It's time for the Second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest! Details here
Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh
Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh
More loneliness than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh
A Robinsonade is a plot about characters being stranded in the wilderness far away from civilization, and forced to live off the land in order to survive. Robinsonade takes its name from the 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe, which spawned enough imitations that its name was used to define a genre. The term was coined in 1731 by the German writer Johann Gottfried Schnabel in the Preface of his work Die Insel Felsenburg
At its heart, the Robinsonade is a Man vs. Nature conflict
. The characters are forced to battle for survival. Sometimes they succeed in style, turning their desolate location into a taste of paradise; sometimes they fail, descending into a pit of savagery. How easy this survival is depends on the location and the skill level of the person stranded. Depending on the work, the characters might find themselves in a bountiful paradise or an exceptionally hostile environment. Sometimes the person is already a skilled survivor before they become marooned, but more often they are forced to undergo a difficult learning process full of Character Development
. Additional conflicts can also be introduced. If a group of characters are marooned together, the Robinsonade allows for a variety of interpersonal interactions. Another variation is to have the location inhabited by natives, who can be either hostile or helpful.
The Deserted Island
is the archetypical setting of such stories. The island serves to keep the characters on it trapped, allowing attempts to get off the island to move the story forward. However, the location need not be an island. Any sufficiently isolated Wild Wilderness
will do. In Science Fiction
, a deserted planet
can be substituted for the island.
While many such works try to depict nature in a realistic manner, others delve into the realm of Speculative Fiction
. Characters may be forced to deal with some sort of strange phenomenon, such as Eldritch Abominations
, mutant man-eating shrews
, or mutant animal human hybrids
. This is especially likely if they are trapped in a Lost World
If a character is marooned alone or is willingly choosing solitude, he may Go Mad from the Isolation
. Compare with Closed Circle
and Bottle Episode
. Generally has nothing to do with Mrs. Robinson
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- 7 Seeds is entirely about this.
- Maison Ikkoku had a (subverted) desert island episode (released as an OVA) that is mostly notable for having one of the worst puns in Takahashi history in its title (and that's saying something), playing off "nanpa" being both "hit on/pick up girls" and "shipwreck".
- She did it again in the Ranma ½ manga, with Ranma and several girls fighting for their virtue when a plague turned all the males that had been shipwrecked with them into that most hideous of monsters — honeymooners on a tourist trip to Hawaii! Oh Noes!
- Mujin Wakusei Survive puts its cast on a deserted planet, and then, just to be thorough, starts them out on an island on said planet.
- The "Lincoln Island" arc from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
- Cast Away: A globetrotting FedEx efficiency expert (Tom Hanks) is marooned on a tropical island after a catastrophic plane crash and must survive alone for years, leading to a monumental attempt to escape to sea.
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars — just what it says.
- Hell In The Pacific: Two soldiers, one Japanese and one American, are marooned on an island in World War II. Neither understand the other's language, and after a period of hostility, work together to survive and escape the island.
- Alive was a movie based on a true story of the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes. The survivors were stranded in the mountains without food and resorted to eating the flesh of those killed in the crash.
- The Blue Lagoon — two kids are shipwrecked and grow up on a deserted island with no adult supervision.
- Paradise: a Blue Lagoon ripoff starring Willie Aames & Phoebe Cates.
- Swiss Family Robinson: The 1960 Disney Film of the Book, one of Disney's top grossing movies of all time, adjusting for inflation.
- Castaway On The Moon: After failing to kill himself by jumping off a bridge, the man is washed up on a deserted island in the middle of the river, but within view of the city's high-rises. He attempts to escape, but soon accepts his fate and the challenges in living on the island.
- Robinson Crusoe
- The Swiss Family Robinson : A marooned family...
- The original German title of the book, which translates roughly as "the Swiss Robinson Crusoes" (the family name is almost certainly not Robinson, unlike what the English title suggests) quite blatantly acknowledges the influence.
- The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
- Verne liked this trope: he also wrote Two Years Vacation (a bunch of New Zealand schoolboys) and The Robinson Crusoe School (the good-for-nothing son of a millionaire, who feels the young man needs to be toughened up). The preface of Two Years Vacation acknowledges it, describing the infinite number of books that could be written by dropping different groups of people onto different desert islands.
- The castaways in In Search of the Castaways have spent several years marooned on the next island over from The Mysterious Island, and that book ends with its villain, Ayrton, being left marooned there, where he can be rescued by the heros of The Mysterious Island, and redeem himself. And they in turn are rescued by the people who come back to collect Ayrton after leaving him in exile for twelve years.
- The Coral Island: Boys marooned, without adult company, who prosper.
- Lord of the Flies: Boys marooned, without adult company, who don't prosper. A Deconstruction of the genre, and specifically of The Coral Island (the main characters of which were named Ralph, Jack and Peterkin, corresponding to Lord of the Flies' Ralph, Jack and Piggy)
- Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert A. Heinlein — More marooned children, this time of mixed genders on an alien planet. They were intentionally marooned as part of a high school wilderness survival course. However, due to a small technological "hiccup," they were actually marooned for much longer than expected.
- Life of Pi is this on a boat. He actually does find an island partway through, but it turns out to be made out of carnivorous algae. So he gets back on the boat and leaves. Subverted in that He made it all up, possibly
- Jurassic Park, all of them.
- Ben Gunn in Treasure Island.
- The Island of Doctor Moreau.
- Dr Franklins Island by Ann Halam. Loosely based on H.G. Wells' novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, it tells the story of three teenagers who end up on an island owned by Dr. Franklin, a brilliant but insane scientist, who wants to use them as specimens for his transgenic experiments. The first chunk of the book is them struggling to survive as "prisoners in paradise". One even references the Swiss Family Robinson, saying that they salvaged a department store's worth of goods and they are doing pathetically in comparison.
- "Survivor Type", a short story by Stephen King. After an accident on a cruise, a lone man washes up on an island. In an unusual variation, it's a very tiny island with absolutely nothing growing on it. Occasionally he lucks out and catches a bird, or some dead sealife washes ashore. Guess what he eats the rest of the time. Go on, guess.
- Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, is a YA novel about a 13-year-old boy who is lost in the northern Canadian wilderness when the light plane taking him to visit his father crashes in a lake. He starts out with only a hatchet, but later in the summer, manages to salvage some other gear from the downed plane after a storm moves it closer to the shore of the lake. A three-time Newbery Award Winner (No, no Death by Newbery Medal) it's as much a coming of age story as a robinsonade.
- The first half of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley is a robinsonade featuring teenaged Alec Ramsey and the title stallion on a small island following a shipwreck.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Clone Wars: Wild Space has this happen to Obi-Wan and Bail Organa. As expected it's of the marooned-on-a-deserted-planet variety.
- My Side of the Mountain plays with this trope by having the young protagonist purposefully go into the wilderness alone, with the intent of living off the land. Despite his determination to survive on his own and his careful study and preparation for wilderness survival, he still ends up visiting a nearby town from time to time.
- Steel Beach by John Varley has a section with this trope, initially somewhat inexplicably. It turns out to be a set of fictitious implanted memories of the protagonist spending time in a Robinson Crusoe manner living normally, used as a method of therapy by the AI overseeing everything, to try to help with psychological disorders e.g. suicidal depression
- The Col Sec Trilogy at very least owes a lot to the concept.
- Friday, or, The Other Island by Michel Tournier is a literal retelling of Robinson Crusoe with the key difference that two thirds into the book pretty much every thing Robinson built is destroyed in a gunpowder explosion and Friday ends up educating Robinson in living a life more attuned to nature. When the rescue ship comes Robinson decides to stay but to his horror Friday leaves...but a young boy from the ship has also decided to sneak onto the island. Robinson names him "Sunday".
- The Cay: A black man and a blind, racist white boy get stranded on an island.
- The Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor. The plot involves the crash of a transport aircraft in the middle of a desert and the survivors' desperate attempt to save themselves. The book was the basis for the 1965 film The Flight of the Phoenix starring James Stewart and the 2004 remake.
- The Martian by Andy Weir. Mark Watney was left for dead when disaster struck his expedition to Mars. He'll have to survive on his own and travel thousands of miles to the landing site of the next mission, which isn't due for over four years.
Live Action TV
- Angel: Fred. "I've been trying to make an enchilada out of tree bark."
- LOST — a Deserted Island with plenty of Phlebotinum
- Gilligan's Island.
- Lost in Space where the family was even the Robinsons IN SPACE!!
- For most of season 1 they were stranded on an unknown planet. At the beginning of season 2 they managed to take off, only to crash land on an almost identical planet. D'oh! At least in season 3 they managed to actually get back into space.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: Kirk maroons Khan in the episode "Space Seed". Also, Zephram Cochran (inventor of Warp Drive) was stranded all alone on a deserted something-or-other in space.
- Khan and his augments actually made a fairly good living on the world they were marooned on. Then a nearby planet exploded and it promptly became a Crapsack World and Khan's wife died...
- Flight 29 Down was a show about a bunch of kids and a pilot who got stranded on an island after their plane crashed. They split up, and the show focuses on one group of kids, while the others are off-screen with the pilot for most of the series.
- Survivor takes the cynical version where everyone turns on each other and makes it an actual competition.
- Primeval stranded Abby and Connor in the Cretaceous for a year. They managed to do rather well given their lack of supplies, but although they were in good health when they returned, the entire experience was clearly traumatic. It's likely that their nascent romance played a major role in keeping them sane, together, and alive.
- Also notable as one of the few examples on this list where running into dinosaurs would be quite normal.
- In an episode of Quantum Leap, "The Leaping of the Shrew", Sam leaps into the body of a Greek sailor who's shipwrecked on an island with a spoiled heiress (played by Brooke Shields from the above-mentioned The Blue Lagoon), who was planning to enter an Arranged Marriage before her yacht capsized. Sam helps set up shelter for them and attempts to create a signal flare with her aerosol hairspray can, but she had used up all the hairspray. She later reveals that she intentionally emptied the hairspray cans because she had fallen in love with the sailor and didn't want to return to civilization and her arranged marriage. According to Sam, the two would be rescued in ten years, by which time they would have four children, and would be Happily Married for many years after their rescue.
- Mythbusters did an episode on this, with the cast having to make do using only the materials found on a big pallet of duct tape.
- A frequent plot device in the Newspaper Comics strip Prince Valiant is that when Val takes a sea voyage, his ship almost inevitably gets waylaid on some cursed island with a puzzle Val must solve to avoid the crew being trapped forever or killed.
- Parodied in the Monkey Island games with Herman Toothrot, the crazy old hermit living on the titular island who, in the fourth game, is revealed to be the amnesiac grandfather of the Love Interest. He has a boat. He just doesn't use it because it's traditional to wait and be rescued.
- If you've sunk your own boat by the time you get as far as being ready to head home, Herman will even lend you his boat so that you can rescue him in it.
- Parody: The Hub Level of Super Mario Sunshine has a pianta stuck on a desert island (about 100 feet offshore of the capital city) for "the last ten years" because he can't swim. When the ocean floods (!), he manages to swim to a city rooftop — But then he misses sitting on the island.
- Paper Mario 2 has a chapter in which the characters are shipwrecked on an island. The community that ends up being built there flourishes, so most of the former crew decided to stay even after they get an undead pirate captain to ferry them back and fourth to the mainland whenever they want.
- The Survival Kids/Lost in Blue series uses this as its main plot driver: You are a child (or young adult) stranded on a desert island, and must either figure out how to escape or how to thrive in your new surroundings.
- Stranded: Robinsonade the Game.
- Robinson's Requiem it's right there in the title.
- Tomb Raider (2013) (the Grim Dark reboot) puts Lara and the crew of Endurance in this situation. The Man vs. Nature part is subverted though, because the weather really is controlled by a vengeful undead witch-queen.
- Though not survival-oriented, Proteus certainly follows the alone-on-an-island part to the letter. There's no sign that humans ever inhabited the island, and even animals are a tad scarce, so you'd best not be craving companionship when you play.
- Minecraft is something like this — you must build shelter, gather resources and fight monsters when night falls with no other humans around (excluding Villagers, who are more like neanderthals than the main character, Steve?). It can even potentially follow the trope further straight if (like this guy) you spawn on a "Far Side" Island far from any sort of mainland.
- In The Forest, you are the survivor of a plane crash on a tropical island inhabited by cannibal tribes. The game's core requires to harvest food and various material (leaves, rocks, sticks, etc), scavenge things, build shelters (you actually can create actual camps with customized walls) and tools, make fire. And fight against the cannibals.
- In RimWorld, your first three characters are the survivors of some unspecified disaster that destroyed their visiting spacecraft, leaving them stranded on an undeveloped planet with just the right supplies to allow them to set up a basic farm and some shelter.
- And Shine Heaven Now, with the Obligatory Desert Island arc.
- Narbonic has the main cast on a recently deserted island just before the false ending.
- Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration of the original Robinson Crusoe, was a Scottish Privateer who more-or-less voluntarily chose to remain on the Juan Fernandez Island off Chile. (To be precise, he elected to remain behind, since he was worried about the seaworthyness of their ship. As they sailed off, he regretted it immediately; but the captain, in a notorious Kick the Dog moment, refused to admit him on board because he didn't like Selkirk.) It should be noted that Selkirk was vindicated shortly thereafter when the ship sank. Selkirk lived on the island for four years, feeding first on shellfish, and later by eating the feral goats he could hunt inland, when sea lions drove him away from the shore. He was rescued by gentleman privateer William Dampier in 1709, and his story later became famous.
- A more tragic example from real life: in May, 1724, Dutch sailor Leendert Hasenbosch was marooned on Ascension Island in the Atlantic for being gay. And, he only got to be marooned because he was an officer; a lower rank sailor would just be drowned. He could not find a substantial supply fresh water on the island, and had to drink turtle blood as well as his own urine, but it did not help. In May of 1725, a British ship reached Ascension and found his tent as well as his diary, with its last note from 9-14 October 1724, reading "everything as before". "Before" meaning plagued by unquenchable thirst, mind you, and fruitlessly pleading to God for mercy. The irony being that his story got quite popular in England, ''because it showed how homosexuality was punished.'' His story is notable for being one of the few where a more or less complete story of a castaway that died is known, since he wrote a diary that was found. Most who die are simply lost to history.
- Happened a number of times in the South Pacific during WWII, the best-known case being that of John F. Kennedy and his PT boat crew who survived several days in the Solomons before being rescued by natives and coastwatchers. Also arguably the case for Japanese holdouts.
- Francisco del Puerto was a cadet of the Spanish expedition of Juan Díaz de Solís to the Americas. Solís discovered the Río de la Plata and landed in modern Uruguay for the first contact with the natives. He was killed on sight, a few survivors escaped back to Europe, and Francisco del Puerto was left behind. He was found several years later by Sebastian Cabot. Del Puerto told him the myths he had heard about a "white king" and a hill of pure silver, and several Spanish expeditions tried in vain to locate this hill. This is the reason of the name of Argentina, which means "land of silver", even when it never had any silver sources.
- A standard feature of military training, and also used by personal development courses such as Outward Bound's "solo".