Monday, June 29, 2009

Review of Porto Bello Gold, a prequel to Treasure Island

My review of Porto Bello Gold, by A. D. Howden Smith

Porto Bello Gold an alright story in its own right, but it is not very satisfying for the dedicated Treasure Island fan. I have read Treasure Island over and over since I was a young child, both abridged and unabridged as I got older. I can honestly say Treasure Island is my favorite book. Porto Bello Gold, while ok on its own, does not really do justice to the characters created by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Without revealing too much of either book, I'll say that in this book, Flint is not the character that Stevenson built him up to be. Ben Gunn and Darby McGraw are also not characterized in a satisfying way. Israel Hands is completely absent.

In some respects it seems as if the author took some of the locations and ideas from Treasure Island and worked backwards, and the result is sometimes too convenient. As vividly as he wrote, Stevenson left much of the past to the readers imagination, feeding and fueling it as only he could. Smith on the other hand seems to have felt to need to explain the origin of every unexplored detail. Some things are best left to the imagination (for example, how the stockade came to be or the identity of Darby McGraw). If anything, I would say the original Treasure Island should be read first.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Of Pirates and Parrots

The Hostage by N. C. Wyeth, 1911, for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Did pirates keep parrots? Long John Silver's parrot, Captain Flint, may be fictional, but he has some basis in fact. While there are no records of well known pirates keeping parrots, there was a trade in exotic animals during the golden age of piracy. And where there was trade, it goes without saying, there were pirates. In seems reasonable that parrots, being easy to tame, quite colorful and rare would have been taken as booty if found. Also of note is the fact that those engaged piracy often liked to dress, eat or otherwise engage in practices that were usually reserved for the higher classes, so keeping an exotic pet would not be out of the question. But it is almost certainly Treasure Island that cemented parrots into the popular view of pirates.

Pirate (DK Eyewitness Books) by Richard Platt
A Pyrate's Life: Pirates, Parrots, & Pets

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Disney's own Treasure Island

flickr user Better Living Through Imagineering has some pretty good scans of the map given to visitors of Treasure Island. The island is in Bay Lake near The Magic Kingdom in Orlando. It is no longer open to the public. It was originally conceived as Blackbeard's Island, a pirate theme island adventure area. It was renamed Treasure Island and was to feature a number of attractions from the Treasure Island story. The project was expensive and kept getting scaled back. One feature that was built was the wreck of the HispaƱola, a concept of which is below.

The island eventually became a bird sanctuary and was open to the public until 1999, when the birds and animals were relocated to Animal Kingdom and zoos.

Most recently, Jim Hill Media reports that there are now talks to reopen the island as a pirate themed attraction, owing mainly to the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

More info:
Click here for wikipedia article.
Click here for another article.
Click here to see maps and tickets from Disney's Treasure Island.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More Pirate Coins

In the Angus Konstam book mentioned in my recent post on pirate coinage, he mentions how a character in Robert Louis Steveson's Treasure Island (Billy Bones) has in his notebook a table for converting one nations coins to the value of another's. Also mentioned in Treasure Island are some more types of coins found as part of Captain Flint's treasure.

It was a strange collection, like Billy Bones's hoard for the diversity of coinage, but so much larger and so much more varied that I think I never had more pleasure than in sorting them. English, French, Spanish,Portuguese, Georges, and Louises, doubloons and double guineas and moidores and sequins, the pictures of all the kings of Europe for the last hundred years,...

Louis d'or (gold, 1640 - French Revolution): A gold coin from France. Replaced by the Franc.

Guinea (gold, 1663 - 1816): A gold coin from England. Worth 21 shillings.

Moidore (gold, 1614 - 1732): A gold coin from Portugal.

Sequin (gold, 1543 - ?): A gold coin from The Republic of Venice (in Italy). They also minted silver Ducats.

Source: Wikipedia and Treasure Island

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Public Domain: The Map from Treasure Island