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I suspect that Treasure Island, the adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, is not much read these days. In my youth, it was one of the “classics” that teachers put on the acceptable reading list for book reports.

I’m not sure now if I read the novel or saw one of  the movie adaptations first (probably the 1950 Disney version). I definitely read the Classics Illustrated comic version. (A series that started me on many a classic work of fiction.)

It is probably still considered a book for young people, but I suspect the vocabulary and sentence structures of most of those classics would be a tough reading assignment for today’s young readers.

As a lover of islands and of maps, the book had both those elements going for it. I certainly didn’t think of it back then as a “coming-of-age” story and commentary on morality, though it’s that too. For me, and most readers, it is an adventure tale. Young Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver and the pirates seemed to live a pretty cool life.

Reading it today, a kid would think it ripped off all the many versions that have come since – some with the Treasure Island name, some with other names. But Stevenson was the original for many pirate standards such as a treasure map marked with an “X”, schooners and one-legged sailors with parrots on their shoulders.

But the map of the island fascinated me. The hardcover edition I read had a map as the inside covers and I studied it and copied it and then modified it. I made many treasure maps as a kid. Some were imaginary places. Some were my neighborhood places. Years later, I had my students make literary maps of novels we read in class.

Treasure-island-map-Stevenson

Stevenson’s map

Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired for novel by a painting he had made while playing with his stepson.  In the introduction to one of the editions to the novel, he wrote:

stevenson“On one of these occasions, I made the map of an island; it was elaborately and (I thought) beautifully coloured; the shape of it took my fancy beyond expression; it contained harbours that pleased me like sonnets; and with the unconsciousness of the predestined, I ticketed my performance ‘Treasure Island.’ I am told there are people who do not care for maps, and find it hard to believe. The names, the shapes of the woodlands, the courses of the roads and rivers, the prehistoric footsteps of man still distinctly traceable up hill and down dale, the mills and the ruins, the ponds and the ferries, perhaps the Standing Stone or the Druidic Circle on the heath; here is an inexhaustible fund of interest for any man with eyes to see or twopence-worth of imagination to understand with! No child but must remember laying his head in the grass, staring into the infinitesimal forest and seeing it grow populous with fairy armies.”

He said that just staring at the map made the book “appear.” He could see characters, the woods, fights and hunting treasure, and he started outlining chapters.

64 treasure island

 

I am still up for a treasure hunt, if anyone is interested.

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