From Treasure Island to Key West
Everybody said I should watch ‘ Pirates of the Caribbean’, not least because Johnny Depp had created another iconic character in Captain Jack Sparrow. With hours to spare before boarding a flight home from Miami to London, I managed to pick a copy up on dvd at a local Target store, only to discover that what I’d bought back then was not compatible with UK dvd players. So as the British Airways 747 soared over the glittering Miami suburbs and skyline and out across the Atlantic shoreline, this was the closest I was going to get to the Caribbean for now.
The movie owes a large debt to ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1883, well over a century before Johnny Depp first perused the script for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Perhaps also to earlier film versions of ‘Treasure Island’, such as the 1950 Walt Disney version with Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Apart from the action on the high seas, the book uses the ‘Admiral Benbow’ Inn as the setting for much of the opening section. I used to drink in a pub in Bristol years ago called ‘The Llandoger Trow’ and it’s reputed that Stevenson based the ‘Admiral Benbow’ on it. This is it below.
Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ was to become a classic read for many generations of boys in England and across the old British Empire and beyond. It had it all, really; a ‘cast’ of idiosyncratic characters; good versus the not so good; plenty of adventure and a meandering narrative threading it’s way around the seven seas. Before today’s multiple distractions appeared, books like ‘Treasure Island’ were a window to worlds well beyond the everyday and allowed the imagination free rein.
I recently found a copy of ‘Redwall’ by Liverpool author, the late Brian Jacques. This tale of the courage of a community of mice against the wicked threat of Cluny the Scourge, is set in an imaginary land not a million miles removed from Tolkein’s Middle Earth. And it wasn’t too long before J K Rowling went on to create the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter. In case you’re interested, by the way, here’s a link to the Redwall website; http://www.redwallabbey.com/
Even though I only skirted the edge of the Caribbean for a while down in Key West, I’ve been fortunate to travel quite widely. But until those opportunities present themselves, it’s great writing such as the above that has the power to nurture and sustain children’s imaginations.
I’ll be sure to write a future post about that well known man of letters and denizen of Key West, Ernest Hemingway. Here’s his home at 907 Whitehead Street. I was lucky and got to stay in a guest house right opposite!