Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate classic

Treasure Island


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Treasure Island coverRobert Louis Stevenson based much of this classic novel on fact and in many ways it provides a very accurate description of pirates. While there never was a pirate named Long John Silver or a Captain Flint, there was a real pirate named Israel Hands (a.k.a. Basilica Hands), who was second-in-command under Blackbeard. He was crippled when Blackbeard suddenly shot him in the leg for no apparent reason one night when Blackbeard, Hands, a pilot and another pirate were drinking in Blackbeard's cabin. When the fourth pirate noticed Blackbeard secretly drawing two of his guns, he quickly left. Soon after that, Blackbeard blew out the candle, crossed his hands and fired both his pistols under the table striking Hands in the knee. The other pistol did no damage. Blackbeard later explained that if he didn't kill one of his crew once in a while, they would forget who he was. Hands later deserted Blackbeard in Carolina and turned King's evidence. In Virginia, he was arrested for piracy and barely escaped execution. He was last seen begging for food in London.

Have you ever wondered what that famous line in the Treasure Island pirate song meant that goes:

"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest--
  Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
One of the books Stevenson used to research his novel mentions an actual Caribbean island called the Dead Man's Chest, which was said to be a rendezvous for buccaneers and smugglers. This cryptic line apparently refers to part of a pirate crew who were either stranded or marooned on that island. The song also says, "Drink and the devil had done for the rest" and adds:
"With one man of her crew alive,
  What put to sea with seventy-five."
Whether this was an actual sea shanty or a fictional creation of Stevenson's is uncertain, but several authentic pirate songs were written down and have survived. Some of these songs can also be found Weird History 101.

We hope you'll enjoy Treasure Island.

Capt. Flint's Map of Treasure Island

Illustrations from the Book

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Entire text on one page

Trivia Question

What town inspired Stevenson to write Treasure Island?

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