Will (Indian)

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Will (probably born in the 1650s or 1660s) was an Indian of the Misquito tribe from what is now Honduras or Nicaragua. In history, he is known for having stayed as a castaway on uninhabited Robinson Crusoe Island, the largest of the archipelago of the Juan Fernández Islands, for more than three years. It is possible that he was the model for Friday, the famous fictitious (cannibal) character created by Daniel Defoe in his novel Robinson Crusoe.

In English service[edit]

As with other Miskitos, Will fought against the Spaniards and was therefore friendly towards English pirates or "privateers". In 1680 he and several other Misquitos went on board an English vessel under the command of John Watling. The English gave names to the Indians, and he ended up with the name Will.

In the end of 1680 the English decided to refresh their supplies on the largest of the uninhabited Juan Fernández Islands. On 1 January 1681, while Will was hunting for goats in the island's interior, his comrades suddenly departed without him after having seen enemy (Spanish) ships upon the horizon.

Castaway life[edit]

Will started with (according to William Dampier's book A New Voyage round the World) "his Gun and a Knife, with a small Horn of Powder, and a few Shot; which being spent, he contrived a way by notching his Knife, to saw the Barrel of his Gun into small Pieces, wherewith he made Harpoons, Lances, Hooks and a long Knife; heating the pieces first in the fire, which he struck with his Gunflint, and a piece of the Barrel of his Gun, which he hardned; having learnt to do that among the English." In the beginning Will killed and ate seals but later he only killed seals "but to make [fishing] Lines, cutting their Skins into Thongs"

According to the account of William Dampier, the only first-hand source of information on Will, Will was seen by Spanish landing parties a number of times, but was never captured. Will was rescued by an English party under the command of Dampier on 22 March 1684, and he is recorded to have, upon being reached by the rescuers, immediately killed three goats and served them up in the English style, with cabbage.

Connections to Robinson Crusoe[edit]

One of the first writers to connect the story of Will in Dampier to Robinson Crusoe was Thomas Roscoe, in his 1831 annotated edition of Defoe's text.[1]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Daniel Defoe (ed. Thomas Roscoe) Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, with a biographical sketch of Defoe (2 vols., London, 1831) 2: 310-15.

References[edit]

  • Edward E. Leslie (1988), Edward E. Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls 1988
  • Dampier, William (1906) A Voyage to New Holland,1699-1701.
  • Woodland, Jr., Ralph Lee (1969) Robinson Crusoe's Island: A History of the Juan Fernández Islands

External links[edit]

  • Readings on castaways by Lilia Melani, CUNY. Melani also mentions the contemporary sources about the "real Robinson Crusoe", the Scottish mariner Alexander Selkirk who stayed utterly alone on the same island some twenty years later.