Journey to the Center of the Earth

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Journey to the Center of the Earth
Front cover of an 1874 English translation
AuthorJules Verne
Original titleVoyage au centre de la Terre
IllustratorÉdouard Riou
Cover artistÉdouard Riou
SeriesThe Extraordinary Voyages #3
GenreScience fiction, adventure novel
PublisherPierre-Jules Hetzel
Publication date
25 November 1864; rev. 1867
Published in English
Preceded byThe Adventures of Captain Hatteras 
Followed byFrom the Earth to the Moon 

Journey to the Center of the Earth (French: Voyage au centre de la Terre), also translated with the variant titles A Journey to the Centre of the Earth and A Journey into the Interior of the Earth, is a classic science fiction novel by Jules Verne. It was first published in French in 1864, then reissued in 1867 in a revised and expanded edition. Professor Otto Lidenbrock is the tale's central figure, an eccentric German scientist who believes there are volcanic tubes that reach to the very center of the earth. He, his nephew Axel, and their Icelandic guide Hans rappel into Iceland's celebrated inactive volcano Snæfellsjökull, then contend with many dangers, including cave-ins, subpolar tornadoes, an underground ocean, and living prehistoric creatures from the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras (the 1867 revised edition inserted additional prehistoric material in Chaps. 37–39). Eventually the three explorers are spewed back to the surface by an active volcano, Stromboli, located in southern Italy.

The category of subterranean fiction existed well before Verne. However his novel's distinction lay in its well-researched Victorian science and its inventive contribution to the science-fiction subgenre of time travel—Verne's innovation was the concept of a prehistoric realm still existing in the present-day world. Journey inspired many later authors, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his novel The Lost World, Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Pellucidar series,[citation needed] and J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit.[1]


The story begins in May 1863, at the home of Professor Otto Lidenbrock in Hamburg, Germany. While leafing through an original runic manuscript of an Icelandic saga, Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel find a coded note written in runic script along with the name of a 16th-century Icelandic alchemist, Arne Saknussemm. When translated into English, the note reads:

Go down into the crater of Snaefells Jökull, which Scartaris's shadow caresses just before the calends of July, O daring traveler, and you'll make it to the center of the earth. I've done so. Arne Saknussemm


Lidenbrock departs for Iceland immediately, taking the reluctant Axel with him. After a swift trip via Kiel and Copenhagen, they arrive in Reykjavík. There they hire as their guide Icelander Hans Bjelke, a Danish-speaking eiderduck hunter, then travel overland to the base of Snæfellsjökull.

In late June they reach the volcano and set off into the bowels of the earth, encountering many dangers and strange phenomena. After taking a wrong turn, they run short of water and Axel nearly perishes, but Hans saves them all by tapping into a subterranean river, which shoots out a stream of water that Lidenbrock and Axel name the "Hansbach" in the guide's honor.

Édouard Riou's illustration of an ichthyosaurus (which is actually more like a mosasaurus) battling a plesiosaurus.

Following the course of the Hansbach, the explorers descend many miles and reach an underground world, with an ocean and a vast ceiling with clouds, as well as a permanent Aurora giving light. The travelers build a raft out of semipetrified wood and set sail. While at sea, they encounter prehistoric fish such as Pterichthyodes (here called "Pterichthys") Dipterus (referred to as "Dipterides") and giant marine reptiles from the Age of the Dinosaurs, namely an Ichthyosaurus and a Plesiosaurus. A lightning storm threatens to destroy the raft and its passengers, but instead throws them onto the site of an enormous fossil graveyard, including bones from the Pterodactylus, Megatherium, Deinotherium, Glyptodon, a mastodon and the preserved body of a prehistoric man.

Lidenbrock and Axel venture into a forest featuring primitive vegetation from the Tertiary Period; in its depths they are stunned to find a prehistoric humanoid more than twelve feet in height and watching over a herd of mastodons. Fearing they may be hostile, they leave the forest.

Continuing to explore the coastline, the travellers find a passageway marked by Saknussemm as the way ahead, but it has been blocked by a recent cave-in. The adventurers lay plans to blow the rock open with gun cotton, meanwhile paddling their raft out to sea to avoid the blast. On executing this scheme, they open a bottomless pit beyond the impeding rock and are swept into it as the sea rushes down the huge open gap. After spending hours descending at breakneck speed, their raft reverses direction and rises inside a volcanic chimney that ultimately spews them into the open air. When they regain consciousness, they learn that they have been ejected from Stromboli, a volcanic island located off Sicily.

The trio returns to Germany, where they enjoy great acclaim; Professor Lidenbrock is hailed as one of the great scientists of the day, Axel marries his sweetheart Gräuben, and Hans returns to his peaceful, eiderduck-hunting life in Iceland.

Main characters[edit]

  • Professor Otto Lidenbrock: a hot-tempered geologist with radical ideas.
  • Axel: Lidenbrock's nephew, a young student whose ideas are more cautious.
  • Hans Bjelke: Icelandic eiderduck hunter who hires on as their guide; resourceful and imperturbable.
  • Gräuben: Lidenbrock's goddaughter, with whom Axel is in love; from Vierlande (region southeast of Hamburg).
  • Martha: Lidenbrock's housekeeper and cook.

Publication notes[edit]

The original French editions of 1864 and 1868 were issued by J. Hetzel et Cie, a major Paris publishing house owned by Pierre-Jules Hetzel.

The novel's first English edition, translated by an unknown hand and published in 1871 by the London house Griffith & Farran, appeared under the title A Journey to the Centre of the Earth and is now available at Project Gutenberg.[2] A drastically rewritten version of the story, it adds chapter titles where Verne gives none, meanwhile changing the professor's surname to Hardwigg, Axel's name to Harry, and Gräuben's to Gretchen. In addition, many paragraphs and details are completely recomposed.[citation needed]

An 1877 London edition from Ward, Lock, & Co. appeared under the title A Journey into the Interior of the Earth. Its translation, credited to Frederick Amadeus Malleson, is more faithful than the Griffith & Farran version, though it, too, concocts chapter titles and modifies details. Its text is likewise available at Project Gutenberg.[3]





  • A seven-part radio serial was broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1962. It was produced by Claire Chovil, and starred Trevor Martin and Nigel Anthony.[8]
  • An eight-part radio serial was produced for BBC Radio 4 by Howard Jones in 1963. It starred Bernard Horsfall and Jeffrey Banks.
  • A radio drama adaptation was broadcast by National Public Radio in 2000 for its series Radio Tales.
  • A 90-minute radio adaptation by Stephen Walker directed by Owen O'Callan was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 28 December 1995, and rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra on 20 November 2011, on 11 and 12 November 2012, and on 20 and 21 December 2014. Nicholas Le Prevost stars as Professor Otto Lidenbrock, Nathaniel Parker as Axel, and Oliver Senton as Hans. Kristen Millwood plays Rosemary McNab, a new character who funds and accompanies the expedition.[9]
  • A two-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Journey to the Centre of the Earth broadcast on 19 and 26 March 2017. Featuring Stephen Critchlow as Professor Lidenbrock, Joel MacCormack as Axel, and Gudmundur Ingi Thorvaldsson as Hans, it was directed and produced by Tracey Neale and adapted by Moya O'Shea.[10]

Theme park (themed areas) and rides[edit]


  • Video games called Journey to the Center of the Earth: in 1984 by Ozisoft for the Commodore 64; in 1989 by Topo Soft[11] for the ZX Spectrum and in 2003 by Frogwares.[12]
  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth game for Sega Genesis was planned but never released.[13]
  • A board game adaptation of the book designed by Rüdiger Dorn was released by Kosmos in 2008.[14]
  • Caedmon Records released an abridged recording of Journey to the Center of the Earth read by James Mason, in the 1960s.
  • Tom Baker was the reader for a recording released by Argo Records in 1977.
  • Jon Pertwee was the reader for a recording released by Pinnacle Records Storyteller in 1975.
  • In 2011, Audible released an unabridged "Signature Performance" reading of the book by Tim Curry.
  • A concept album called Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Rick Wakeman was released in 1974. It combines song, narration and instrumental pieces to retell the story.
    • Wakeman released a second concept album called Return to the Centre of the Earth in 1999. It tells the story of a later set of travelers attempting to repeat the original journey.
  • Alien Voices, an audio theater group led by Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie, released a dramatized version of Journey to the Center of the Earth through Simon and Schuster Audio in 1997.
  • Christopher Lloyd's character of Doctor Emmett Brown, one of the two main fictional characters of the Back to the Future film series, makes numerous references to the works of Jules Verne in general, and Journey to the Center of the Earth in particular.
  • The 1992 adventure/role-playing game Quest for Glory III by Sierra Entertainment used Arne Saknoosen the Aardvark as a bit character for exploration information, alluding to the explorer Arne Saknussemm.
  • The DC Comics comic book series Warlord takes place in Skartaris, a land supposed to exist within a hollow earth. Its creator, Mike Grell, has confirmed that "the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the Earth's core in Journey to the Center of the Earth."[15]
  • Halldór Laxness, the only Icelandic author to be awarded the Nobel Prize, set his novel Under the Glacier in the area of Snæfellsjökull. The glacier has a mystic quality in the story and there are several references to A Journey to the Center of the Earth in connection with it.
  • Norihiko Kurazono's Chitei Ryokou (地底旅行) is a manga adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth that was serialized in Comic Beam from 2015 to 2017.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Hooker, Mark (2014). The Tolkienaeum: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien and his Legendarium. Llyfrawr. pp. 1–12. ISBN 978-1-49975-910-5.
  2. ^ Verne, Jules (18 July 2006) [1871]. A Journey to the Centre of the Earth – via Project Gutenberg.
  3. ^ Verne, Jules (1 February 2003). A Journey into the Interior of the Earth – via Project Gutenberg.
  4. ^ "Journey to the Center of the Earth". IMDb., Inc. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  5. ^ "Journey to the Center of the Earth". IMDb., Inc. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  6. ^ "BKN Summons New Spells Series".
  7. ^ Grater, Tom (29 November 2021). "'Around The World In 80 Days' Gets Second Season; Producers Also Developing 'Journey To The Centre Of The Earth' Series". Deadline.
  8. ^ "A Journey to the Centre of the Earth". BBC Genome. BBC. June 1962. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Jules Verne- Journey to the Centre of the Earth", BBC Radio 4 Extra, 20 November 2011.
  10. ^ "Radio 4 relevant page"
  11. ^ "Viaje al Centro de la Tierra - World of Spectrum".
  12. ^ "Journey to the Center of the Earth for Windows (2003) - MobyGames". MobyGames.
  13. ^ "CES '93 Report - Gaming On The Horizon: Genesis". GamePro. No. 45. IDG. April 1993. pp. 122–125.
  14. ^ "Journey to the Center of the Earth". BoardGameGeek.
  15. ^ Brian Cronin, 2006, "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #54!" Archived 21 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine (archive)

Further reading[edit]

  • Debus, Allen (July 2007). "Re-Framing the Science in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth". Science Fiction Studies. 33 (3): 405–20. JSTOR 4241461..

External links[edit]