If you’re like me and had never read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson nor seen a movie adaptation, you probably don’t realize how much this novel has contributed to our concept of what a “pirate” is. I recently listened to the audiobook and was repeatedly surprised by how pervasive the details of this story were in modern day pirate lore.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, John Seelye
Published by Penguin Classics Genres: Children's Classic, Classic Literature
Narrator: Frederick Davidson
Length: 6 hours, 50 minutes
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The story grew out of a map that led to imaginary treasure, devised during a holiday in Scotland by Stevenson and his nephew. The tale is told by an adventurous boy, Jim Hawkins, who gets hold of a treasure map and sets off with an adult crew in search of the buried treasure. Among the crew, however, is the treacherous Long John Silver who is determined to keep the treasure for himself. Stevenson's first full-length work of fiction brought him immediate fame and continues to captivate readers of all ages.
Did I love listening to the audiobook? No, not really. The narrator was difficult to understand, which I’m sure affected how I felt about this story. Treasure Island wasn’t my favorite, as it’s mostly pirate action: nonstop mutineering and swashbuckling (neither or which are particularly my thing). That being said, I am glad to have read such an important classic, and I’ll probably give reading the actual book a go later in life to see if it changes how I feel about the story.
Anyway, I have decided to do a little Treasure Island research to see what fun things we could all learn about the story. Read on for some fun facts:
1. The treasure map
When you think of a classic pirate’s treasure map, you’ve probably got a red “x” marking the spot, right? You can thank Stevenson for that! His description of the treasure map in Treasure Island is what most treasure maps look like nowadays.
2. A few things about Long John Silver
So my mind was completely blown by learning that a) there was a pirate in the story named Long John Silver, and b) he was the ship’s cook. All you Americans who drive by Long John Silver’s fast food restaurant now can appreciate the name!
Another thing about Long John Silver: he is the original pirate. I’m talking peg-leg, talking parrot on the shoulder, stirring up mutiny, etc. That all came from Stevenson’s Treasure Island!
3. Adaptations galore
If you go to the “adaptations” part of the Treasure Island Wikipedia page, the list goes ON AND ON. No wonder everyone seems to know something about this story (except for me, of course, as I live under a rock). This trailer from one film adaptation is pure 90’s gold. Feast your eyes:
4. “Shiver me timbers”
While Stevenson did not come up with this phrase, it is used repeatedly in the novel and made me wonder what the heck if even meant. So naturally I Wikipedia-ed it!
“It is employed as a literary device by authors to express shock, surprise or annoyance. The phrase is based on real nautical slang and is a reference to the timbers, which are the wooden support frames of a sailing ship. In heavy seas, ships would be lifted up and pounded down so hard as to “shiver” the timbers, startling the sailors.”
So there you have it folks! That’s all of the Treasure Island facts I’m sharing with you today. Have you read this book or seen any of the adaptations? Have a favorite film adaptation you think I should see? Comment below!