Just read: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson


Because there are a great number of iconic books that I haven't read, I've started a project to read them. Treasure Island is the first up and, I have to say, it has turned out to be a somewhat difficult read. It's not that the English is so old that it's awkward, it's that the book has been the source for so many popular tropes about pirates. If you've seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, you've experienced all the tropes. If you've seen more than one pirate movie, you've definitely absorbed all the cliches. Which is why, rather than attempt a synopsis or review, I'm going to list all the familiar bits I stumbled upon. Before that, I will say that I was struck by the diversity on display in this old tale. Not amongst the main characters, no, but people of color were acknowledged and sprinkled throughout. And now, the list:

  1. Fifteen men on the dead man's chest—yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
    Drink and the devil had done for the rest—yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
  2. Constantly craving rum and being drunk.
  3. Treasure chests, buried on deserted isles, and cryptic instructions on a map with a big, red 'X.'
  4. Disheveled, tattooed, pirates living hand-to-mouth.
  5. "...with rings in their ears, and whiskers curled in ringlets, and tarry pigtails..."
  6. One-legged pirates.
  7. Tortuga (island).
  8. Wig-wearing Brit to act as a foil.
  9. The Spanish Main.
  10. Jim Hawkins
  11. Shiver my timbers! (Not: Shiver me timbers!)
  12. Long John Silver.
  13. Captain Kidd.
  14. Hispaniola.
  15. A parrot on the pirate's shoulder.

BONUS: Quite a few words that were new to me or I hadn't retained their meaning:

Marish - a marsh or swamp

Miry - very muddy or boggy

Mizzenmast - the next mast back from the main mast

Thwart - a mounted piece of wood perpendicular to the length of a small boat for sitting

Halloo - an exclamation used to attract attention or to incite dogs during a chase

Bolus - a small rounded mass of a substance, especially chewed food

Gammon - ham that has been cured or smoked like bacon or the bottom piece of a side of bacon, including the hind leg

Spars - a thick, strong pole such as is used for a mast or yard on a ship

Slough - a swamp

Puncheon - a short post, especially for holding up mine shafts

Hawse - the part of a ship through which the anchor cables pass

Keelson - a centerline structure running the length of a ship and fastening the transverse members of the floor to the keel below

Glim - a candle or lantern

Gibbet - an upright post with an arm on which the bodies of executed criminals were left hanging as a warning or deterrent to others