Billy Bones

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Billy Bones
Treasure Island character
Illustration by N. C. Wyeth for 1911 edition.
Created by Robert Louis Stevenson
Nickname(s) Bill
Species Human
Gender Male
Occupation Pirate
Nationality English

Billy Bones is a fictional character, in the first section of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island.[1]

In the novel[edit]

Billy Bones appears at the very outset of the story with a mysterious sea chest, looking for a wayside inn with a view of the sea but little traffic. Bones decides upon the Admiral Benbow Inn where he asks to be addressed merely as "Captain". Though his down-payment for lodgings is adequate, even generous, he stays for many months and browbeats Jim Hawkins's father out of asking for more money even when his deposit has been spent. He does, however, pay Jim fourpence a month to keep watch for "a seafaring man with one leg". Though he seems sometimes on the verge of deciding this was a waste of money, he invariably relents. Most of the daytime is spent walking the cliffs and looking out to sea.

A habitual drunkard, the Captain terrorizes the customers of the Benbow with his swearing, singing and general bullying. Yet he begins to attract customers by his very notoriety, and earns some admiration from locals who consider him a "real old salt". The winter after his arrival, the Captain is visited by Black Dog, a villainous-looking man with two fingers missing from his hand. There is a noisy argument between the two, which turns into a lively sword fight and the Captain drives off a wounded Black Dog. As soon as the unwelcome visitor is gone, the Captain suffers a stroke. He is tended to by Dr. Livesey, who discovers the real name of the Captain to be Billy Bones when his arm is bared as a prelude to a surgical bloodletting and the name is found tattooed there.

The doctor saves Bones' life and tells him to lay off the alcohol, but Bones does not heed Livesey's warning. He is plainly weakened by his stroke and the shock of Black Dog's visit, and at one point Hawkins even hears him sing a country love song, a gentle relic of his innocent days as a youth. He admits to Jim Hawkins that he sailed with Captain Flint, the notorious pirate, and was first mate on his ship. This explains much of the mysterious circumstances and solitary behavior of the early part of the story.

A few days later, a blind pirate known only as Pew reaches the inn, and Bones is plainly terrified. Pew slips a black spot into Bones's hand and departs. Immediately, Bones suffers a second stroke and dies. The pirates come nonetheless and ransack the inn. The attackers fail to find the map, as it is now in Hawkins' possession, but they destroy the inn, ruining the Hawkins' livelihood. This prompts Hawkins and his companions to embark on a search for the treasure.

Other media[edit]

  • Billy Bones appears briefly in Disney's animated film Treasure Planet, voiced by Patrick McGoohan. He is portrayed as a tortoise/salamander-like alien.
  • Billy Bones is portrayed by Billy Connolly in Muppet Treasure Island.
  • Billy Bones is portrayed by Tom Hopper in the Starz original series Black Sails. In the episode "VI.", Billy's full name is revealed as William "Bones" Manderly. The episode "XVI" revealed that he was the son of anti-impressment activists in Kensington, and was himself press-ganged while handing out pamphlets on the subject. He was essentially enslaved for three years until Captain Flint freed him, at which point Billy killed his former captor and chose to remain a pirate because he felt he couldn't go home and face his family after doing so.
  • Billy Bones is mentioned in the songs 'Time For Heroes' by The Libertines and 'The Tomahawk Kid' by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
  • In the 1971 anime film Dōbutsu Takarajima, Billy Bones is portrayed as a one-legged, anthropomorphic cat on the run from the ruling council of Pirate Island because of his possession of Flint's map. He is later killed (off-screen) by a band of pirate assassins in the Admiral Bembo Inn soon after entrusting the map to Jim, the film's protagonist.
  • Subject of a song 'Billy Bones And The White Bird' on Elton John's Rock of the Westies Album.


  1. ^ Treasure Island. In The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (2000).