Monday, July 20, 2009

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I have been thinking about pirates since we visited Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah, From Slave Ship to Pirate Ship at the Field Museum in Chicago. Also, I have been thinking about Robert Louis Stevenson recently because I listened to the audiobook version of Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, in which the world traveler describes meeting Stevenson's widow. So it seemed a good time to listen to Treasure Island, Stevenson's classic and often adapted novel.

Listening to Treasure Island, I found I remembered most of the character names - Jim Hawkins, Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney, and Long John Silver - but I at first recalled them as the cast of Muppet Treasure Island. Kermit the Frog was the Captain, Fozzie Bear was the squire, Tim Curry was Long John, and Miss Piggy was someone Stevenson never imaged, the Captain's old girlfriend. Listening I was surprised how the early part of the book and the movie really run parallel. Jim works for his family in an inn. Captain Bill Bones shows up with a chest and gets the black spot. Pirates wreck the inn looking for the map. The squire lets Long John choose the crew. Jim even heard Long John's mutinous scheme from inside an apple barrel.

Once the Hispanola reaches Treasure Island, late in the movie and early in the book, the plots diverge. I still imagined Tim Curry as the embodiment of Long John, while the rest of the characters became more realistic in my vision. That is not to say that Long John remained a cartoon. Quite the opposite. Stevenson's depiction of the one legged pirate is complex and puzzling. Critics can argue the pirate's pros and cons without true resolution. He is rightfully one of the great characters of literature.

One of the traditions of summer is picking appropriate reading for the beach. What could be better than a pirate book?

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. 1883.

1 comment:

Mary Soderstrom said...

On your summer reading list, may I suggest you add Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill. Not only is there some marvelous writing about crossing the Atlantic in a slave trading ship, it follows up on your previous post about African American baseball players. That is, there are many, many stories to be told about the African American experience in North America.