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
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

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.

Malone went to interview him, and he (after a moment of anger) shows him his own theories. Challenger had gone a few years before in a plateau in South America, not far from the Amazon. In that area the professor had found the ancient remains of prehistoric life, but then he realized he had found a land still inhabited by animals of the Jurassic. The community of scientists in London, however, did not believe him for lack of evidence: the pterodactyl he had escaped and captured the pictures were ruined. Challenger is therefore proposed to leave for a second expedition to South America, which will then take part (along the same Challenger) his rival, Professor Summerlee, the impulsive hunter Lord John Roxton and Malone himself.

During the journey, the four companions will find themselves trapped in the plateau, where they discover still living prehistoric animals such as the Iguanodon and Tyrannosaurus. Call the plateau of Maple White Land, in memory of the explorer American who, years before, had first discovered the plateau. They are also aware of particular ape-men who kidnap them not very sociable and of a primitive tribe of Indians who saved them. They are able to return to England, taking as evidence a pterodactyl alive inside a crate.

The public pays homage to them and Challenger is no longer believed crazy. In addition, in the highlands, Lord John discovers rough diamonds, which earn them huge profits. With the money earned Challenger opens a private museum, Summerlee retires from teaching while Malone and Lord John decided to organize a new expedition to the lost world

Animals featured[edit]


Encounter with Stegosaurus

Other extinct reptiles[edit]

Other prehistoric animals included[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]


  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]