Long John Silver
|Long John Silver|
|Treasure Island character|
|Created by||Robert Louis Stevenson|
Long John Silver is the main villain in the novel Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson. The most colourful and complex character in the book, he continues to appear in popular culture. His one-leggedness and parrot, in particular, have greatly contributed to the image of the pirate in popular culture.
- 1 Profile
- 2 Adaptations and related works
- 3 Bibliography
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
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Long John Silver is a cunning and opportunistic pirate who was quartermaster under the notorious Captain Flint. Long John Silver had a pet parrot called Captain Flint, often seen sitting on his shoulder where she would nibble on seeds. Silver claims to have served in the Royal Navy and lost his leg under "the immortal Hawke". "His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham – plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling." (Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson page 82). He claims to have been the only man whom Flint ever feared. Like many of Stevenson's characters, there is more than a modicum of duality in the character; ostensibly Silver is a hardworking and likeable seaman, and it is only as the plot unfolds that his villainous nature is gradually revealed. His relationship with Jim Hawkins, the novel's protagonist and narrator, is interesting, as he serves as a mentor and eventually father-figure to Jim, creating much shock and emotion when it is discovered that he is in charge of the mutiny, and especially when Jim must confront and fight him later on. Although willing to change sides at any time to further his own interests, Silver has compensating virtues: he is wise enough to pay attention to money management, in contrast to the spendthrift ways of most of the pirates, and is physically courageous despite his disability; for instance, when Flint's cache is found to be empty, he coolly stands his ground against five grown men despite having only Jim, a boy in his teens, to back him.
When Silver escapes at the end of the novel, he takes "three or four hundred guineas" of the treasure with him, thus becoming one of only two former members of Captain Flint's crew to get his hands on a portion of the recovered treasure; a separate cache of bar silver is apparently left on the island. (The repentant maroonee Ben Gunn is the other, but he spends all £1,000 in nineteen days.) Jim's own ambivalence towards Silver is reflected in the last chapter, when he speculates that the old pirate must have settled down in comfortable retirement: "It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."
Stevenson's portrayal of Silver has greatly influenced the modern iconography of the pirate. Silver has a parrot, named Captain Flint in honor—or mockery—of his former captain, who generally perches on Silver's shoulder, and is known to chatter pirate or seafaring phrases like "Pieces of Eight", and "Stand by to go about". Silver uses the parrot as another means of gaining Jim's trust, by telling the boy all manner of exciting stories (many of them likely fake) about the parrot's buccaneer history. "'Now that bird,' Silver would say, 'is, may be, two hundred years old, Hawkins—they live forever mostly, and if anybody's seen more wickedness it must be the devil himself. She's sailed with England—the great Cap'n England, the pirate. She's been at Madagascar, and at Malabar, and Surinam, and Providence, and Portobello... She was at the boarding of the Viceroy of the Indies out of Goa, she was, and to look at her you would think she was a baby."[this quote needs a citation][page needed]
Silver is married to a woman of African descent, whom he trusts to manage his business affairs in his absence and to liquidate his Bristol assets when his actions make it impossible for him to go home. He confides in his fellow pirates, that he and his wife plan to rendezvous after the voyage to Skeleton Island is complete and Flint's treasure is recovered, at which point Silver will retire to a life of luxury. Ironically his "share" of Flint's treasure (£400) is considerably less than that of Ben Gunn's share (£1,000) and what he himself boasts is his "share" from England (£900) and from Flint (£2,000).
According to Stevenson's letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend William Henley, a writer and editor. Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, described Henley as "...a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet". In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island Stevenson wrote: "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you".
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In literature, by year
British historian Dennis Judd presents Silver as the main character in his 1977 prequel, The Adventures of Long John Silver, and in the 1979 sequel, Return To Treasure Island.
John Silver is also the protagonist in Björn Larsson's fictional 1995 autobiography, Long John Silver: The True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure as a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind, published in Sweden in 1995.
Audio adaptations of the original
|This section needs expansion with: a better sampling of the audio productions of the original Stevenson work, and subsequent works featuring Silver. You can help by adding to it. (February 2017)|
James Kennedy played Silver in the Tale Spinners for Children audio adaptation of Treasure Island.[full citation needed] Tom Baker starred as Silver in Big Finish Productions' 2012 audio adaptation.
On the stage, by year
|This section needs expansion with: a better representation of all of the stage productions of the original Stevenson work, and subsequent works featuring Silver. You can help by adding to it. (February 2017)|
In feature film, by year
Charles Ogle played Silver in the 1920 silent film adaptation of Treasure Island. Wallace Beery was the first speaking Long John Silver in the 1934 film version of Treasure Island. Robert Newton became a definitive Long John Silver in the 1950 Disney live-action film version of Treasure Island. Reportedly,[according to whom?] the writers of this piece, and Newton, were the first to present the phrase "Arrrrrh, matey!". A 1954 film, Long John Silver, again starred Robert Newton as the title character, which he would reprise in television (see below).
The 1971 anime film Dōbutsu Takarajima depicts Silver as an anthropomorphic pig that captains his own pirate ship, sporting a hook prosthesis on his left hand rather than a missing leg. In the Soviet animated film Treasure Island of 1988, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan provided the voice talent for John Silver.
In the 1994 movie The Pagemaster, the character of Silver is voiced by Jim Cummings. Tim Curry portrays Long John Silver in Disney's 1996 musical film Muppet Treasure Island. Jack Palance, in one of his last film appearances, portrays Silver in the 1999 film, Treasure Island. Silver is voiced by Brian Murray and depicted as an obese bear/human/robot-like cyborg in Disney 2002 animated science fiction adventure film, Treasure Planet. Tobias Moretti played Silver in the 2007 German production of Treasure Island, entitled Die Schatzinsel.
In feature film, undated
On radio, by year
Orson Welles played Silver in The Mercury Theatre on the Air adaptation of Treasure Island that was broadcast in July 18, 1938. William Redfield played Silver on the May 14, 1948 Your Playhouse of Favorites adaptation. James Mason played Silver opposite Bobby Driscoll's "Jim Hawkins" on the Lux Radio Theatre's adaptation of that broadcast on January 29, 1951.
There have been two later BBC Radio adaptations of Treasure Island, with Silver being played by Peter Jeffrey in the one in 1989, and starring Jack Shepherd in the one in 1996.
On television, by year
Ivor Dean played the character in an acclaimed European four-part mini-series in 1966. He intended to reprise the role in another series with more adventures of Silver. He began writing it with director Robert S. Baker, but his sudden death in 1974 stopped all further plans. Robert Newton reprised his feature film presentations of Silver in the 1957 television series, The Adventures of Long John Silver.
A Soviet miniseries, the 1982 Treasure Island, had Silver portrayed by Oleg Borisov. In 1985, the Ivor Dean script mentioned above was used as foundation for a Disney 10-part TV-series called Return to Treasure Island, starring Brian Blessed in the role of Long John Silver. Charlton Heston portrayed a darker Long John Silver in the 1990 made-for-television movie, Treasure Island.
Luke Arnold plays John Silver in the Starz TV series Black Sails (2014-2017), a prequel story set 20 years before Treasure Island. Silver, in Black Sails, begins as a scheming cook who rises to serve as quartermaster (on the Walrus, and on a captured Spanish Man O' War), later to lead the pirate and former-slave forces that attempt to re-take Nassau from the British.
On television, undated
BBC1 has presented the story four times, with Anthony Quinn, Bernard Miles, Peter Vaughan, and Alfred Burke in the role. British actor Ivor Dean also played Silver in a televised version of the novel.
In other print media
A Ballad of John Silver, a poem from John Masefield, was published in 1921.
In other areas
- Stevenson, Robert Louis (1883). Treasure Island. Cassell & Company. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
- Elwin, Malcolm (1939). Old Gods Falling. New York: The Macmillan Company. OCLC 968055.
- Prince, Alison (1994). Kenneth Grahame: An Innocent in the Wild Wood. London: Allison & Busby. ISBN 9780850318296.
- Karg, Barbara; Spaite, Arjean (2007). The Everything Pirates Book: A Swashbuckling History of Adventure on the High Seas. Avon, MA: Adams Media. ISBN 9781598692556.
- Karg, p. 220.
- Stevenson (1883), "The Voyage" [Ch. 10], pp. 80f.
- Stevenson (1883).[page needed]
- Prince, p. 78.
- Elwin, p. 154.
- Stevenson (1883), p. 316.
- Larsson, Björn (1995). Long John Silver: The True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure as a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind. Geddes, Tom (Transl.). London, ENG: Penguin Random House/Harvill Secker. ISBN 1860465382. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
- Chupack, Edward (2008). Silver—My Own Tale as Told by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder. New Yor, NY: St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne. ISBN 9780312539368. Retrieved February 21, 2017.[full citation needed]
- United Artists Records, UAC 11013.[full citation needed]
- Anderson, D.M. (December 30, 2014). "BLACK SAILS Ain't Your Daddy's Pirate Tale". Movie Pilot. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- Storey, Don (2014). "The Adventures of Long John Silver". ClassicAustralianTV.com. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
- Masefield, John (1921) . Salt-Water Poems and Ballads. New York, NY: The Macmillan Company. pp. 64–65. Retrieved February 21, 2017. Masefield's original 1902 work was entitled Salt-Water Ballads.
- Dorison, Xavier. Long John Silver (in French). Laufray, Mathieu (Illustr.). Dargaud.[full citation needed] Published by Cinebook in English.
- "''Nathan Never – L'isola del tesoro/Treasure Island''". En.sergiobonellieditore.it. Retrieved 2010-12-06.
- Stevenson, Robert Louis; Colvin, Sidney, Sir (1899). Letters to his family and friends. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. OCLC 9524286.
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