The Mysterious Island

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Coordinates: 34°57′S 150°30′W / 34.950°S 150.500°W / -34.950; -150.500

The Mysterious Island
Cover page of The Mysterious Island
Author Jules Verne
Original title L'Île mystérieuse
Translator Agnes Kinloch Kingston and W. H. G. Kingston (1875)
Stephen W. White (1876)
I. O. Evans (1959)
Lowell Bair (1970)
Sidney Kravitz (2001)
Jordan Stump (2001)
Illustrator Jules Férat
Country France
Language French
Series The Extraordinary Voyages #12
Genre Adventure novel
Publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel
Publication date
1874
Published in English
1874
Media type Print (Hardback)
ISBN N/A
Preceded by Around the World in Eighty Days
Followed by The Survivors of the Chancellor

The Mysterious Island (French: L'Île mystérieuse) is a novel by Jules Verne, published in 1874. The original edition, published by Hetzel, contains a number of illustrations by Jules Férat. The novel is a crossover sequel to Verne's famous Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and In Search of the Castaways, though thematically it is vastly different from those books. An early draft of the novel, initially rejected by Verne's publisher and wholly reconceived before publication, was titled Shipwrecked Family: Marooned With Uncle Robinson, seen as indicating the influence on the novel of Robinson Crusoe[1] and The Swiss Family Robinson.[2] Verne developed a similar theme in his later novel, Godfrey Morgan (French: L'École des Robinsons, 1882).[3]

Plot summary[edit]

The book tells the adventures of five Americans on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. The story begins in the American Civil War, during the siege of Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States of America. As famine and death ravage the city, five northern prisoners of war decide to escape by the unusual means of hijacking a balloon. The escapees are Cyrus Smith, a railroad engineer in the Union army (named Cyrus Harding in some English translations); his black manservant Neb (short for Nebuchadnezzar), a former slave who had been freed by Smith; the sailor Bonadventure Pencroff (who is addressed only by his surname, but his "Christian name", Bonadventure, is given to their boat; in other translations, he is also known as Pencroft); his protégé Harbert Brown (called Herbert in some translations), a young boy whom Pencroff raises as his own after the death of his father (Pencroff's former captain); and the journalist Gedéon Spilett (Gideon Spilett in English versions). The company is completed by Cyrus' dog "Top".[1]

After flying in stormy weather for several days, the group crash-lands on a cliff-bound, volcanic, unknown (and fictitious) island, described as being located at 34°57′S 150°30′W / 34.950°S 150.500°W / -34.950; -150.500, about 2,500 kilometres (1,600 mi) east of New Zealand. (In reality, the closest island is Marotiri, located at 27°55′S 143°26′W / 27.917°S 143.433°W / -27.917; -143.433. In location and description though, the phantom island Ernest Legouve Reef may correspond to the rock that is left of the mysterious island at the end of the novel.) They name it "Lincoln Island" in honor of American President Abraham Lincoln. With the knowledge of the brilliant engineer Smith, the five are able to sustain themselves on the island, producing fire, pottery, bricks, nitroglycerin, iron, a simple electric telegraph, a home on a stony cliffside called "Granite House", and even a seaworthy ship. They also manage to figure out their geographical location.

Map of "Lincoln Island"

During their stay on the island, the group endures bad weather, and adopts and domesticates an orangutan, Jupiter, abbreviated to Jup (or Joop, in Jordan Stump's translation).

There is a mystery on the island in the form of an unseen deus ex machina, responsible for Cyrus' survival after falling from the balloon, the mysterious rescue of Top from a dugong, the appearance of a box of equipment (guns and ammunition, tools, etc.), the delivery of a distress message from another island, and other seemingly inexplicable occurrences.

The group finds a message in a bottle directing them to rescue a castaway on nearby Tabor Island, Tom Ayrton (from In Search of the Castaways). On the return voyage to Lincoln Island, they lose their way in a tempest but are guided back to their course by a mysterious fire beacon.

Ayrton's former crew of pirates arrives at Lincoln Island to use it as their hideout. After some fighting with the protagonists, the pirate ship is mysteriously destroyed by an explosion. Six of the pirates survive and fire upon Harbert, seriously injuring him. They pose a grave threat to the colony, but suddenly the pirates are found dead, apparently in combat, but with no visible wounds. Harbert contracts malaria and is saved by a box of sulphate of quinine, which mysteriously appeared on the table in the Granite House.

The secret of the island is revealed when it is discovered to be Captain Nemo's hideout, and home port of the Nautilus. Having escaped the Maelstrom at the end of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the Nautilus sailed the oceans of the world until all its crew except Nemo had died. Now an old man with a beard, Nemo returned the Nautilus to its secret port within Lincoln Island. Nemo had been the savior of the heroes, providing them with the box of equipment, sending the message revealing Ayrton, planting the mine that destroyed the pirate ship, and killing the pirates with an "electric gun". On his death bed Captain Nemo reveals his true identity as the lost Indian Prince Dakkar, son of a Raja of the then independent territory of Bundelkund and a nephew of the Indian hero Tippu-Sahib. After taking part in the failed Indian Rebellion of 1857, Prince Dakkar escaped to a deserted island with twenty of his compatriots and commenced the building of the Nautilus and adopted the new name of "Captain Nemo". Nemo tells his life story to Cyrus Smith and his friends and then dies, crying "God and my country!" The Nautilus is scuttled and serves as Captain Nemo's tomb.[2]

Afterward, the island's central volcano erupts, destroying the island. Jup the orangutan falls into a crack in the ground and dies. The colonists, forewarned of the eruption by Nemo, find themselves safe but stranded on the last remaining piece of the island above sea level. They are rescued by the ship Duncan, which had come to rescue Ayrton but were redirected by a message left on Tabor Island by Nemo.

Publication history in English[edit]

In September 1875 Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle published the first British edition of Mysterious Island in three volumes entitled Dropped from the Clouds, The Abandoned, and The Secret of the Island (195,000 words). In November, 1875 Scribners published the American edition of these volumes from the English plates of Sampson Low. The purported translator, W. H. G. Kingston, was a famous author of boys' adventure and sailing stories who had fallen on hard times in the 1870s due to business failures, and so he hired out to Sampson Low as the translator for these volumes. However, it is now known that the actual translator of Mysterious Island and his other Verne novels was actually his wife, Agnes Kinloch Kingston, who had studied on the continent in her youth. The Kingston translation changes the names of the hero from "Smith" to "Harding"; "Smith" is a name often used by gypsies and not suitable for an English hero. In addition many technical passages were abridged or omitted and the anti-imperialist sentiments of the dying Captain Nemo were purged so as not to offend English readers. This became the standard translation for more than a century.

In 1876 the Stephen W. White translation (175,000 words) appeared first in the columns of The Evening Telegraph of Philadelphia and subsequently as an Evening Telegraph Reprint Book. This translation is more faithful to the original story and restores the death scene of Captain Nemo, but there is still condensation and omission of some sections such as Verne's description of how a sawmill works. In the 20th century two more abridged translations appeared: the Fitzroy Edition (Associated Booksellers, 1959) abridged by I. O. Evans (90,000 words) and Mysterious Island (Bantam, 1970) abridged by Lowell Blair (90,000 words).

No unabridged translations appeared until 2001 when the illustrated version of Sidney Kravitz appeared (Wesleyan University Press) almost simultaneously with the new translation of Jordan Stump published by Random House Modern Library (2001). Kravitz also translated Shipwrecked Family: Marooned With Uncle Robinson, published by the North American Jules Verne Society and BearManor Fiction in 2011.

2003 Edition of Wrecked On A Reef[edit]

This edition in English by F. Raynal has additional appendices by French scholar Dr Christiane Mortelier who presents a convincing case for the influence of Francis Raynal's 19th century publication "Wrecked On A Reef" (originally published in French as "Les Naufrages des Iles Auckland") on Verne's Mysterious Island. Verne read Raynal's account of the wreck of the Grafton (Captain Thomas Musgrave) on the subantarctic Auckland Islands and loosely based his story on this true account of shipwreck, survival, privation, and ultimate rescue. The Grafton was wrecked in the Auckland Islands on 3 January 1864. The crew of five (including Musgrave) survived for 19 months before three of them sailed to Stewart Island (New Zealand) in a boat they had made. The remaining two were rescued. Verne incorporated much of this historical material into his Mysterious Island narrative.

Translations into other languages[edit]

The novel has been translated into Marathi by B. R. Bhagwat titled 'निर्जन बेटावरचे धाडसी वीर'. The title roughly translates to 'Brave fighters on a deserted island'. It has a cult following in Maharashtra, a state in India where the official language is Marathi.

Film and television adaptations[edit]

Lobby Card for the 1929 version of The Mysterious Island which was filmed in Technicolor

Works inspired by The Mysterious Island[edit]

Cyrus Smith blessing Captain Nemo on his death bed in The Mysterious Island

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In the French original, some characters were named a little differently: Gédéon Spillet, Nabuchodonosor (Nab) and Harbert Brown. In the Kingston translation, the engineer is named Cyrus Harding, and the sailor is named Pencroft.
  2. ^ There are discrepancies in continuity between this novel and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Although this novel was written in 1874, its events take place from 1865 to 1869. The events of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea take place between 1867 and 1868. For example, the Captain Nemo appearing in this novel dies at a time when the Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was still alive. There is usually a note in most editions of the book admitting date discrepancies.


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jules Verne: An Author Before His Time?"
  2. ^ Science Fiction Studies, "Books in Review, July 2002
  3. ^ Nash, Andrew (2001-11-27). École des Robinsons (L') - 1882. Retrieved on 2009-08-13.
  4. ^ wired.com
  5. ^ mysteriousislandgame.com
  6. ^ mysteriousislandgame.com
  7. ^ Saddleback’s Illustrated Classics ™, Saddleback Publishing Inc., California 2006

External links[edit]