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Literature / Journey to the Center of the Earth

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First, an 1864 Jules Verne Science Fiction novel (the French original being titled Voyage au centre de la Terre) about a German professor and his nephew, who travel down volcanic tubes in an extinct Icelandic volcano. They then discover prehistoric animals and all sorts of danger as they go down farther. Verne was inspired by Charles Lyell's Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man to write it, although the science has not aged very well compared to his other books (at least, science as Professor Lidenbrock describes it — see the What We Now Know to Be True entry below).

The novel has had numerous adaptations over time:

There was also an Animated Adaptation by Filmation in the late '60s, and a Concept Album (plus sequel and expanded remake) by Rick Wakeman.

This novel contains examples of:

  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Graüben" is not even close to an actual German name; the sequence "aü" is virtually non-existent in German. Some translations, including the German one, call her Gretchen instead.
  • Behemoth Battle: The ichthyosaur and plesiosaur are so huge they're first thought to be five separate giant animals as different parts of their bodies emerge (a porpoise, an iguana, and a crocodile for the first, a sea serpent and giant turtle for the second).
  • Beneath the Earth: The bulk of the novel takes place in a mazelike complex of caverns beneath the Earth, going from lava tubes nearest to the surface to more and more complex cave systems deeper down, ending with the enormous cavern that houses the Lidenbrock Sea.
  • Break the Scientist: Invoked, as Axel knows the whole concept of a hollow-earth journey makes absolutely no sense (see the "Science Marches On" entry on the Trivia page).
  • Cargo Envy: Axel's sweetheart Grauben is an amateur geologist who spends time classifying rock samples, and Axel states he's quite jealous of the minerals she's cleaning.
  • Come to Gawk: Lidenbrock has a problem saying certain complicated scientific words, leading to a lot of histrionics on his part. Most people who attend his lectures are there to watch him struggle with the recalcitrant term until he manages to spit it out.
  • Comic Trio: Notably lampshaded, proving that this trope is older than the Three Stooges. Axel sees himself as the Only Sane Man, with Professor Otto Lidenbrock as the idiotic leader and Hans as the even more idiotic follower. He later changes his mind...
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The explorers are carried up the tube of a volcano by lava on their raft of fossilized wood (an asbestos dish in the 1959 movie, a dinosaur skull in the 2008 one) which in real life would get them cooked alive (Axel notes the temperature rises to 70°C). Some editions avoid this by having them be carried up by water (which was the case for the first part of the ascent), the implication being that lava below has caused a geyser-effect to blow them out of the volcano.
  • Dub Name Change: Some editions of the novel change Axel's name to "Harry Lawson", Lidenbrock's name to "Von Hardwigg" and/or Graüben to Gretchen.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Professor Otto Lidenbrock of the Johanneum in Hamburg.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: At the beginning of the book, the narrator, having broken an ancient explorer's code, shows his uncle how the code is written. Unfortunately, he has his love for his uncle's ward on the brain, and the phrase he codes is that he loves her... Thankfully for everyone, his uncle's response amounts to, "Huh. Well, we'll talk about that later."
  • Fungus Humongous: The explorers find a grove of mushrooms forty feet high and with caps equally broad when they first reach the shores of the Lidenbrock Sea.
  • It's the Journey That Counts: The heroes don't get anywhere near the center of the Earth, but they become world famous anyway since the discoveries they've made are plenty revolutionary on their own.
    • The 1959 film changes this; having them pass through the center of the Earth while sailing on the upper surface of the underground ocean. How that was supposed to work was not explained.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Professor Lidenbrock has shades of this, as does Axel, but with varying degrees compared to Lidenbrock.
  • Jungle Opera: A chronicle of the adventures of a German researcher, his adventurous nephew, and a geologist as they explore some dormant lava tubes within an Icelandic volcano. Though they never get to the center of the Earth, they do discover oodles of wonders and marvels, concluding with the discovery of a lake, warmed by fumaroles, that's home to heretofore extinct dinosaurs.
  • Living Dinosaurs: Might be the Ur-Example; a plesiosaur and an ichthyosaur fight in the middle of the Lidenbrock Sea.
  • The Load: Axel, dear Axel. He spends the entire book moaning about going on the trip and trying to stop them from going, always trying to get everybody to turn back, and constantly fainting and getting lost. It was also his idea to use the gun-cotton near the end. In his defense, he really didn't want to go on the expedition, but was too afraid of Lidenbrock to say no to him.
  • Lost World: The Lidenbrock Sea, home to a great variety of primordial Sea Monsters, and its shores, covered in forests of giant fungi and prehistoric jungles inhabited by mastodons and giant ape-like men.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor Lidenbrock; at least of the one-track mind type.
  • The Millstone: Axel, whose chef contributions to the trip consist of getting lost and complaining about how much he doesn't want to be there (although in his defense, he never wanted to come to begin with and only went because his uncle made him), although he arguably functions as professor Lidenbrock's Morality Pet.
  • Mundane Solution: How do you get a large, heavy bundle of ropes, blankets, clothing, etc. down a thousand-foot vertical shaft? You drop it.
  • My Girl Back Home: Graubennote  (Gretchen in many English editions). She's from the rural Vierlande ("four lands") near Hamburg.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Axel's idea to use the gun-cotton not only nearly kills them and puts an end to the expedition, but also destroys the way downwards.
  • No Endor Holocaust: What happened to the Lidenbrock Sea and its unique flora and fauna after the explosion?
  • Not So Extinct: Many prehistoric animals are revealed to still live deep in the Earth, including mastodons, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, Glyptodon, Megatherium and a few others.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The fact that we don't really learn anything about the 12-foot man that Lidenbrock and Axel encounter, or find out what would have happened if they had been spotted by him. It arguably makes him far more mysterious and frightening.
  • Nuclear Candle: After the darkness of the tunnels, the vast cavern containing the Lidenbrock Sea is brightly lit by a mysterious source of illumination, which the travellers presume is from some kind of natural electricity.
  • Pet the Dog: Lidenbrock becomes quite sympathetic when he thinks his quest will result in Axel's death, but then reverts back to his usual behaviour as soon as they're safe again.
  • Prehistoric Monster: The ichthyosaur and plesiosaur are portrayed as nothing more than vicious, terrifying and dangerous monsters. The caveman might count as well.
  • The Quiet One: Hans, professor Lidenbrock's and Axel's Icelandic guide. Although since Axel can't speak with him due to the language barrier, it doesn't make much difference.
  • Saying Too Much: When Axel figures out the cipher to Arne Saknussemm's note, the example he uses to demonstrate it accidentally reveals his love for Grauben, Lidenbrock's ward. Amusingly, Lidenbrock completely ignores this revelation as he's more interested in decrypting the note.
  • Sea Monster: The ichthyosaur and plesiosaur, ferocious Prehistoric Monsters lurking in the depths of the underground sea.
  • Sea Serpents: The explorers briefly mistake the ichthyosaur and plesiosaur for a tangle of monsters including a sea serpent, which is simply the plesiosaur's long neck.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: It could have been a good idea for Grauben to join the expedition instead of Axel. Even if she had been no more useful than Axel was, at least she wouldn't have been whining all the time, as she at least wanted to join ... but she could not, because she's a girl.
  • The Stoic: Hans, who rarely speaks more than one word at a time. In fact, the only sign of emotion he shows is at the very end when he heads back to Iceland, cracking a smile as he says goodbye.
  • Sundial Waypoint: How they locate the cave entrance, and the cause of Lindenbrock's frenzy at the beginning of the book: if they don't get to Iceland as soon as possible they'll have to wait another year for it to happen.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: The translator working for Griffith & Farran was apparently so xenophobic and jingoistic that he couldn’t countenance the viewpoint character not being English (or worse, thought his readers would be so bigoted) and thus renamed Axel to Harry and changed his nationality from German to English, with his mother’s sister having married Lidenbrock (renamed Von Hardwigg) and then died. In Verne’s original there is no hint that Lidenbrock ever married or that he isn’t Axel’s biological uncle.
  • What We Now Know to Be True: Axel keeps protesting every step of their adventure with fairly accurate comments about the heat and pressure of the Earth's interior, and the sheer impossibility of a navigable passage leading to the center of the Earth, all of which his uncle brushes aside as outdated theory. It's left open at the end who would've been proven right if they'd kept going.

Alternative Title(s): Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth