The Lost World (Conan Doyle novel)

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The Lost World
Lost world.jpg
Cover of the first edition of The Lost World.
Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Professor Challenger
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date
1912
Media type Print
Followed by The Poison Belt

The Lost World is a novel released in 1912 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle concerning an expedition to a plateau in the Amazon basin of South America where prehistoric animals (dinosaurs and other extinct creatures) still survive. It was originally published serially in the popular Strand Magazine and illustrated by New-Zealand-born artist Harry Rountree during the months of April–November 1912. The character of Professor Challenger was introduced in this book. The novel also describes a war between indigenous people and a vicious tribe of ape-like creatures.

Plot summary[edit]

The group encountering Iguanodon

Edward Malone, a reporter for the Daily Gazette, goes to his news editor, McArdle, to procure a dangerous and adventurous mission in order to impress the woman he loves, Gladys Hungerton. He is sent to interview Professor George Edward Challenger, who has assaulted four or five other journalists, to determine if his claims about his trip to South America are true. After assaulting Malone, Challenger reveals his discovery of dinosaurs in South America. Having been ridiculed for years, he invites Malone on a trip to prove his story, along with Professor Summerlee and Lord John Roxton, an adventurer who knows the Amazon and several years prior to the events of the book helped end slavery by robber barons in South America. They reach the plateau with the aid of Indian guides, who are superstitiously scared of the area. One of these Indians, Gomez, is the brother of a man that Roxton killed the last time he was in South America. When the expedition manages to get onto the plateau, Gomez destroys their bridge, trapping them. Their "devoted negro" Zambo remains at the base, but is unable to prevent the rest of the Indians from leaving.


− Deciding to investigate the lost world, they are attacked by pterodactyls in a swamp, and Roxton finds some blue clay in which he takes a great interest. After exploring the plateau and having some adventures in which the expedition narrowly escapes being killed by dinosaurs, Challenger, Summerlee, and Roxton are captured by a race of ape-men. While in the ape-men's village, they find out that there is also a tribe of humans (calling themselves Accala) inhabiting the other side of the plateau, with whom the ape-men (called Doda by the Accala) are at war. Roxton manages to escape and team up with Malone to mount a rescue. They arrive just in time to prevent the execution of one of the professors and several other humans, who take them to the human tribe. With their help, they defeat the ape-men, taking control of the whole plateau. + The story is narrated in first person by Edward Malone, a reporter of the Daily Gazette, which tells of a journey undertaken to impress the woman of his dreams. A Malone is entrusted with the difficult task of interviewing the gruff professor George Challenger of Rotherfield, a well-known zoologist and scientist with an aversion for journalists.

− After witnessing the power of their guns, the human tribe does not want the expedition to leave, and tries to keep them on the plateau. However the team finally discovers a tunnel that leads to the outside, where they meet up with Zambo and a large rescue party. Upon returning to England, they present their report which include pictures and a newspaper report by Edward, which many dismiss as they had Challenger's original story. Having planned ahead, Challenger shows them a live pterodactyl as proof, which then escapes and flies out into the Atlantic Ocean. When the four of them have dinner, Roxton shows them why he was so interested in the blue clay. It contains diamonds, about £200,000 worth, to be split between them. Challenger plans to open a private museum, Summerlee plans to retire and categorize fossils, and Roxton plans to go back to the lost world. Malone returns to his love, Gladys, only to find that she had married a clerk while he was away. With nothing keeping him in London, he volunteers to be part of Roxton's second trip.

Animals featured[edit]

Dinosaurs[edit]

Encounter with Stegosaurus

Other extinct reptiles[edit]

Other prehistoric animals included[edit]

Mammals[edit]

Birds[edit]

Creatures outside the Plateau[edit]

References in other works[edit]

In 1915, the Russian scientist Vladimir Obruchev produced his own version of the "lost world" theme in the novel Plutonia, which places the dinosaurs and other Jurassic species in a fictional underground area of Russian Siberia.

In 1916, Edgar Rice Burroughs published The Land That Time Forgot, his version of The Lost World where lost submariners from a German U-Boat discovered their own lost world of dinosaurs and ape-men in Antarctica. Two other books in the series followed.

Author Greg Bear set his 1998 novel Dinosaur Summer in Conan Doyle's Lost World.

A 1994 release for the Forgotten Futures role-playing game was based on and includes the full text of the Professor Challenger novels and stories.

Conan Doyle's title was reused by Michael Crichton in his 1995 novel The Lost World, a sequel to Jurassic Park. (Its film adaptation, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, followed suit.) At least two similarly named TV shows, Land of the Lost and Lost, nod to this source material. At least two of the characters in Michael Crichton's novel The Lost World mention a palaeontologist called John Roxton. However, Crichton's Roxton, who is never seen, is something of an idiot, wrongly identifying one dinosaur and publishing a report stating that the braincase of Tyrannosaurus rex is the same as that of a frog and thus possesses a visual system attuned strictly to movement.

One of the Neopets plots, "Journey to The Lost Isle" is based on this book, with Roxton A. Colchester III, Hugo & Lillian Fairweather, and Werther as the adventurers, with Captain Rourke and Scrap as the guides.

The idea of prehistoric animals surviving into the present day was not new, but had already been introduced by Jules Verne in Journey to the Center of the Earth. In that book, published in 1864, the creatures live under the earth in and around a subterranean sea.

The book was adapted in Czech comics by Vlastislav Toman/Jiří Veškrna (1970, 24 pages), followed by a sequel The Second Expedition (Vlastislav Toman/František Koblík, 26 pages) (reprinted together in Velká kniha Komiksů, ISBN 80-7257-658-5).

The 2002 animated adventure Dinosaur Island is an attempt to blend the original story with the popular reality series format, and was written by John Loy, writer of similar productions such as The Land Before Time.

References to actual history, geography and current science[edit]

Map of Maple-White Land

The characters of Ed Malone and Lord John Roxton were modeled, respectively, on the journalist E. D. Morel and the diplomat Roger Casement, leaders of the Congo Free State reform campaign (the Congo Reform Association), which Conan Doyle supported.[1]

The setting for The Lost World is believed to have been inspired by reports of Doyle's good friend Percy Harrison Fawcett's expedition to Huanchaca Plateau in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, Bolivia. Fawcett organized several expeditions to delimit the border between Bolivia and Brazil - an area of potential conflict between both countries. Doyle took part in the lecture of Fawcett in Royal Geographic Society on 13 February 1911[2] and was impressed by the tale about the remote "province of Caupolican" (present day Huanchaca Plateau) in Bolivia - a dangerous area with impenetrable forests, where Fawcett saw "monstrous tracks of unknown origin".[3]

Fawcett wrote in his posthumously published memoirs: "monsters from the dawn of man's existence might still roam these heights unchallenged, imprisoned and protected by unscalable cliffs. So thought Conan Doyle when later in London I spoke of these hills and showed photographs of them. He mentioned an idea for a novel on Central South America and asked for information, which I told him I should be glad to supply. The fruit of it was his Lost world in 1912, appearing as a serial in the Strand Magazine [sic], and subsequently in the form of a book that achieved widespread popularity."[4]

The Allosaurus that attacks the camp is described as being as large as a horse, whereas in life Allosaurus was much bigger. However the book also allowed the possibility that the dinosaur that attacks the camp was a Megalosaurus or a juvenile Allosaurus, which would be a much closer size comparison. Both Summerlee and Challenger are undecided if the attacking beast was a Megalosaurus or Allosaurus but they imply it is a Megalosaur as "Any one of the larger carnivorous dinosaurs would meet the case." Inaccurate size measurements are also given to the Iguanodon and Phorusrhacos.

Following the stereotypes of the time in which the book was written, the dinosaurs are described often as extremely stupid; For example, at some point an Iguanodon pulls down the tree in which it is feeding, being injured and frightened in the process. This idea is generally omitted in the modern film versions.

Film, television and radio adaptations[edit]

  • The Lost World (1944; radio)
    • John Dickson Carr as Narrator (all characters)
  • The Lost World (1949; BBC Light Programme radio serial)[5]
    • With Abraham Sofaer, Ivor Barnard, Lewis Stringer, Cyril Gardiner
  • Dinosaurs! (1966, an audio dramatic version of The Lost World adapted and directed by Ronald Liss and recorded by permission of the Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; MGM/Leo the Lion Records C/CH-1016)

(The character of Lord John Roxton was not included in this adaptation)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daniel Stashower. Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1999, pgs. 321-22
  2. ^ "B. Fletcher Robinson & 'The Lost World'". Paul Spiring. 
  3. ^ Harold T. Wilkins. Secret Cities of Old South America. Cosimo Inc., New York, 2008, p. 199
  4. ^ P. H. Fawcett, Brian Fawcett. Exploration Fawcett. 1953, p. 122
  5. ^ a b Radio Plays 1945-1997: Serials by Roger Bickerton and Nigel Deacon

External links[edit]