Front cover of a 1911 edition of Treasure Island.

Treasure Island is a children's historical adventure novel of thirty-six chapters by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. It was originally serialized in the magazine Young Folks between 1881 and 1882, Stevenson writing it under the pseudonym Captain George North. The story was first published in book form in 1883.

The action takes place in the mid 18th century. The main character in the novel is Jim Hawkins, a boy who finds a map which leads to the buried treasure of the notorious pirate Captain Flint. Jim takes the map to two wealthy local men, Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney, who buy a ship, hire a crew and set sail in search of the treasure. However, most of the crew turn out to be pirates who once served under Captain Flint, led by Long John Silver, a one-legged man who constantly keeps his pet parrot on his shoulder. The pirates plan to murder those who oppose them and to keep the treasure for themselves.

Most of the novel is narrated in the first person by Jim Hawkins, except for chapters seventeen, eighteen and nineteen which are narrated by Dr. Livesey.

The novel has been adapted for the stage, films, television and radio numerous times. It has been enormously influential in shaping the image of pirates in the popular imagination, containing such now well-known concepts as buried treasure, treasure maps on which "X marks the spot", parrots on shoulders and pirates with only one leg.


Jim Hawkins and Billy Bones. Illustration by G. Brock.

Jim Hawkins lives with his mother at the Admiral Benbow, an inn in a seaside village in the south-west of England. Billy Bones, a drunken old sailor, becomes a long-term resident at the inn, although he stops paying for his room after a few weeks. Jim works out that Bones is in hiding and notices that he is especially scared of meeting up with a one-legged man. One day, Bones suffers a stroke after a violent encounter with a sailor known as Black Dog. Jim takes care of Bones during his illness and learns that Bones was once a pirate who served under Captain Flint. Bones reveals that his former shipmates want to take his trunk.

Another pirate, Blind Pew, arrives at the inn and forces Jim to take him to Billy Bones. Pew hands Bones a piece of paper. When he opens it, Bones sees that the paper carries the Black Spot, a pirate summons, and a message which tells him that he has until ten o'clock that night to meet the pirates demand. Bones falls down dead instantly.

Jim and his mother open Bones' trunk to take the money that he owed them. Jim also takes a small package from the trunk. They hear pirates approaching the inn and are forced to hide. The pirates, led by Blind Pew, find the trunk full of money but are angry because the package is missing. Customs officers arrive. The pirates escape, except for Blind Pew who is accidentally knocked down and killed by the officers' horses.

Jim takes the package to the local magistrate, Dr Livesey. Livesey and Squire Trelawney examine the package and find that it contains a book which lists all the booty that Captain Flint stole during his career and a detailed map of the Caribbean island on which Flint's treasure is buried. Trelawney immediately decides to buy a ship, hire a crew and set sail in search of the treasure. Livesey warns him to keep the purpose of their journey a secret.

Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins. Illustration by George Roux.

Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney and Jim go to Bristol. Trelawney buys a schooner called the Hispaniola and hires Captain Smollett to command the ship. Long John Silver, the owner of the Spy-Glass tavern, is taken on as the ship's cook and helps to hire the rest of the crew. When Jim sees Long John Silver at the Spy-Glass, he is scared, because Silver has only one leg, like the man that Bones was afraid of meeting, and because Black Dog is in the tavern. As soon as he sees Jim, Black Dog runs away. Silver denies ever having seen the man before and wins Jim's trust. Although Captain Smollett is not happy with the crew that Silver has chosen, the ship sets sail.

One evening, as the ship is nearing its destination, Jim climbs into a nearly empty barrel to take an apple from the bottom of it. While he is inside the barrel, he hears Long John Silver talking to some other crew members. He finds out that Silver was also a pirate who served under Captain Flint, as are most of the crew, and that they are planning a mutiny. Silver's plan is to murder the officers and take the treasure for himself, once it has been safely taken on board the ship. Jim warns Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney of the mutiny but the pirates change their plans and decide to mutiny as soon as they arrive on the island.

Jim goes ashore with Long John silver and his men. He sees Silver murder a sailor who is loyal to Captain Smollett and flees for his life. He runs into Ben Gunn,[1] another one of Captain Flint's former crew members who has been marooned on the island for years. Although he is a former pirate, Ben Gunn treats Jim kindly.

Trelawney, Livesey and the sailors loyal to them fight off the few pirates who are still on board the Hispaniola. They row towards the island and take over an abandonned fort, where Jim and Ben Gunn soon join them. Long John Silver comes to the fort under a flag of truce and tries to negotiate Captain Smollett's surrender. When the men refuse to meet Silver's demands, the pirates attack the fort. There are losses on both sides but the pirates lose the battle.

At night, Jim takes a small boat that Ben Gunn has made and rows to the Hispaniola. He intends to move the ship to another part of the island, so that the pirates will not know where it is. One pirate, Israel Hands, is still on board. Hands has murdered the only other pirate left on board and become wounded in the process. Hands agrees to help Jim, in return for medical treatment and alcohol, but tries to murder the boy as soon as the ship approaches the beach. Jim climbs up the rigging to escape. When Hands tries to throw a dagger at him, Jim does not hesitate to shoot the pirate.

Front cover of a 1915 edition of Treasure Island.

Jim safely brings the ship to the island and returns to the fort at night. However, the fort is now under the command of the pirates. Long John Silver takes Jim hostage, refusing the other pirates' demands to kill him or torture him for information. Silver is losing control of the group of pirates. He is given the Black Spot, in a move to overthrow him. Silver chastises the other pirates for having torn a page out of a Bible to create the Black Spot and tells them that he has taken the treasure map from Dr. Livesey, thus gaining the pirates' confidence again.

The next day, the pirates go out in search of the treasure. Ben Gunn secretly follows them and makes ghostly noises to try to scare them off. Nevertheless, the pirates find where the treasure had been buried but discover that it is gone. The angry pirates turn on Long John Silver. Ben Gunn, Dr. Livesey and the rest of the crew arrive and attack the pirates. Two pirates are killed, the rest run away and are left marooned on the island. Silver surrenders and agrees to become the ship's cook once again.

Ben Gunn reveals that he has taken the treasure and hidden it in his cave. The treasure is divided between Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Ben Gunn, Jim and all the crew members who remained loyal to Captain Smollett. Even Long John Silver receives a small part of the treasure. Jim does not know what eventually happened to Long John Silver, saying, "perhaps (he) still lives in comfort ... It is to be hoped, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."


  1. Ben Gunn, who dresses in goatskins and constantly talks about "providence", is a parody of the title character from Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

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