Treasure Island

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  • author : Robert Louis Stevenson
  • medium : Audio (MP3)
  • length : 26 files (34 chapters)
  • recorded : 2006
  • finished : 20060303
  • Rating : 10/8

I last read this book when I was in fourth grade (I think). Since I have a mild interest in privateers, I decided to listen to this when I found the LibriVox recording. (Note, I said privateers, not pirates. I'm mainly interested in the notion of government sanctioned piracy. It perplexes me.)

The Recording

This was the first truly long recording I've listened to from LibriVox. (The longest one I'd listened to before was A Christmas Carol, but it's only five staves long.) I kind of expected to be a little taken out of the story by the changing voices with each chapter, but I found that, for the most part, the voices were irrelevant. There were some really good voices among the readers. There were a few distractions (see below). However, overall, I'd say that the story itself was good enough that these distractions really didn't affect me as much as I expected, so I'm giving it a 10/8 rating.


People who know me know I'm fascinated with people who had ideas first or are the ultimate expression of an idea. Treasure Island is the Ultimate Pirate Story.

Long John Silver

Long John Silver. What to say about him? I think anyone who reads the tale gains an appreciation of his raw intelligence. Silver had them all convinced that he was a Good Guy from the beginning. It was only by sheer blind luck that he was found out. If the apple barrel hadn't been so near empty, Jim wouldn't have gotten into it and been able to overhear him discussing mutiny.

When the ship disappears, there are three possibilities:

  1. The ship is just randomly lost. In which case, the next ship to come will be the backup ship Trelawney & co. arranged for. (Silver knows about this as is evidenced in his later conversation.) This ship will be loyal to King & Country and thus no help to 'pirates'.
  2. Some of his mutineers have in turn revolted against him and slipped the ship off. In this case, Silver is again better off joining with the the Good Guys as his men can no longer be trusted.
  3. (reality) The Good Guys have taken the boat and hidden it somewhere.

In all three cases, Silver's best resort is to try to pretend to the Good Guys that he's on their side. This is what we see Silver doing. First in allowing the Doctor & co. to remain alive, then when Hawkins gives him the ultimate option ('I'll speak for you if you keep me alive') he fights to keep Hawkins alive and by his side. None of the other mutineers applies any logic to the situation to realize how dangerous it is to still be 'pirates' after the ship disappears.

There are various other examples of how Silver has manipulated everyone aboard througout the story, but this review is getting long-winded already. Suffice it to say that Silver is one of my favorite literary villains. (I'm sure I'm not alone, seeing as how deeply this story has ingrained itself in our cultural imagination.) I'll just mention this one more area that I think could have been developed differently to lend even more to Silver's cunning: the identity Captain Flint.

Captain Flint

I think RLS should have played a bit more with the Captain Flint (human) / Captain Flint (parrot) twist. I think it would have been interesting if Captain Flint (human) was really just a fictitious alter ego of Long John Silver. (He was after all, mate on Flint's ship.) What better way for a highly intelligent man like Silver to escape the gallows than to say 'It wasn't me, it was Captain Flint!' (Who the reader knows is the parrot, but the shipmates only know as the mysterious captain who keeps saying 'pieces of 8', but is never seen on deck.) I think RLS had the idea to do this at the beginning of the 'apple barrel incident', but he ended up having eye-witnesses talk about Flint (human) later in the story, thus ruining the illusion. I think if this had been developed as such, it would have added even more to Silver's mystique.

Misc Notes

  • One reader decided to use special effects and used reverb when the lookout shouted 'Land ho!'. It just seemed quite humorous to me at the time. I had to stop walking and just listen to it a few times and stop laughing. Mind you, it would be cool if more people used special effects in their recordings, but this one effect in the whole book just seemed really out of place.
  • One reader kept pronouncing Squire Trelawney as Trawl-nonnie.
  • The one section I had a hard time listening to was when one reader who whistled every sibilant word. However, after the first five minutes, I finally settled in to it.
  • I learned that the reason Live Oaks are called 'Live' is because they're evergreens (i.e. they don't 'die' in the winter). I've lived around Coast Live Oaks for some time, but it just never dawned on me to link the name with the evergreen status.
  • When I read this as a kid, I thought we were related to RLS (My maternal grandmother's maiden name is Stevenson.) However, the Really Famous Person™ we're related to is Adlai Stevenson. (My mom's 2nd cousin or something like that. Don't ask me, I'm not the genealogist.)

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