Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Literary Trivia That May Interest Only Me

I don't know about you, but the image that I've always had of Long John Silver, the principal pirate character in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, has been of a man with a peg leg. Well, it turns out that that's not the case. Here's how Stevenson introduces Silver in Chapter 8:
As I was waiting, a man came out of a side room, and at a glance I was sure he must be Long John. His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham--plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling. Indeed, he seemed in the most cheerful spirits, whistling as he moved about among the tables, with a merry word or a slap on the shoulder for the more favoured of his guests.

There is plenty of mention of the crutch throughout the rest of the book, but nothing whatever about the pegleg. So the picture to the left is only half right.

(As an aside, I should mention that I had never read more than the first two or three chapters of Treasure Island, although I had tried more than once as a child. I found an online version -- click the link above -- a couple of days ago and have been spending spare moments at work reading it since. It's the perfect book for young boys. I especially like the moral ambiguity of Long John Silver's character, the sort of thing that is sorely missing from a lot of literature for children. Sure, he's a murdering pirate, but that's not all he is.)

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