (in this context, a stroke) on the spot. Jim and his mother open Bones' sea chest to collect the amount due to them for Bones' room and board, but before they can count out the money that they are owed, they hear pirates approaching the inn and are forced to flee and hide, Jim taking with him a mysterious oilskin packet from the chest. The pirates, led by Pew, find the sea chest and the money, but are frustrated that there is no sign of "Flint's fist". Customs men approach and the pirates escape to their vessel (all except for Pew, who is accidentally run down and killed by the agents' horses).

pp. 27–8: "...[Pew] made another dash, now utterly bewildered, right under the nearest of the coming horses. The rider tried to save him, but in vain. Down went Pew with a cry that rang high into the night; and the four hoofs trampled and spurned him and passed by. He fell on his side, then gently collapsed upon his face, and moved no more."

—Stevenson, R.L.

Jim takes the mysterious oilskin packet to Dr. Livesey, as he is a "gentleman and a magistrate", and he, Squire Trelawney and Jim Hawkins examine it together, finding it contains a logbook detailing the treasure looted during Captain Flint's career, and a detailed map of an island with the location of Flint's treasure marked on it. Squire Trelawney immediately plans to commission a sailing vessel to hunt for the treasure, with the help of Dr. Livesey and Jim. Livesey warns Trelawney to be silent about their objective. Going to Bristol docks, Trelawney buys a schooner named the Hispaniola, hires a captain, Alexander Smollett, to command her, and retains Long John Silver, a former sea cook and now the owner of the dock-side "Spy-Glass" tavern, to run the galley. Silver helps Trelawney to hire the rest of his crew. When Jim arrives in Bristol and visits Silver at the Spy-Glass, his suspicions are aroused: Silver is missing a leg, like the man Bones warned Jim about, and Black Dog is sitting in the tavern. Black Dog runs away at the sight of Jim, and Silver denies all knowledge of the fugitive so convincingly that he wins Jim's trust. Despite Captain Smollett's misgivings about the mission and Silver's hand-picked crew, the Hispaniola sets sail for the Caribbean.

As they near their destination, Jim crawls into the ship's near-empty apple barrel to get an apple. While inside, he overhears Silver talking secretly with some of the crewmen. Silver admits that he was Captain Flint's quartermaster, that several others of the crew were also once Flint's men, and that he is recruiting more men from the crew to his own side. After Flint's treasure is recovered, Silver intends to murder the Hispaniola's officers, and keep the loot for himself and his men. When the pirates have returned to their berths, Jim warns Smollett, Trelawney and Livesey of the impending mutiny. On reaching Treasure Island, the majority of Silver's men go ashore immediately. Although Jim is not yet aware of this, Silver's men have demanded they seize the treasure immediately, discarding Silver's own more careful plan to postpone any open mutiny or violence until after the treasure is safely aboard. Jim lands with Silver's men, but runs away from them almost as soon as he is ashore. Hiding in the woods, Jim sees Silver murder Tom, a crewman loyal to Smollett. Running for his life, he encounters Ben Gunn, another ex-crewman of Flint's who has been marooned for three years on the island, but who treats Jim kindly.

Meanwhile, Trelawney, Livesey and their loyal crewmen surprise and overpower the few pirates left aboard the Hispaniola. They row ashore and move into an abandoned, fortified stockade where they are joined by Jim Hawkins, who has left Ben Gunn behind. Silver approaches under a flag of truce and tries to negotiate Smollett's surrender; Smollett rebuffs him utterly, and Silver flies into a rage, promising to attack the stockade. "Them that die'll be the lucky ones," he famously threatens as he storms off. The pirates assault the stockade, but in a furious battle with losses on both sides, they are driven off. During the night Jim sneaks out, takes Ben Gunn's coracle and approaches the Hispaniola under cover of darkness. He cuts the ship's anchor rope, setting her adrift and out of reach of the pirates on shore. After daybreak, he manages to approach the schooner and board her. Of the two pirates left aboard, only one is still alive: the coxswain, Israel Hands, who has murdered his comrade in a drunken brawl and been badly wounded in the process. Hands agrees to help Jim helm the ship to a safe beach in exchange for medical treatment and brandy, but once the ship is approaching the beach Hands tries to murder Jim. Jim escapes by climbing the rigging, and when Hands tries to skewer him with a thrown dagger, Jim reflexively shoots Hands dead. Having beached the Hispaniola securely, Jim returns to the stockade under cover of night and sneaks back inside. Because of the darkness, he does not realize until too late that the stockade is now occupied by the pirates, and he is captured. Silver, whose always-shaky command has become more tenuous than ever, seizes on Jim as a hostage, refusing his men's demands to kill him or torture him for information. Silver's rivals in the pirate crew, led by George Merry, give Silver the Black Spot and move to depose him as captain. Silver answers his opponents eloquently, rebuking them for defacing a page from the Bible to create the Black Spot and revealing that he has obtained the treasure map from Dr. Livesey, thus restoring the crew's confidence. The following day, the pirates search for the treasure. They are shadowed by Ben Gunn, who makes ghostly sounds to dissuade them from continuing, but Silver forges ahead and locates where Flint's treasure is buried. The pirates discover that the cache has been rifled and the treasure is gone.

One More Step, Mr. Hands by N. C. Wyeth, 1911, for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The enraged pirates turn on Silver and Jim, but Ben Gunn, Dr. Livesey and Abraham Gray attack the pirates, killing two and dispersing the rest. Silver surrenders to Dr. Livesey, promising to return to his duty. They go to Ben Gunn's cave where Gunn has had the treasure hidden for some months. The treasure is divided amongst Trelawney and his loyal men, including Jim and Ben Gunn, and they return to England, leaving the surviving pirates marooned on the island. Silver, through the help of the fearful Ben Gunn, escapes with a small part of the treasure, three or four hundred guineas. Remembering Silver, Jim reflects that "I dare say he met his old Negress [wife], and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint [his parrot]. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."

Backstory[edit]

Treasure Island contains numerous references to fictional past events, gradually revealed throughout, that shed light upon the events of the main climax. These refer to the pirate Captain J. Flint, "the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that ever lived", who is dead before "Treasure Island" begins. Flint was captain of the Walrus, with a long career chiefly in the West Indies and along the coasts of the southern American colonies. His crew included a number of characters who also appear in the main story: Flint's first mate, William (Billy) Bones; his quartermaster John Silver; his gunner Israel Hands; and among his other sailors: George Merry, Tom Morgan, Pew, "Black Dog" and Allardyce (who becomes Flint's "pointer" toward the treasure). Many other former members of Flint's crew were on the Hispaniola, though it is not always possible to identify which were Flint's men and which later agreed to join the mutiny — such as the boatswain Job Anderson and a mutineer "John", killed at the rifled treasure cache. Flint and his crew were successful, ruthless, feared ("the roughest crew afloat") and rich, provided they could keep their hands on the money they stole. The bulk of the treasure Flint made by his piracy — £700,000 worth of gold, silver bars and a cache of armaments — was buried on a remote Caribbean island. Flint brought the treasure ashore from the Walrus with six of his sailors, and built a stockade on the island for defence. When they had buried the treasure, Flint returned to the Walrus alone —having murdered the other six. A map to the location of the treasure he kept to himself until his dying moments The whereabouts of Flint's money and his crew are obscure immediately thereafter, but they ended up in the town of Savannah, Georgia. Flint was ill, and his sickness was not helped by his immoderate consumption of rum. On his sickbed, he sang the sea shanty "Fifteen Men" and ceaselessly called for more rum, with his face turning blue. His last living words were "Darby M'Graw! Darby M'Graw!", and then, following some profanity, "Fetch aft the rum, Darby!" Just before he died, he passed on the treasure map to the mate of the Walrus, Billy Bones (or so Bones always maintained). After Flint's death, the crew split up, most of them returning to England. They disposed of their shares of the unburied treasure diversely. John Silver held on to £2,000, putting it away safe in banks, and became a waterfront tavern keeper in Bristol, England. Pew spent £1,200 in a single year and for the next two years afterwards begged and starved. Ben Gunn returned to the treasure island with crew mates to try to find the treasure without the map, and as his efforts failed, he was marooned on the island and left. Bones, knowing himself to be a marked man for his possession of the map, looked for refuge in a remote part of England. His travels took him to the rural West Country seaside village of Black Hill Cove and the inn of the 'Admiral Benbow'.

Main characters[edit]

Minor characters[edit]

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.

Historical allusions[edit]

Real pirates and piracies[edit]

Other allusions[edit]

Time frame[edit]

Robert Louis Stevenson

Stevenson deliberately leaves the exact date of the novel obscure, Hawkins writing that he takes up his pen "in the year of grace 17—." However, some of the action can be connected with dates, although it is unclear if Stevenson had an exact chronology in mind. The first date is 1745, as established both by Dr. Livesey's service at Fontenoy and a date appearing in Billy Bones's log. Admiral Hawke is a household name, implying a date later than 1747, when Hawke gained fame at the Battle of Cape Finisterre and was promoted to Admiral, but prior to Hawke's death in 1781.

Another hint, though obscure, as to the date is provided by Squire Trelawney's letter from Bristol in Chapter VII, where he indicates his wish to acquire a sufficient number of sailors to deal with "natives, buccaneers, or the odious French". This expression suggests that Great Britain was, at that time, at war with France; e.g., during the Seven Years' War from 1756 to 1763.

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. As 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), it cannot take place earlier than 1757 and still be consistent with the map. The events of Treasure Island would therefore seem to have taken place no earlier than 1757. As the schooner Hispaniola docks peacefully at a port in Spanish America — where it even finds a British man-of-war — at the end of the story, it must also take place before January 1762, when Spain joined the Seven Years' War against Great Britain. As the main action of the book takes place between January and August of a single year, the evidence above implies a year between 1758 and 1761, inclusive.

This range of dates, however, contradicts Long John Silver's account of himself, as given to Dick while Jim Hawkins listened in the apple barrel. Silver claims to be fifty years old, which would place his birth no earlier than 1708; and both Silver and Israel Hands, who had been in Flint's crew together, claim to have had experience on the sea (presumably as pirates) for thirty years prior to their arrival at Treasure Island, i.e. since about 1728. However, Silver claims to have sailed "First with England, then with Flint", which pushes the beginning of his career to some time before 1720, the date of Captain Edward England's death, implying a longer career at sea than thirty years. Silver also says that the surgeon who amputated his leg was hanged with Roberts's crew at Corso Castle: this would mean he has been disabled at least since 1722, at an age no greater than 14—an age incompatible with his holding as significant an office as quartermaster under Captain Flint, or with being a crewman under England who was senior enough, and served long enough, to have "laid by nine hundred [pounds] safe".

As noted, some of the people and events Silver claims to have witnessed were on opposite sides of Africa at the same time, and Silver's assignments of names and places are not entirely accurate. Silver's stories, then, may be no more reliable than his claim to have lost his leg while serving under Admiral Hawke, and containing inconsistencies which his audience were too ignorant to notice. Silver must either be closer to sixty than fifty, or his stories of the pirates England and Roberts are fabrications, retellings of stories he had heard from other pirates, into which he has inserted himself—which would account for their inconsistencies.

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:

In The Adventures of Ben Gunn, Gunn gives its real name as Kidd's Island, and identifies it as an outlying island of the Leeward and Windward Islands, south-south-west of Tobago (p. 119-120).

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.[26] 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.[28] 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 despatching pirates with cutlasses before getting the treasure and being chased back to the ship by Long John Silver. A catchy tune is included.

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.[30]

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

Original manuscript[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 Stevenson documents were auctioned off in 1918.[31]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Cordingly, David (1995) Under the Black Flag: the romance and reality of life among the pirates; p. 7
  2. ^ The letters of Robert Louis Stevenson to his family and friends - Robert Louis Stevenson - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 1901. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "PERSONS REPRESENTED [Stevenson's play: Admiral Guinea]". Readbookonline.net. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Adams, Cecil The Straight Dope: Did pirates bury their treasure? Did pirates really make maps where "X marks the spot"? 5 October 2007
  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 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. ^ Greene & Heaton. John Drake's Flint & Silver.
  23. ^ "Treasure Island: The Untold Story or The Real Treasure Island". Treasureislandtheuntoldstory.com. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  24. ^ "Strong Winds Trilogy: The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones and Claudia Myatt". The Bookbag. June 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  25. ^ "Characters develop nicely in book two". Otago Daily Times. 18 February 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  26. ^ Dury, Richard. Film adaptations of Treasure Island.
  27. ^ "SilentEra entry". Silentera.com. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  28. ^ Dury, Richard. Stage and Radio adaptations of Treasure Island.
  29. ^ "Tom Hewitt Is Long John Silver in Treasure Island, Opening March 5 in Brooklyn". Playbill. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  30. ^ Treasure Island at MobyGames; Treasure Island at GameFAQs; Sol Guber: Treasure Island, Antic Vol. 5 Nr.1, 5/1986, p.81.
  31. ^ "Bid to trace lost Robert Louis Stevenson manuscripts". BBC News. 9 July 2010. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Editions