Literature / Treasure Island

Fifteen men on the dead man's chest—
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the Devil had done for the rest—
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1881, is a classic tale of pirates and buried treasure, which created many of the pirate tropes, including

  • X marks the spot on a Treasure Map to show where the Pirate Booty is hidden.
  • A peg leg and a parrot as the standard pirate look (despite Silver not having a peg leg in the original book).
  • The excessive use of nautical slang by pirate characters ("Shiver me timbers!").
  • The "Black Spot" as a death sentence handed out to traitors by pirates. (Though historically this may have been done with the Ace of Spades).

In the book, Jim Hawkins, an ordinary (although quick-witted) lad, discovers a treasure map among the effects of a deceased resident at his family's inn. He shows it to two local gentlemen (a landed noble and a wealthy doctor), who charter a ship to search for the treasure on Skeleton Island, but they hire sailor-turned-tavern-owner Long John Silver as their cook, unaware that he is a pirate. Long John becomes Jim's mentor, while winning over most of the crew — who he helped hire.

By chance, Jim overhears Long John's plotting, and warns his friends, just as they arrive at the island. Over the next few days, Jim repeatedly wanders into danger, meets a scary hermit and kills a pirate by himself, while Long John keeps switching sides, and the treasure is found.

Jim and his friends return home rich, Long John escapes with some of the treasure, and the rest of the pirates get marooned on the island or killed.

This book has been adapted into several movies, including:
  • Treasure Island (1920) - Silent film. Now lost.
  • Treasure Island (1934) - Directed by Victor Fleming. Starred Jackie Cooper as Jim, Wallace Beery as Long John Silver, and Lionel Barrymore as Billy Bones.
  • Treasure Island (1937) - A weird Soviet version.note 
  • Treasure Island (1950) - Disney's first fully non-animated film. Introduced the "pirate" accent.
  • Treasure Island (1966) - A French-West German television series starring Ivor Dean as John Silver. It was shown in four instalments (on the four Advent Sundays) in West Germany and in thirteen episodes in France. The 360 minutes of the series were cut to 84 for an unsuccessful US cinematic release in 1970. Ivor Dean wrote a script for a sequel series with Robert S. Baker, but that came to naught because he died in 1974. The script was dug up again in 1986 (see below).
  • Animal Treasure Island (1971) - an anime version, worked on by Hayao Miyazaki
  • Treasure Island (1972) - Starring Orson Welles as Long John Silver.
  • Treasure Island (1973) - an animated movie produced by Filmation, featuring Richard Dawson (from Hogan's Heroes and Family Feud) as both Long John Silver and Captain Smollett.
  • Treasure Island (1977) - A BBC series that includes Patrick Troughton as Israel Hands and David Collings (Silver from Sapphire and Steel) as Blind Pew.
  • Takarajima (1978) - A 26-episode TV anime series, produced by TMS Entertainment and directed by Osamu Dezaki.
  • Return to Treasure Island (1986) - A ten-part Disney television series based on the aforementioned script by Ivor Dean. Set ten years after the events of the novel, it starred BRIAN BLESSED as Long John Silver.
  • Treasure Island in outer space (1987) also named Pianeta Del Tesoro - Treasure Planet - A 5-episode German and Italian collaboration series, produced by Creator/and directed by Antonio Margheriti and set in 2300.
  • Treasure Island (1988) - A classic Soviet half-animation half-live action musical film. Republished without live-action intermissions as The Return to Treasure Island (1992).
  • Treasure Island (1990) - a TNT cable network TV movie, with Charlton Heston as Silver, Christian Bale as Jim, Christopher Lee as Blind Pew and Pete Postlethwaite as George Merry.
  • The Legends of Treasure Island (1993) - UK Funny Animal In-Name-Only animated series with Jim as a puppy (voiced by Dawn French) and Silver as a fox (voiced by Richard E. Grant). Many will recognise the cast members, especially Hugh Laurie playing Squire Trelawney as a member of the George family.
  • Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
  • Treasure Island (1999) - Starring Jack Palance as Long John Silver.
  • Treasure Planet (2002) - Disney's animated version ...IN SPACE! (Surprisingly good and faithful to the source considering the Space Opera setting.)
  • Pirates of Treasure Island (2006) - Comedic take on the story, released by one and only The Asylum.
  • Treasure Island (2012) - Sky 1 two part Mini Series, starring an All-Star Cast including Eddie Izzard and Elijah Wood. Slightly Darker and Edgier.
  • Treasure Island (2013) - An Audio Adaptation of the story by Big Finish productions, starring Tom Baker as Long John Silver.

Although originally published chapter-by-chapter in a magazine, when published as a book it became very popular, the British Prime Minister Gladstone staying up until two in the morning to finish it. It is also the ultimate inspiration for all the subsequent pirate movies and other novels, down to Pirates of The Caribbean. Many of them include a Shout-Out to Treasure Island. E.g., in Peter Pan, it is said that Captain Hook was the only man Long John Silver ever feared, while Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest features the "Black Spot" (in a flashier form) and the song quoted at the beginning of this entry.

Starz's Black Sails is a Prequel to Treasure Island, notably featuring Captain Flint and a young John Silver as its protagonists.

The novel provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Long John, one of the ultimate exemplars of this trope. Sure, he's a lying, thieving, murdering scumbag pirate... but he's also a lovable, charismatic anti-villain! How can you hold anything against him? And, despite everything, his affection and respect for Jim are completely genuine.
  • The Alcoholic: Almost all of the pirates and Mr. Arrow. Billy Bones's stroke at the beginning is attributed to drinking little but rum at the Benbow Inn, and Captain Flint was allegedly killed by rum as well.
  • The Aloner: Ben Gunn, who was marooned on the island by his mates after a failed search for the treasure.
  • Anti-Villain: Although Silver is the mastermind behind the mutiny, he ends up suffering a mutiny in turn, and is forced to ally with the heroes.
  • Badass Boast: Silver sways one of the honest sailors into joining the rebellion with one.
    Silver: There was some that was feared of Pew, and some that was feared of Flint; but Flint his own self was feared of me. Feared he was, and proud.
    • Silver is so badass he even gets boasts by proxy.
      Israel Hands: A lion's nothing alongside of Long John! I seen him grapple four and knock their heads together—him unarmed.
  • Badass Crew: The crew of the Walrus prior to the events of the novel. With Flint as captain, Billy Bones as first mate, Long John Silver as quartermaster, and seamen such as Israel Hands, Ben Gunn, and Pew, it's no wonder they were able to amass such a huge horde of treasure.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: The pirates prefer to be called "gentlemen of fortune."
  • Catapult Nightmare: At the very end of the book, Jim Hawkins says that the worst dreams he ever has are when he "start[s] upright in bed with the sharp voice of Captain Flint [the parrot] still ringing in my ears."
  • Catch Phrase: Silver had quite a few, including "You may lay to that!" ("You may depend on that"), "By the Powers"/"By the living thunder", and of course the immortal "Shiver my timbers!"
  • Churchgoing Villain: Silver and the other pirates, who are worried about bad luck when one of their own cuts a page from The Bible to create a Black Spot.
    • There is apparently an upside to possessing a mutilated Bible, which Silver touches on briefly: you can swear on it to tell the truth, and then lie without fear of the consequences.
  • Dressed to Plunder: The Trope Codifier, almost singlehandedly popularizing the look.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Pirate, mutineer and murderer Long John Silver may be, but he bends over backwards, even risking the Black Spot, to keep Jim Hawkins alive, even when he stands to gain nothing by it.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Averted with Silver, but played straight with the other pirates. Near the end of the book, Silver even points out to Dr. Livesey when the latter contemplates checking up on the surviving pirates, "...these men down there, they couldn't keep their word... and, what's more, they couldn't believe as you could."
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Jim is captured by the pirates and is given the offer of joining them or else, he delivers a defiant Facing The Bullets Speech outlining how it was him the whole time that kept screwing up their plans, that the laugh's on his side and he no more fears them than he fears a fly, but he'll put in a word at court for them if they choose to spare him.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The story is introduced as Jim's tale of his adventure retold at the request of Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey, which keeps you from getting too worried whenever their lives are at risk. Considering that the story already includes a boy getting hit by a thrown knife as well as being captured by pirates and threatened with torture, this may have been necessary at the time to keep the story from feeling too dark and shocking the audience.
  • Freudian Trio: Squire Trelawney is the Id, Captain Smollett is the Ego, Dr. Livesey is the Superego.
  • Genre Blind: Crewing out a ship for a secret mission in search of buried treasure, the characters hire a one-legged, tattooed old sea-dog with a Bristol accent and a parrot. But then, the book was what made all these traits stock attributes of pirates in the first place. Jim Hawkins still might have known better since he was specifically warned by Billy Bones to beware of "a one-legged sea-faring man" — they just decide he couldn't possibly have meant this particular one-legged sea-faring man (but then again, considering England's history in naval warfare, there's probably a lot of ex-sailors with one leg limping around).
  • Good Is Not Nice: Cpt. Smollett delivers a blunt assessment of his displeasure over the crew, expecting to be dismissed. Jim dislikes him from the beginning, and Trelawney comments on finding his behaviour "downright un-English;" however they soon discover that he was quite right, and he leads the party's resistance for most of the story.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Long John Silver killed an honest crewman who refused to join the pirates, by hurling his crutch at him, thus breaking his spine, and then hopping one-legged to him and slitting his throat.
    • Pew is fully blind, yet most of the survivors of Flint's crew fear him only slightly less than Billy Bones or Silver.
  • Happily Married: What little is said about Silver and his black wife seems to indicate that they get along well.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Silver is an opportunist who will jump to any side if it seems to be the winning one.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Jim keeps his promise not to escape with the doctor even though his life is in danger if he stays, at the point where even the doctor himself is ready to break his word because he can't bear the thought of young Jim being tortured to death. This is the turning point in Jim's Coming-of-Age Story.
    • Similarly, during Long John's final escape, he has everything to gain by shooting Jim, but he can't do it. He likes Jim too much.
    • The Pirates are able to shell the Loyalist base by aiming at the flag flying above the trees. The defenders are aware of this, but striking their colors is unthinkable.
    • Dr. Livesey is determined to heal the ill, even if they are ruthless pirates.
    • In a lesser (but rather more baffling) case, Jim's mother, who rifles through the recently deceased Captain's sea chest but refuses to take any more money than what the Captain owed them for room and board. Which resulted in her doing arithmetic over the sea chest even when she knows that Pew's gang is coming at any minute to take the chest and slit everyone's throats.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Squire Trelawney, in keeping with his Upper-Class Twit status, unknowingly hires a bunch of pirates to sail his treasure-hunting vessel.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Squire Trelawney may be a bit of a stereotypical landed-gentry Englishman, but he's also a crack shot. At one point, the mutineer's gunner — his intended target — is roughly a hundred yards away, on the deck of the ship, stooping over a cannon muzzle. Trelawney himself is seated in an 18-foot "jolly boat," which is overloaded with 4 other men and a ton of supplies. And he's armed with a musket. Despite all this, only a Coincidental Dodge saves the intended target's life — and Trelawney still picks off one of the other villains.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Long John Silver, who gets away with his life and a few hundred pounds from the treasure (rather less than one tenth of one percent).
    • Also Ben Gunn. Nobody seems particularly bothered that he was a part of one of the most feared pirate crews that ever sailed, and he gets a larger share of the treasure than Silver did (which he manages to blow in three weeks, at which point he is given a pension). Presumably, the characters and readers consider his time marooned on the island punishment enough (not to mention it mellowed him out considerably).
  • Knife Nut: Silver kills with a knife "on camera;" Israel Hands kills with a dirk "off camera" and tries to kill Jim throwing the same dirk; Tom Morgan threatens Jim with a knife, and "the captain" offers to pin Dr. Livesey to the wall with one early in the book. Truth in Television: knives were cheap, easily carried, and unaffected by the occasional dousing with seawater.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: For Ben Gunn. But they also left behind a shovel and a pick.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Captain Flint killed the sailors who helped him bury the treasure. Considering that there were six of them, nobody has any idea how the hell he managed it.
  • Loophole Abuse: During his confrontation with Knife Nut Israel Hands, Jim manages to prime his two pistols while Hands is still too far away to stab him with his dirk, and tells Hands in no uncertain terms that he'll shoot if Hands comes any closer. Hands responds by throwing his dirk at Jim.
  • Loveable Rogue: Long John Silver, verging on Magnificent Bastard.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The death of Mr. Arrow, who apparently fell overboard one night in a drunken stupor. In most adaptations that include this incident, a scene is shown of Silver blatantly slipping him rum so that he would be drunk all the time and no one would inquire into his death too much; in the book, Jim merely guesses (from overhearing Silver casually mention that he has a key for the keg) that this is what happened.
  • Manly Tears: Trelawney is not afraid to cry when his servant Tom Redruth is dying.
  • Mundane Luxury: Ben Gunn swears Undying Loyalty to Dr. Livesey in exchange for a palm-sized piece of cheese (parmesan, to be precise), something he has craved for years.
  • The Mutiny: Captain Flint's crew, under Long John Silver, rebelled in the backstory. Silver also leads the gang of pirates that rebel against Captain Smollett in the actual story.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In a flashback, Captain Flint goes ashore with six crew members (all of them hardened pirates) to bury his treasure; later he comes back on board alone, having singlehandedly killed them all.
  • Pirate Booty: The treasure, of course. The book is the Trope Codifier if not the outright Trope Maker.
  • Pirate Parrot: The Trope Maker. Although it's quite likely that real Caribbean pirates may have kept the occasional parrot, this is also true of monkeys and cats, and one of these animals is far more associated with pirates than the others.
  • Posthumous Character: Captain Flint, who died prior to the events of the novel but whose actions are central to the plot.
  • Pre-Insanity Reveal: Ben Gunn was once a part of Captain Flint's crew, though unliked by his shipmates. He knows the location of Flint's treasure, but no one believes him. Marooned on a deserted island, he becomes more than a little addled, talks in the third person and has an obsessive craving for cheese.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Silver delivers an epic one to his crew when they try to throw him out.
    Long John Silver: Why, I give you my word, I'm sick to speak to you. You've neither sense nor memory, and I leave it to fancy where your mothers was that let you come to sea. Sea! Gentlemen o' fortune! I reckon tailors is your trade.
  • Red Shirt Army: Trelawney's three manservants are all given single cabins, as if they were important passengers; yet they are all quickly slain and receive little characterization.
  • Regenerating Health: Jim doesn't seem to suffer any long-term effects from being wounded and pinned to the mast by Israel Hands's dirk (which had previously been used to kill another pirate), or having to tear a bit of skin off of his shoulder to escape the pinning. It isn't even mentioned when Doctor Livesey sees him again.
  • Retired Badass: "The captain," aka Billy Bones, only wants to be let alone at the Admiral Benbow Inn to drink, sing, and enjoy his own "fair" share of the ill-gotten gains. His former crew, excepting Pew, are still terrified of him.
  • Retired Monster: Flint, the captain who murdered a good chunk of his own crew to hide the treasure's location, was afraid of Silver. Silver has been peacefully running an inn and living happily with his wife for some years when the story begins, and he continues this after making off with a part of the treasure in the end.
  • Robinsonade: Ben Gunn has been marooned on the island.
  • Seadog Peg Leg: Long John Silver is one of the Trope Codifiers, although he didn't have a peg leg in the original book, using a crutch to help him move around instead. The peg leg would originate in later adaptations.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Most of the sympathetic characters. Captain Smollet maintains rigid discipline throughout their ordeal. Hawkins maintains his dignity and poise even under threat of death. The Squire's servants are said to react to every calamity without complaint or even much surprise.
  • Switching P.O.V.: For practical reasons, the doctor picks up the narration when important events occur that Jim didn't witness.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: After successfully seizing control of the Hispaniola, the pirates start referring to their leader as "Captain Silver".
  • Trojan Prisoner: Long John Silver pretends to hold Jim hostage. Or does he?
  • Trope Maker: Many of the tropes associated with pirates today come from this novel, such as the way Silver's parrot was fond of repeating "pieces of eight."
  • Upper-Class Twit: Squire Trelawney to an extent, although he himself had followed the sea at one point and, as noted above, he does have some skills.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Long John Silver and his crew exemplify this trope.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Captain Silver has a parrot named Cap'n Flint.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: During a parley scene, Cpt. Smollett orders John to sit down, which John does on the condition that someone help him up after the conversation is finished. No one does, and Jim feels rather bad about this. This is all part of Smollett's plan. He wants to anger Silver so that he will order an immediate attack by the pirates, while the gentlemen are alert and prepared for it.
  • When It All Began: When Captain Flint buried his treasure on the island.
  • Year X: The story takes place "in the year of grace 17—".

Adaptations with their own trope pages include:

Tropes from adaptations that don't have their own pages:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Trelawney, Smollett and even Dr. Livesey are all subjected to this in the 1999 version, to justify Long John's portrayal and Jim's decision to join him and Ben Gunn at the end.
  • Anthropomorphic Animal Adaptation: Animal Treasure Island is a partial example. There are a few human children (notably Jim, the main character), but all the pirates are portrayed as animals. There is also The Legends of Treasure Island where everyone is an animal.
  • Large Ham: The sets of the 1934 film must have shook from the volume of Lionel Barrymore's bellowing as Billy Bones.
  • Left Stuck After Attack: In the Soviet animated adaptation, a drunken fight between Israel Hands and O'Brian starts with them angrily bashing on a table. Hands bashes through the table, and O'Brian uses it to bitch-slap him, only to run away in terror when Hands lifts the table and chases him waving it over his head. He quickly gets stuck in a door and O'Brian again scores some free kicks, until Hands finally breaks the table.
  • Lost in Translation: In the original Jim views the whole story as an ordeal, wants nothing to do with it, of which he says in not uncertain terms, and he's still often thrown off the bed when he dreams of it. In fact, the very first paragraph implies that he wasn't particularly keen on writing the story, but did so only because Trelawney and Livesey asked him to. The most popular Russian translation by Nikolay Chukovsky, while pretty faithful in most regards, throws his attitude completely out of the window, making it as if Jim likes the adventure.
  • Papa Wolf: Silver has been portrayed as this many times towards Jim.
  • Travel Montage: The 1934 film intercuts bits from the voyage with a shot of a map as the ship heads to the island where the treasure is buried.