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Treasure Island

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Treasure Island
Treasure Island-Scribner's-1911.jpg
Cover illustration from 1911
Author(s) Robert Louis Stevenson
Cover artist N.C. Wyeth
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Adventure
Young Adult Literature
Publisher London: Cassell and Company (Now part of Orion Publishing Group)
Publication date 1883

Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "pirates and buried gold". First published as a book on 23rd May 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island; or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola and the pseudonym Captain George North.

Traditionally considered a coming-of-age story, it is an adventure tale known for its atmosphere, character and action, and also a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality—as seen in Long John Silver—unusual for children's literature then and now. It is one of the most frequently dramatised of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perception of pirates is vast, including treasure maps with an "X", schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.


Stevenson was 30 years old when he started to write Treasure Island, and it would be his first success as a novelist. The first fifteen chapters were written at Braemar in the Scottish Highlands in 1881. It was a cold and rainy late-summer and Stevenson was with five family members on holiday in a cottage. Young Lloyd Osbourne, Stevenson's stepson, passed the rainy days painting with watercolours. Remembering the time, Lloyd wrote:

... busy with a box of paints I happened to be tinting a map of an island I had drawn. Stevenson came in as I was finishing it, and with his affectionate interest in everything I was doing, leaned over my shoulder, and was soon elaborating the map and naming it. I shall never forget the thrill of Skeleton Island, Spyglass Hill, nor the heart-stirring climax of the three red crosses! And the greater climax still when he wrote down the words "Treasure Island" at the top right-hand corner! And he seemed to know so much about it too — the pirates, the buried treasure, the man who had been marooned on the island ... . "Oh, for a story about it", I exclaimed. ... .

Within three days of drawing the map for Lloyd, Stevenson had written the first three chapters, reading each aloud to his family who added suggestions. Lloyd insisted there be no women in the story which was largely held to with the exception of Jim Hawkins' mother at the beginning of the book. Stevenson's father took a child-like delight in the story and spent a day writing out the exact contents of Billy Bones's sea-chest, which Stevenson adopted word-for-word; and his father suggested the scene where Jim Hawkins hides in the apple barrel. Two weeks later a friend, Dr. Alexander Japp, brought the early chapters to the editor of Young Folks magazine who agreed to publish each chapter weekly. Stevenson wrote at the rate of a chapter a day for fifteen days straight, then ran dry of words, partly due to his health. He had never earned his keep by age thirty-one, and was desperate to finish the book. He turned to the proofs, corrected them, took morning walks alone, and read other novels.

As autumn came to Scotland, the Stevensons left their summer holiday retreat for London, and Stevenson was troubled with a life-long chronic bronchial condition. Concerned about a deadline they travelled in October to Davos, Switzerland where the break from work and clean mountain air did him wonders, and he was able to continue at the rate of a chapter a day and soon finished the storyline.

Map created by Robert Louis Stevenson

During its initial run in Young Folks from October 1881 to January 1882, Treasure Island failed to attract attention or even increase the sales of the magazine, but when sold as a book in 1883 it soon became very popular. The Prime Minister, Gladstone, was reported to have stayed up until two in the morning to finish it. Critics widely praised it. American novelist Henry James praised it as "perfect as a well-played boy's game". Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote "I think Stevenson shows more genius in a page than Sir Walter Scott in a volume". Stevenson was paid 34 pounds seven shillings and sixpence for the serialization and 100 pounds for the book.

Thanks to Stevenson's letters and books , we know a great deal about his sources and inspirations. The initial catalyst was the island map, which was essentially the whole plot to him as author, he said. He mailed the map with his manuscript to the book publisher and was later told the map had been lost. He had no copy and was devastated. To Stevenson, the map he tediously reconstructed from memory and reference to the text was never the real Treasure Island. The novel also drew from memories of works by Daniel Defoe, Edgar Allan Poe's " The Gold-Bug", and Washington Irving's " Wolfert Webber", of which Stevenson said, "It is my debt to Washington Irving that exercises my conscience, and justly so, for I believe plagiarism was rarely carried farther.. the whole inner spirit and a good deal of the material detail of my first chapters.. were the property of Washington Irving." The novel At Last by Charles Kingsley was also a key inspiration.

The character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend William Ernest Henley, a writer and editor, who had lost his lower leg to tuberculosis of the bone. Lloyd Osbourne described him as "..a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch." In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island, Stevenson wrote "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you".

Stevenson had never encountered real pirates: the " Golden Age of Piracy" had ended more than a century before he was born. However, his descriptions of sailing and seamen and sea life are very convincing. His father and grandfather were both lighthouse engineers and frequently voyaged around Scotland inspecting lighthouses, taking the young Robert along. Two years before writing Treasure Island he had crossed the Atlantic Ocean. So authentic were his descriptions that in 1890 William Butler Yeats told Stevenson that Treasure Island was the only book from which his seafaring grandfather had ever taken any pleasure.

"The effect of Treasure Island on our perception of pirates cannot be overestimated. Stevenson linked pirates forever with maps, black schooners, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders. The treasure map with an X marking the location of the buried treasure is one of the most familiar pirate props", yet it is entirely a fictional invention which owes its origin to Stevenson's original map. The term "Treasure Island" has passed into the language as a common phrase, and is often used as a title for games, rides, places, etc.

Plot summary

Jim Hawkins sitting in the apple-barrel, listening to the pirates

The novel is divided into 6 parts and 34 chapters: Jim Hawkins is the narrator of all these except for chapters 16-18 which are narrated by Doctor Livesey.

The novel opens in a seaside village in south-west England in the mid-18th century. The narrator, Jim Hawkins, is the young son of the owners of the Admiral Benbow Inn. An old drunken seaman named Billy Bones becomes a long-term lodger at the inn, only paying for about the first week of his stay. Jim quickly realizes that Bones is in hiding, and that he particularly dreads meeting an unidentified seafaring man with one leg. Some months later, Bones is visited by a mysterious sailor named Black Dog. Their meeting turns violent, Black Dog flees, and Bones suffers a stroke. While Jim cares for him, Bones confesses that he was once the mate of the late notorious pirate, Captain Flint, and that his old crewmates want Bones's sea chest.

Some time later, another of Bones's crewmates, a blind man aptly named Blind Pew, appears at the inn and forces Jim to lead him to Bones. Blind Pew gives Bones a paper. After Pew leaves, Bones opens the paper to discover the Black Spot, a pirates' summons, with the warning that he has until ten o'clock, and he drops dead of apoplexy (in this context, a stroke) on the spot. Jim and his mother open Bones' sea chest to collect the amount due for Bones's room and board, but before they can count out the money that they are due, they hear pirates approaching the inn and are forced to flee and hide, Jim taking with him a mysterious oilskin packet from the chest. The pirates, led by Pew, find the sea chest and the money, but are frustrated that the chest does not contain "Flint's fist." Revenue agents approach and the pirates escape to their vessel (except for Blind Pew, who is accidentally run down and killed by the agents' horses).

Jim takes the mysterious oilskin packet to Dr. Livesey, as he is a "gentleman and a magistrate", and he, Squire Trelawney and Jim Hawkins together examine it, finding a logbook detailing the treasure looted during Captain Flint's career, and a detailed map of an island, with the location of Flint's treasure caches marked on it. Squire Trelawney immediately plans to outfit a sailing vessel to hunt the treasure down, with the help of Dr. Livesey and Jim. Livesey warns Trelawney to be silent about their objective.

Going to Bristol, Trelawney buys a schooner named the "Hispaniola", hires a Captain Smollett to command her, and retains Long John Silver, owner of "The Spy-glass" tavern and a former sea cook, to run the galley. Silver helps Trelawney to hire the rest of his crew. When Jim comes to Bristol and visits Silver at the Spy Glass tavern, his suspicions are immediately aroused: Silver is missing a leg, like the man Bones warned about, and Black Dog is sitting in the tavern. Black Dog runs away at the sight of Jim, and Silver denies all knowledge of the fugitive so convincingly that he wins Jim's trust.

Despite Captain Smollett's misgivings about the mission and Silver's hand-picked crew, the Hispaniola sets sail for the Caribbean Sea. As they near their destination, Jim crawls into the ship's apple barrel to get some apples. While inside, he overhears Silver talking secretly with some of the other crewmen. Silver admits that he was Captain Flint's quartermaster and that several of the other crew were also once Flint's men, and he is recruiting more men from the crew to his own side. After Flint's treasure is recovered, Silver intends to murder the Hispaniola's officers, and keep the loot for himself and his men. When the pirates have gone back to their berths, Jim warns Smollett, Trelawney, and Livesey of the impending mutiny.

When they reach Treasure Island, the bulk of Silver's men go ashore immediately. Although Jim is not yet aware of this, Silver's men have given him the Black Spot and demanded to seize the treasure immediately, discarding Silver's own more careful plan to postpone any open mutiny or violence until after the treasure is safely aboard. Jim lands with Silver's men, but runs away from them almost as soon as he is ashore. Hiding in the woods, Jim sees Silver murder Tom, a crewman loyal to Smollett. Running for his life, he encounters Ben Gunn, another ex-crewman of Flint's who has been marooned three years on the island, but who treats Jim kindly in return for a chance of getting back to civilization.

In the meanwhile, Trelawney, Livesey, and their men surprise and overpower the few pirates left aboard the Hispaniola. They row to shore and move into an abandoned, fortified stockade on the island, where they are soon joined by Jim Hawkins, having left Ben Gunn behind. Silver approaches under a flag of truce and tries to negotiate Smollett's surrender; Smollett rebuffs him utterly, and Silver flies into a rage, promising to attack the stockade. "Them that die'll be the lucky ones," he threatens as he storms off. The pirates assault the stockade, but in a furious battle with losses on both sides, they are worsted and driven off.

During the night, Jim sneaks out of the stockade, takes Ben Gunn's coracle and approaches the Hispaniola under cover of darkness. He cuts the ship's anchor cable, setting her adrift and out of reach of the pirates on shore. After daybreak, he manages to approach the schooner again and board her. Of the two pirates left aboard, only one is still alive: the coxswain, Israel Hands, who has murdered his comrade in a drunken brawl, and been badly wounded in the process himself. Hands agrees to help Jim helm the ship to a safe beach in exchange for medical treatment and brandy, but once the ship is approaching the beach, Hands tries to murder Jim. Jim escapes him by climbing the rigging, and when Hands tries to skewer him with a thrown dirk, Jim reflexively shoots Hands dead.

Having beached the Hispaniola securely, Jim returns to the stockade under cover of night and sneaks back inside. Because of the darkness, he does not realize until too late that the stockade is now occupied by the pirates, and he is easily captured. Silver, whose always-shaky command has become more tenuous than ever, seizes on Jim as a hostage, refusing his men's demands to kill him or torture him for information.

Silver's rivals in the pirate crew, led by George Merry, again give Silver the Black Spot and move to depose him as captain. Silver answers his opponents eloquently, rebuking them for defacing a page from the Bible to create the Black Spot and reveals that he has obtained the map to the treasure from Dr. Livesey, thus restoring the crew's confidence in him. The following day, the pirates search for the treasure. They are shadowed by Ben Gunn, who makes ghostly sounds to dissuade them from continuing, but Silver forges ahead and locates the place where Flint's treasure was buried. The pirates discover that the cache has been rifled and all of the treasure is gone.

The enraged pirates turn on Silver and Jim, but Ben Gunn, Dr. Livesey and Abraham Gray attack the pirates by surprise, killing two and dispersing the rest. Silver surrenders to Dr. Livesey, promising to return to his duty. They go to Ben Gunn's cave home, where Gunn has had the treasure hidden for some months. The treasure is divided amongst Trelawney and his loyal men, including Jim and Ben Gunn, and they return to England, leaving the surviving pirates marooned on the island. Silver escapes with the help of the fearful Ben Gunn and a small part of the treasure. Remembering Silver, Jim reflects that "I dare say he met his old Negress [wife], and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint [his parrot]. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."

Captain Flint backstory

Treasure Island contains numerous references to fictional past events, gradually revealed throughout the story and yielding a backstory that sheds light upon the events of the main plot.

The bulk of this backstory concerns the pirate Captain J. Flint, "the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that ever lived", who never appears, being dead before the main story opens. Flint was captain of the Walrus, with a long career, operating chiefly in the West Indies and the coasts of the southern American colonies. His crew included the following characters who also appear in the main story: Flint's first mate, William (Billy) Bones; his quartermaster John Silver; his gunner Israel Hands; and among his other sailors: George Merry, Tom Morgan, Blind Pew, "Black Dog" and Allardyce (who becomes Flint's "pointer" toward the treasure). Many other former members of Flint's crew were on the cruise of the Hispaniola, though it is not always possible to identify which were Flint's men and which later agreed to join the mutiny—-such as the boatswain Job Anderson and a mutineer "John", killed at the rifled treasure cache.

Flint and his crew were successful, ruthless, feared ("the roughest crew afloat"), and rich, if they could keep their hands on the money they stole. The bulk of the treasure Flint made by his piracy—-£700,000 worth of gold, silver bars and a cache of armaments—-was, however, buried on a remote Caribbean island. Flint brought the treasure ashore from the Walrus with six of his sailors, also building a stockade on the island for defence. When they had buried it, Flint returned to the Walrus alone-—having murdered all of the other six (many believing that "blood and gold were Flint's trademarks"). A map to the location of the treasure he kept to himself until his dying moments.

The whereabouts of Flint and his crew are obscure immediately thereafter, but they ended up in the town of Savannah, Province of Georgia. Flint was then ill, and his sickness was not helped by his immoderate consumption of rum. On his sickbed, which is said to have been located at the Pirates' House inn and tavern, he was remembered for singing the sea shanty "Fifteen Men" and ceaselessly calling for more rum, with his face turning blue. His last living words were "Darby M'Graw! Darby M'Graw!", and then, following some profanity, "Fetch aft the rum, Darby!". Just before he died, he passed on the treasure map to the mate of the Walrus, Billy Bones (or so Bones always maintained).

After Flint's death, the crew split up, most of them returning to England. They disposed of their shares of the unburied treasure diversely. John Silver held on to £2,000, putting it away safe in banks—and became a waterfront tavern keeper in Bristol, England. Pew spent £1,200 in a single year and for the next two years afterwards, begged and starved. Ben Gunn returned to the treasure island to try to find the treasure without the map, and as efforts to find it immediately failed, his crew mates marooned him on the island and left. Bones, knowing himself to be a marked man for his possession of the map (as soon as the other members of Flint's crew should desire to recover the treasure), looked for refuge in a remote part of England. His travels took him to the rural West Country seaside village of Black Hill Cove and the inn of the 'Admiral Benbow'.

Other characters

  • Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, the parents of Jim Hawkins.
  • Black Dog, one of the companions of Blind Pew, who visit the Spyglass Inn (used to be part of Flint's crew).
  • Tom Redruth: The gamekeeper of Squire Trelawney, he accompanies him to the island, but ends up being shot and killed by the mutineers before the attack on the stockade.
  • Richard Joyce: One of the manservants of Squire Trelawney, he accompanies him to the island, but is later shot through the head and killed by a mutineer at the attack on the stockade.
  • John Hunter: the other manservant of Squire Trelawney, he also accompanies him to the island, but is later knocked unconscious at the attack on the stockade. He then dies of his injuries while unconscious.
  • Abraham Gray: A ship's carpenter on the Hispaniola. He is almost incited to mutiny, but later defects to the other side when asked to do so by Captain Smollett. He saves Hawkins life by killing Job Anderson at the attack on the stockade, and he helps shoot the mutineers at the rifled treasure cache. He later escapes the island along with Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett, Long John Silver and Ben Gunn. He spends his part of the treasure on his education, marries, and then becomes part owner of a full-rigged ship.
  • Tom Morgan: An ex-pirate from Flint's old crew; he ends up being marooned on the island.
  • Job Anderson: The ship's boatswain and one of the leaders of the mutiny who is killed while trying to storm the blockhouse; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands (though this is never stated).
  • John: A mutineer who is injured while trying to storm the boathouse; he is later shown with a bandaged head, and ends up being killed at the rifled treasure cache; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands (though this is never stated).
  • O'Brien: A mutineer who survives the attack on the boathouse and escapes, but is later killed by Israel Hands in a drunken fight on the Hispaniola; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands (though this is never stated).
  • Dick: A mutineer who has a Bible. The pirates later use one of its pages to make a Black Spot. Dick later ends up being marooned on the island after the deaths of George Merry and John.
  • Mr. Arrow: The first mate of the Hispaniola. He drinks alcohol, even though there was a rule about no alcohol on board and is useless as an officer. He mysteriously disappears before they get to the island and his position is filled by Job Anderson. It seems likely that he was killed (explaining his disappearance, though this is never stated).
  • Tom: A sailor who afaraid and decides to stay honest. He starts to walk away from Long John Silver and the mutineer throws his crutch, breaking Tom's back. Silver then kills Tom by stabbing him twice.
  • Alan: A sailor who does not defect to mutiny. He is killed by the mutineers for his loyalty and his dying scream is heard by several of the others.
  • Additionally, there are minor characters, whose names are not revealed. Some of those are the four pirates who were killed at the attack on the stockade along with Job Anderson, the pirate who was killed by the honest men minus Jim Hawkins before the attack on the stockade, the pirate who was shot by Squire Trelawney (who was aiming at Israel Hands) and later died of his injuries, and the pirate who was marooned on the island along with Tom Morgan and Dick.

Themes and conflicts

One of the principal conflicts in Treasure Island is between the virtue of advanced civilization versus the indiscipline of man in his savage state. Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, and Captain Smollett, among the principal heroes, stand for virtues such as loyalty, truthfulness, thrift, discipline, religious faith, and temperance (especially with alcohol). The pirates suffer from drunkenness, impiety, and mutual betrayal, and tend to seize immediate gratification on the premise that life is short and uncertain. Long John Silver occupies a middle ground in this conflict: he shares the heroes' virtues of temperance, thrift, and deferred gratification, but only to aid him in achieving his ends, for which he is also willing to lie, betray, and murder. Most of the pirates can not even achieve Long John's level, which gives him a natural advantage in their company.

Truthfulness and loyalty

The novel can be seen as a bildungsroman, dealing, as it does, with the development and coming-of-age of its narrator, Jim Hawkins. Jim's moral development culminates when he promises Silver not to attempt an escape, and then meets with Dr. Livesey at the edge of the stockade. Jim, fearing that he may divulge the Hispaniola's location under torture, tells Livesey where the ship is so that the doctor can move it away before the pirates can find it. Moved by the prospect of a youngster facing torture, Livesey tells Jim to escape with him. Jim refuses, saying "I passed my word," adhering to the heroes' ethic of truthfulness even if it involves personal risk. Livesey counters by offering to make Jim's moral standing dependent on his own: "I'll take it on my shoulders, holus bolus, blame and shame, my boy." Jim refuses this dependency, choosing to act as an independent adult like Livesey and his comrades: "'No,' I replied, 'you know right well you wouldn't do the thing yourself--neither you, nor squire nor captain; and no more will I.'"

Several of the other heroes are remarkable for standing by their word, notably Dr. Livesey who, loyal to the Hippocratic Oath, keeps his word to render assistance to the sick, even those he despises such as Billy Bones and the pirates who have captured the stockade. It is mainly lack of loyalty and truthfulness that distinguish Long John Silver from the heroes, who otherwise share many values with him. Silver is not only a chronic liar, but an extremely skilled and convincing one. He pretends so convincingly not to know Black Dog that Jim Hawkins admits that "I would have gone bail for the innocence of Long John Silver." His tales to his fellow mutineers about his early career under Captains England and Flint are probably at least partly fanciful (see historical time frame below). When Jim Hawkins falls into his hands, Silver readily promises to abandon his crew and return to Captain Smollett's orders in exchange for Jim's intervention to spare Silver's life. Then, when he believes Flint's treasure is in his reach, Silver plans (at least according to Jim's perception) to go back on his word, kill Jim, and seize the Hispaniola for himself. Finally, when he finds the treasure gone, Silver again changes sides and betrays his crew. As his last ruse, Silver escapes his captivity with a bag of guineas and disappears.

Temperance versus drunkenness

One More Step, Mr. Hands by N. C. Wyeth, 1911, for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A strong contrast is constantly drawn between the drunkenness of the pirates (except Silver) and the temperance of the heroes, especially Dr. Livesey. Alcohol undoes many of the villains in Treasure Island. Captain Flint dies from excessive rum drinking. Dr. Livesey warns Billy Bones against drinking further after his first stroke; Bones ignores this warning, suffers a relapse, and dies. Drunkenness leads to the fatal fight between Israel Hands and O'Brien, enabling Jim Hawkins to recapture the Hispaniola. It is strongly implied that the drunken state of the pirates on the island leads to a lack of vigilance, enabling Ben Gunn to kill some of them in their sleep. It is Silver himself who most strongly warns Israel Hands against the consequences of overindulgence in alcohol: "But you're never happy till you're drunk. Split my sides, I've a sick heart to sail with the likes of you! ... You'll have your mouthful of rum tomorrow, and go hang."

Religion versus irreligion

The conflict of pierucy versus irreligion is mainly developed between Jim Hawkins and Israel Hands on the Hispaniola. Hands is feigning mortal illness, and Jim says that he should pray like a Christian man if he is nearing death. When Hands asks him why, Jim answers heatedly, "For God's mercy, Mr. Hands, that's why." Hands answers at uncharacteristic length, "I never seen good come o' goodness yet. Him as strikes first is my fancy; dead men don't bite; them's my views—Amen, so be it." Also, Jim's faith contrasts with Hands' scepticism regarding an afterlife. When discussing O'Brien, the pirate and mutineer that Hands has murdered, Jim says, "You can kill the body, Mr. Hands, but not the spirit; you must know that already ... O'Brien there is in another world, and maybe watching us." Hands replies, "Well, that's unfort'nate--appears as if killing parties was a waste of time. Howsomever, sperrits don't reckon for much, by what I've seen. I'll chance it with the sperrits, Jim."

Silver's place in the religious conflict is ambiguous. He utters dire imprecations against his shipmates for defacing a Bible, and warns that Dick, the man who yielded his Bible to be defaced, will suffer bad luck for the rest of his life. However, he says this in the context of his men trying to depose him as captain, and his religious threats may be merely tactical, intended to intimidate his opponents. Aside from the Bible incident, Silver shows no obvious inclination toward religion. Many of Silver's men, in turn, take the stigma of defacing the Bible quite seriously, indicating that they have religious feelings and fears of their own . But for both Silver and his men, the idea of inflicting physical damage to the Bible is more frightening than violating the Bible's precepts, suggesting a more ritual than spiritual outlook on religion.

Thrift versus profligacy

The conflict of thrift versus profligacy runs through much of the book. Most of the pirates are unable to hold on to their money; Silver relates that Pew "spends twelve hundred pound in a year, like a lord in Parliament. Where is he now? Well, he's dead now and under hatches, but for two year before that, shiver my timbers! the man was starving. He begged, and he stole, and he cut throats, and starved at that, by the powers!" Ben Gunn exceeds even Pew's lack of foresight; given a thousand pounds of Flint's treasure, he spends and gambles it all away in nineteen days.

According to Silver, these two are wholly typical of pirates: "[W]hen a cruise is done, why, it's hundreds of pounds instead of hundreds of farthings in their pockets. Now the most goes for rum and a good fling, and to sea again in their shirts." Silver himself, again, adheres to the virtue of thrift. Billy Bones manages to hang on to much of his money through the simple expedient of not paying his innkeeper. The heroes are largely thrifty: Jim Hawkins' mother will risk facing pirates rather than let Bones's debt to her go uncollected, Captain Smollett uses his share of the treasure to retire from the sea, and the loyal crewman Gray saves enough money to become a master's mate and raise a family.


Film and TV

There have been over 50 movie and TV versions made. Some of the notable ones include:


  • 1918 - Treasure Island (1918 film) -- Silent version released by Fox Film Corporation and directed by Sidney Franklin
  • 1920 - Treasure Island - A silent version starring Shirley Mason, released by Paramount Pictures and directed by Maurice Tourneur. Lost film.
  • 1934 - Treasure Island - Starring Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery. An MGM production, the first sound film version.
  • 1937 - Treasure Island - A loose Soviet adaptation starring Osip Abdulov and Nikolai Cherkasov, with a score by Nikita Bogoslovsky.
  • 1950 - Treasure Island - Starring Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton. Notable for being Disney's first completely live action film. A sequel to this version was made in 1954, called Long John Silver.
  • 1971 - Treasure Island - A Soviet (Lithuanian) film starring Boris Andreyev, with a score by Alexei Rybnikov.
  • 1971 - Animal Treasure Island - An anime film directed by Hiroshi Ikeda and written by Takeshi Iijima and Hiroshi Ikeda with story consultation by famous animator Hayao Miyazaki. This version replaced several of the human characters with animal counterparts.
  • 1972 - Treasure Island - Starring Orson Welles.
  • 1985 - L'Île au trésor
  • 1987 - L'isola del tesoro - Italian / German SF adaptation AKA Treasure Island in Outer Space starring Anthony Quinn as Long John Silver.
  • 1988 - Treasure Island (1988 film) - A critically acclaimed Soviet animation film in two parts. Released in the USA 1992 as Return to Treasure Island.
  • 1996 - Muppet Treasure Island
  • 1999 - Treasure Island - Starring Kevin Zegers and Jack Palance.
  • 2002 - Treasure Planet. A Disney animated version set in space, with Long John Silver as a cyborg and many of the original characters re-imagined as aliens except for Jim and his family.
  • 2006 - Pirates of Treasure Island - A direct-to-DVD film by The Asylum, which was released one month prior to Dead Man's Chest.
  • 2007 - Die Schatzinsel. A loosely adapted version, in German, starring German and Austrian actors, of the original novel.


  • 1955 - The Adventures of Long John Silver, 26 episodes shot at Pagewood Studios, Sydney, Australia filmed in full colour and starring Robert Newton
  • 1964 - Mr. Magoo's Treasure Island, a 2 part episode of the cartoon series The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo (1964) was based on the novel, with Mr. Magoo in the role of Long John Silver.
  • 1966 - "Die Schatzinsel" - German-French co-production for German television station ZDF.
  • 1968 - Treasure Island - BBC series of nine 25 minute episodes starring Peter Vaughn.
  • 1977 - Treasure Island - Starring Ashley Knight and Alfred Burke.
  • 1978 - Treasure Island (Takarajima) - A Japanese animated series adapted from the novel.
  • 1982 - Treasure Island - The best known Soviet adaptation of the book, in three parts, starring Oleg Borisov as John Silver
  • 1990 - Treasure Island - Starring Christian Bale, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee and Pete Postlethwaite. A made for TV film written, produced and directed by Heston's son, Fraser C. Heston.
  • 1993 - The Legends of Treasure Island - An animated series loosely based on the novel, with the characters as animals.
  • 1995 - In the Wishbone (TV series) episode "Salty Dog", Wishbone explores the story in a children's adapted version.

There are also a number of Return to Treasure Island sequels produced, including a 1986 Disney mini-series, a 1992 animation version, and a 1996 and 1998 TV version.

Theatre and radio

There have been over 24 major stage and radio adaptations made. The number of minor adaptations remains countless.

  • Orson Welles broadcast a radio adaptation via Mercury Theatre on July 1938; half in England, half on the Island; omits "My Sea Adventure"; music by Bernard Herrmann; Available online.
  • In 1947, a production was mounted at the St. James's Theatre in London, starring Harry Welchman as Long John Silver and John Clark as Jim Hawkins.
  • For a time, in London there was an annual production at the Mermaid Theatre, originally under the direction of Bernard Miles, who played Long John Silver, a part he also played in a television version. Comedian Spike Milligan would often play Ben Gunn in these productions.
  • Pieces of Eight, a musical adaptation by Jule Styne, premiered in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1985.
  • The Henegar Centre for the Arts in downtown historic Melbourne, Florida ran an adaptation in August 2009.
  • The story is also a popular plot and setting for a traditional pantomime where Mrs. Hawkins, Jim's mother is the dame


  • The Ben Gunn Society album released in 2003 presents the story centered around the character of Ben Gunn, based primarily on Chapter XV "Man of the Island" and other relevant parts of the book.
  • Treasure Island song from Running Wild's album named Pile of Skulls (1992). This song tells the novel's story.
  • The Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik performed the songs " I'm Still Here (Jim's Theme)" and "Always Know Where You Are" for Disney's animated film Treasure Planet, .


A computer game based loosely on the novel was issued by Commodore in the mid 1980s for the Plus/4 home computer, written by Greg Duddley. A graphical adventure game, the player takes the part of Jim Hawkins travelling around the island despatching pirates with cutlasses before getting the treasure and being chased back to the ship by Long John Silver. A catchy tune is included.

A game based on the book is also available for the ZX Spectrum. It was released in 1984 by Mr. Micro Ltd.

Disney has released various video games based on the animated film Treasure Planet, including Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon.

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