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Literature / Kidnapped

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A poster for Disney's Film of the Book.

Kidnapped is an 1886 Historical Fiction adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is set in 18th century Scotland and includes real people and events. A lesser-known sequel, Catriona (or David Balfour, depending on your country) was published in 1893.

David Balfour's father has just died, leaving him with a letter of introduction to be given to Mr. Ebenezer Balfour of the House of Shaws - a person and place David has never heard of. Nevertheless, he goes to the House of Shaws, which turns out to be a near-ruin, and Mr. Ebenezer Balfour turns out to be his uncle. The two do not get on well, and Ebenezer tries to kill David. When this fails, he pays Captain Hoseason, a friend of his, to take David to the Carolinas to be sold as a slave. Then the ship David is a prisoner on hits a fishing boat and as a result gains a new passenger, Alan Breck Stuart, who the Captain plans to have killed. David warns Alan, and the two become friends. Then the ship is wrecked, and things go from bad to worse...


It can be read here. It has been adapted multiple times, including a 1960 Disney version.

Not to be confused with the NBC cop show or the MTV game show.

Kidnapped provides examples of:

  • Age Lift: A minor example but historically Alan was forty in 1751 but the novel refers to him as being five years younger.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy:
    • A very grim version: Mr. Shaun commits murder while under the influence of alcohol.
    • A less grim version: Alan, while under the influence of drink, convinces a very sick David to give him money for gambling.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alan has his moments.
    Alan: It would certainly be much simpler to write to [a friend of his], but it would be a sore job for John Breck to read it. He would have to go to school for two-three years; and it's possible we might be wearied waiting on him.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Alan and Robin Macgregor have a contest to see who's the better piper. Alan loses.
  • Historical Domain Character: Alan Breck Stuart and many other characters were real people.
  • Jerkass: Uncle Ebenezer.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Alan is arrogant, a Blood Knight, and rather inconsiderate of others at times, but he truly cares for David.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • So who did kill the Red Fox? Whoever it was, he got away with it, and Alan and David took the blame.
    • Averted with Mr. Shuan, who kills Ransome, and is then killed by Alan.
    • Downplayed for Ebenezer, who faces no charges for selling his nephew to slavery, but is forced to pay David two thirds of his income yearly for the rest of his life.
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor Ransome.
  • Love Triangle: David's father and uncle were both in love with the same girl. David's father got the girl and his uncle got the estate.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: An attacker tries to ambush them by jumping down directly in front of David's gun. David kills him in one shot.
  • Not So Remote: Unable to swim, David is stranded on the island of Earraid, off the coast of Mull. He finds himself stranded and starving for over four days. Fortunately, some fishermen come near the shore and tell him that the island is connected to the mainland at low tide. David could have simply walked to the mainland long before.
  • Odd Couple: David, a Whig who supports King George, and Alan, a Jacobite who supports Prince Charles (and is a deserter from the royalist side).
  • Spoiler Title: The title makes it very clear that someone is going to be kidnapped.
  • Tap on the Head: A sailor knocks David out from behind and he wakes up bound on the ship.
  • These Hands Have Killed: David is shaken after he kills for the first time, even though it was clearly in self defense. Alan is sympathetic and reassures him that he did what he had to do.
  • Tuckerization: Stevenson named David in tribute to his mother Margaret, whose maiden name was Balfour. She was a member of Clan Balfour and had many distinguished ancestors.
  • Walking the Earth: The main plot of the novel is Alan and David walking over the Highlands of Scotland while dodging redcoats.


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