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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.
  • Badass Longcoat: Alan wears a blue one that he got from his French allies, and he's so attached to it that he won't take it off even when he's on the run.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Mr Rankeillor the lawyer claims that he can't recognise anyone without his spectacles — and "accidentally" forgets them when going to meet Alan, so that he wouldn't recognise Alan as an outlaw, should anyone ask.
  • Border Crossing: Alan and David's final obstacle is to cross the Firth of Forth at Queensferry. On the north side, under military rule, they're wanted men; on the south side, the government is civilian and David can call on help from his lawyer. Neither can swim, but Alan reckons he can find a way to borrow a boat...
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Whenever he got drunk, Mr. Shaun would beat Ransome, and he finally killed the boy in an outburst over being given a dirty pan.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Ebenezer is tricked by Alan into admitting that he paid for David to be kidnapped - while in the presence of reliable witnesses.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Alan and Robin Macgregor have a contest to see who's the better piper. Alan loses.
  • Evil Uncle: Ebenezer, once he learns who David is, loses no time in trying to arrange an "accident" for him — or, failing that, sell him into slavery.
  • Gratuitous Latin: In-universe — David points out that Mr. Rankeillor peppers his speech with unnecessary Latin phrases and maxims. The first time he does it, he does have a purpose: he knows David can understand Latin, so by identifying the quotation David helps to establish his bona fides.
  • Historical Domain Character: Alan Breck Stuart and many other characters were real people.
  • Inheritance Murder: Played with: The people in Shaw spread rumors believing that Ebenezer had killed his brother, Alexander (David's father) in order to get his inheritance all to himself, but in actuality, Alexander left to live a quiet, humble life after getting to be with the woman both he and Ebenezer were in love with, allowing Ebenezer to have the wealth, and he died from unrelated causes.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: The chapter titles are each a brief preview of the contents, such as "I Set Off Upon My Journey" and "I Run a Great Danger".
  • 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. (Truth in Television — the historical gunman, whether he was Alan or someone else, was never brought to justice.)
    • 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.
  • Naïve Newcomer: David, who was never told about his connection to the Shaws clan until after his father's death, is unable to speak Gaelic, which causes language barriers with some of the people he encounters and he wasn't involved with any of the Scottish conflicts other than identifying as a Whig.
  • 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).
  • The Scrooge: Ebenezer is in possession of the lucrative family estates that rightfully belong to David, but he still lives like a miser in the few habitable rooms of his Big Fancy House.
  • Simple Solution Won't Work: When Alan is making a cross of heather with one of his buttons as a sign to one of his friends that he is in need of help and is among the heather, David suggests that it would be easier to simply write to his friend. The problem? The friend can’t read.
  • Spoiled Brat: Uncle Ebenezer, in his backstory — he had everything he wanted, until he and his older brother fell in love with the same girl. When he found he wasn't her choice, he threw an immense tantrum.
  • 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.