Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum — 5 years ago
RL Stevenson was born in 1850, and died in 1894. “Treasure Island” was first published in 1883, though was originally written for the amusement of Stevenson’s stepson, Lloyd Osbourne.
Set in the 1700s, the book’s hero is Jim Hawkins. Jim is, apparently, an only child whose parents run the Admiral Benbow – a quiet inn, though with a good reputation, not far from Bristol. His troubles begin with the arrival of a mysterious sailor – a rather intimidating, poorly dressed and generally filthy character, though not one who was short of money. He’s reluctant to give his name, though claims to hold the rank of captain, and he generally says little. However, occasionally his tongue is loosened a little by his fondness for rum – upon which he would either burst into song or tell the most terrifying stories. At the mysterious sailor’s request, meanwhile, Jim keeps an eye out for another salty old sea dog the nameless captain seems keen to avoid : the unwanted visitor’s most notable feature is his one leg.
Things change with the arrival of an even nastier sailor named Black Dog. He’s obviously acquainted with the Admiral Benbow’s resident sailor – whose name, Billy Bones, is soon revealed – though they’re not on the best of terms. Things turn nasty, one thing leads to another and before you can say “oh, arrr”, Billy has died of a stroke. Jim and his mother quickly rifle Billy’s sea chest – he’d left a substantial bar bill, and Mrs Hawkins meant to collect payment – though among his possessions they also find a mysterious sealed packet. When eventually opened, the packet proves to hold treasure map of a notorious pirate called Captain Flint. Shortly afterwards, Jim joins Squire Trelawney and Dr Livesey on a mission to retrieve the treasure. Unfortunately, their ship proves to be manned by a crew of treacherous pirates – including the one-legged Long John Silver…
A very easily read, enjoyable book and one that (presumably) has had a huge impact on how we still see pirates : treasure maps where X marks the spot, one-legged salty old sea dogs with parrots that scream “pieces of eight”. Highly recommended.