The Blue Lagoon (novel)
|Author||Henry De Vere Stacpoole|
|Series||Blue Lagoon trilogy|
|Publisher||T. Fisher Unwin|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Followed by||The Garden of God|
The Blue Lagoon is a romance novel by Henry De Vere Stacpoole, first published in 1908. The novel is the first of the Blue Lagoon trilogy, the second being The Garden of God (1923) and the third being The Gates of Morning (1925). It has inspired several film adaptations, most notably The Blue Lagoon starring Brooke Shields as Emmaline and Christopher Atkins as Richard (Dick in the book.)
The novel is about two young children and a galley cook who are the survivors of a shipwreck in the South Pacific. In the turmoil of the burning ship from which they escaped, they become separated from another lifeboat that the boy's father (who is the girl's uncle) is in and drift out to sea. After days afloat, they arrive and are stranded on a lush tropical island. The cook, Paddy Button, assumes the responsibility for caring for the small children, teaching them how to behave, how to forage for food, etc. He warns them as well what not to eat, particularly arita, which he calls "the never-wake-up berries."
An unspecified amount of time passes and Paddy eventually dies in a drunken binge. Together, cousins Richard and Emmeline Lestrange have to survive solely on their resourcefulness, and the bounty of their remote paradise. Years pass and both Richard and Emmeline grow into tall, strong and beautiful young adults. They live in a self-constructed hut and spend their days fishing, swimming, diving for pearls, and exploring the island. During this period, they get along unthinkingly, although Richard often ignores Emmeline or takes her for granted, unless he needs an audience for one of his stories. Eventually, strange emotions start influencing their relationship.
Richard and Emmeline (they call each other Dick and Em) begin to fall in love, although they do not realize it, partly due to their general ignorance of human sexuality. They are physically attracted to each other, but don't realize it or know how to express it. They spend periods of time apart, feeling a sense of annoyance. Ultimately, after making up after a fight, they consummate their relationship. Stacpoole describes their sexual encounter as having "been conducted just as the birds conduct their love affairs. An affair absolutely natural, absolutely blameless, and without sin. It was a marriage according to Nature, without feast or guests."
From then on, Richard is very attentive to Emmeline, listening to her stories and bringing her gifts. They make love quite often for several months, and eventually Emmeline gets pregnant. Richard and Emmeline have no knowledge of childbirth and don't understand the physical changes to Emmeline's body. One day, Emmeline disappears. Richard searches for her all day, but cannot find her; he returns to their house and eventually she comes walking out of the forest, carrying a baby in her arms. Assuming her labor pains were a symptom of nauseous migraine like the ones she suffered as a child, she had simply gone for a walk to clear her head, and this strange thing had happened to her. Knowing nothing about babies, they learn by trial and error that the child will not be able to drink fruit juice, but will nurse from Emmeline's breast. Because the only baby they have ever known was called Hannah, they give their little boy this name.
Together, the two young castaways spend all their time with Hannah, teaching him how to swim, fish, throw a spear, and play in the mud. They survive a violent tropical cyclone and other hazards of South Sea Island life; Emmeline often feels that the paradisiac beauty of the island is a mask or facade, and that the dangers – poisonous berries and deadly storms – are the reality.
Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, Richard's father Arthur (Emmeline's uncle) still believes the pair are alive and that he will find them, obsessively turning over any clue. The strongest lead is a child's toy tea set, picked up on an island that the sailors call Palm Tree (because there is a large one at the break of the lagoon). Ships stop there for fresh water, and someone on a whaler had picked up the box out of curiosity. Arthur at once recognizes it as an old plaything of Emmeline's – she had carried it everywhere and would never be without it. He finds a ship whose captain is willing to take him to Palm Tree.
One day, the two young parents and Hannah return in their lifeboat to the side of the island where they had lived with Paddy. Inexplicably, even to herself, Emmeline has broken off a branch of the deadly "never-wake-up" berries that Paddy warned her about on their first day. While Richard cuts bananas, absent-minded Emmeline fails to notice that her son has tossed one of the oars out of the boat. The tide comes in and sweeps the boat out into the lagoon, with her and Hannah in it. Richard comes swimming after, but is followed closely by a shark and is only saved when Emmeline throws the other oar, striking the shark and allowing Richard enough time to climb in.
Although not far from shore, they cannot get back, or jump into the water to retrieve the oars for fear of a shark attack. They try to paddle with their hands, but to no avail; the boat is caught in the current and drifts out to sea. Clasped in Emmeline's hand is the branch of arita. The reader is not made privy to the specifics of what happened next.
Somewhat later, Arthur Lestrange's ship comes upon the pair with Hannah in their boat, lying unconscious but breathing. The arita branch is now bare, save for one berry remaining. Lestrange asks "Are they dead?" and the captain answers "No, sir. They are asleep." The ambiguous ending leaves it uncertain as to whether they can be revived.
- Emmeline Lestrange - an orphan, the heroine
- Richard Lestrange - her cousin, the hero
- Paddy Button - A ship's galley cook
- Arthur Lestrange - Richard's father and Emmeline's uncle
- Hannah Lestrange - Richard and Emmeline's son.
Several films have been based on this novel:
- The Blue Lagoon (1923), a silent film directed by W. Bowden and Dick Cruickshanks, starring Molly Adair and Dick Cruickshanks
- The Blue Lagoon (1949), directed by Frank Launder, starring Jean Simmons and Donald Houston
- The Blue Lagoon (1980), directed by Randal Kleiser, starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins
- Pengantin Pantai Biru (The Bridegroom of Blue Beach; 1983)
- Blue Lagoon: The Awakening a 2012 film.
- The Blue Lagoon Online Full text of the original novel.
- The Blue Lagoon at Project Gutenberg
- Primordial, and Three Laws & the Golden Rule by Morgan Robertson. These 1898 stories, which first appeared in Harper's monthly, are considered by some fans and scholars to be precursors to The Blue Lagoon. Some editions of The Blue Lagoon include Primordial in the appendix, the editors believing that Stacpoole may have been inspired by it.
- Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs also acknowledge Robertson's contribution to Stacpoole's work as they study how both stories influenced Burroughs in the creation of Tarzan of the Apes. The Ape-Man, His Kith and Kin by Georges Doddes, published in Erbzine, is a collection of stories and references to stories about shipwrecked, feral children predating the Tarzan novels. The Blue Lagoon and Primordial/ Three Laws & the Golden Rule are reprinted in their entirety.
- Free audio recording of The Blue Lagoon from Librivox.org.