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Literature: The Lost World

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle moved from detective stories to more fanciful fare with this 1912 novel of adventure and discovery.

Pugnacious Professor Challenger claims that he's found a place in the Amazon cut off from the rest of the world and housing all kinds of species previously believed to be extinct. He sets off on an expedition to prove his find, accompanied by a skeptical colleague, Professor Summerlee; the cool-headed sportsman Lord John Roxton; and the narrator, young reporter Edward Malone. They soon find Professor Challenger's lost world, an isolated plateau inhabited by dinosaurs, primitive humans, and savage ape-men, but when the bridge back to the outer world collapses, their journey of discovery becomes a fight for survival.

Inspired a bunch of films and TV series, including the series Sir Arthur Conan Doyles The Lost World, and a 1925 film adaptation that featured groundbreaking stop-motion animation and was a Trope Maker for movies about dinosaurs.


This book contains examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Ned Malone is rejected by the girl he loves because he's never done anything adventurous, so he joins the Challenger expedition to prove himself; she marries someone else (a solicitor's clerk!) while the expedition is away.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Professor Challenger, who goes off into the depths of the Amazon jungle to find dinosaurs.
  • Anachronism Stew: Explained in that various species found their way up at different times.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Professor. Challenger. Doubles—certainly in how he's first described—as a Name To Run Away From Really Fast. And he doesn't disappoint.
  • Bluff the Impostor: When Malone is trying to gain Professor Challenger's trust by pretending to be a fellow scientist, Challenger quizzes him on various scientific terms, all of which Malone claims to be familiar with. Challenger then informs him that he had been speaking gibberish and tackles him out the door.
  • Bold Explorer: Professor Challenger is a man of science who has no hesitation to set off and explore a mysterious plateau in the Amazon.
  • Bridge Logic: The explorers reach the otherwise inaccessible plateau by felling a large tree to bridge the gap.
  • Bring It Back Alive: A Pterodactyl is dramatically unveiled in London, proving that Challenger was right.
  • Cannibal Tribe: The savage "ape men" that inhabit the plateau.
  • Darkest Africa: It's the Amazon delta, but otherwise played pretty straight, with intrepid white people plunging into the depths of the jungle.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Pretty much the whole reason Malone goes on the expedition is to impress Gladys, who claims that she is holding out for some kind of brave hero to fall in love with. When he gets back, he finds out that she's married a boring clerk.
  • Frazetta Man: The ape-men on the plateau, who become the primary antagonists for much of novel, though it is perhaps a bit less Mighty Whitey than some examples because the outsider main characters would be toast without the army of the more human natives of the plateau. Much is made of Professor Challenger's resemblance to the chief of the ape-men.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Lord John Roxton, who goes off on the expedition for fun.
  • Genius Bruiser: Professor Challenger is a distinguished scientist, and also an enormously strong, musclebound individual.
  • Great White Hunter: Lord John Roxton is an expert hunter.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Describing a semi-inflated hot air balloon as a "flaccid organ" probably falls under this.
    • The explorers are described as tossing "faggots" onto their campfire.
  • Heroic Albino: Maple White, who found the plateau first but was killed by the ape men.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Challenger sneers at the others' disgust with the blood tick found on Malone, saying "You should cultivate the scientific eye and the detatched scientific mind." Summerlee promptly tells Challenger that a tick has crawled down down Challenger's shirt, whereupon Challenger screams with fear and rips his shirt and coat off.
  • I Am One of Those Too: Early on, Malone pretends to be a paleontologist to gain Challenger's confidence, but the Professor suspects something is up and asks him if he is familiar with several completely made-up theories, to which Malone answers in the affirmative.
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: "Oh, Ned, our friendship has been so good and pleasant!". It seems like Gladys just isn't in love with Edward, but he doesn't take the hint.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The ape men throw their victims off of a high cliff to get impaled on bamboo poles. One of the first things the expedition finds upon arriving is the skeletal remains of Maple White's partner James Colver stuck to them.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Edward Malone, who goes on an expedition to the unexplored wild of South America for a story—and to win Gladys' love.
  • Jerkass: Professor Challenger is vain, egotistical, obnoxious, and condescending. The fact that he's right about the dinosaurs only partially mitigates this.
  • Last Name Basis: Professor Summerlee is the only main character whose first name is never mentioned.
  • Lost World: The high altitude and physical isolation of the plateau is the justification for why all kinds of weird things survive there.
  • Men Act, Women Are: This trope is almost described word-for-word in this novel. In the first chapter protagonist Edward proposes to his girlfriend, who rejects it and basically says she is going to dump him. He asks why and she describes that she wants her boyfriend to be a man of action and heroism who is constantly acting, and she then says that women are meant to sit on the sidelines being proud of their pro-active boyfriends, and she says she feels he is not a man of action. This prompts him to undertake the journey which forms the plot. As this novel was written in 1912, it shows this trope is well over a century old.
  • Mighty Whitey: The brave white folks with guns help the local tribe of Homo sapiens to defeat the ape men. And Roxton gives a bit of backstory exposition about how he helped end slavery in South America.
  • Oh, Crap: The normally unflappable Roxton is momentarily frozen in shock when he finds the "rookery of pterodactyls."
  • Off the Record: Prof. Challenger, who hates the hell out of journalists, tells Malone that nothing Challenger tells him can be printed without Challenger's permission.
  • Red-Headed Hero: Lord John Roxton is known as "The Red Chief" in South America.
  • Red Herring: As the gang is trying to figure out how to escape from the plateau, Challenger finds a mudpot that is venting hydrogen. It seems like a Chekhov's Gun, and in fact he does later start building a balloon, but they never use it, instead escaping through a secret way in one of the caves.
  • Scenery Porn: Malone waxed rhapsodic about the "green, pellucid river" and beautiful country that they are sailing through.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Malone refers to his rifle as "useless", as a shotgun is much better when you're sneaking through the jungle in the middle of the night and there are megalosaurs stalking you.
  • Species Lost and Found: Professor Challenger brings a pterodactyl back to civilization to prove the expedition was real. It escapes while it's being shown off, resulting in a case of species lost and found and then lost again.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Pterodactyls feature prominently. The major predator, however, is said to be either a megalosaurus or an allosaurus; nobody can correctly identify them (partially because they don't even remotely resemble dinosaurs).
  • This Is My Boomstick: The humans native to the plateau are impressed by the white folks' weapons.
    "...the natives looked upon us with a mixture of fear and gratitude, since by our strange powers we had aided them to destroy their hereditary foe."
  • Title Drop: "You are a Columbus of science who has discovered a lost world", says Malone to Challenger.
  • You Killed My Father: Gomez wants revenge on Roxton for having killed his brother Pedro Lopez.
  • You No Take Candle: Zambo, the faithful black servant who waits for the heroes on the other side of the canyon, talks like this. "What I do now?"

Lagadins LegacyAdventure LiteratureMediochre Q Seth Series
Professor ChallengerLiterature of the 1910sRaggedy Ann
Life Before ManDinosaur MediaThe New Dinosaurs An Alternative Evolution

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