2008-09-22 : Treasure Island
I've been reading Treasure Island to the kids at bedtime. We're 2 chapters from the end. It's super good, I recommend it to anyone.
Once upon a time I was thinking hard about what's on the table in fantasy fiction. (Let's see if I can find a link ... here.) It happened after that conversation that I reread The High King, I hadn't recently at the time, and I was watching carefully, and I spotted what was bound to be there. I can't quote the line, but it was something like this: "...and Taran didn't dare consider what would happen to Eilonwy if the bandits found and captured her."
So now. Take the pirate crew in Treasure Island, boil them down to their essential between-the-lines badness, and it's uncanny how Poison'd they are. (Okay, it's not THAT uncanny. I never read Treasure Island before, but do you think that kept it from influencing me?) Anyhow they're brutal, desperate, superstitious, and treacherous, as much so as you could possibly write into a book for kids. Here's a passage corresponding to Taran's unnamed fear for Eilonwy:
"Now, look you here, Jim Hawkins," he said in a steady whisper that was no more than audible, "you're within half a plank of death, and what's a long sight worse, of torture. They're going to throw me off. But, you mark, I stand by you through thick and thin. I didn't mean to; no, not till you spoke up. I was about desperate to lose that much blunt, and be hanged into the bargain. But I see you was the right sort. I says to myself, you stand by Hawkins, John, and Hawkins'll stand by you. You're his last card, and by the living thunder, John, he's yours! Back to back, says I. You save your witness, and he'll save your neck!"
I began dimly to understand.
"You mean all's lost?" I asked.
Earlier Jim and the coxswain Hands had debated death and the afterlife, with Jim taking the side of "the spirits of the dead walk and can act" and Hands the side of "if they can, I ain't ever seen one." And you should just SEE how terrified the pirates are of old Captain Flint's ghost, it'd make Captain Pallor proud.
A few pages later, a pirate called Dick tears a page out of a bible to make the black spot upon. Silver points out to him that ruining a bible is terrible bad luck, and Dick spends the rest of the book in deathly dread of everything.
So, yeah. Boil Treasure Island's pirates down into pirate slurry, and blow the world they imagine up into living color all around them, and Poison'd got it >this close< to right. If I had it to do over, I'd maybe make Pallor's ghost a thing.
If I were to, oh, I dunno, maybe pull a Beowulf, yeah? Publish an edition of Treasure Island with a game in the back? I wouldn't use Poison'd straight. It's too brutal for the book's audience (no duh). Also the "honest men" characters are importantly missing from Poison'd, but they're essential to Treasure Island. But how much redesigning would I have to do? Answer: dude, a page's worth, maybe two. Piece of cake.
1. On 2008-09-22, John Harper said:
2. On 2008-09-23, Dave Cleaver said:
3. On 2008-09-23, Ron Edwards said:
4. On 2008-09-23, Vincent said:
5. On 2008-09-23, Vincent said:
6. On 2008-09-23, Ben Lehman said:
7. On 2008-09-23, Vincent said:
8. On 2008-09-29, Alex F said:
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10. On 2009-06-16, Z-Dog said: