John Silver or Long John Silver is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the novel Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson. The most colourful and complex character in the book, he continues to appear in popular culture. His one-leggedness and parrot, in particular, have greatly contributed to the image of the pirate in popular culture.
Long John Silver is a cunning and opportunistic pirate who was quartermaster under the notorious Captain Flint. Long John Silver had a pet parrot called Captain Flint, often seen sitting on his shoulder where she would nibble on seeds. Silver claims to have served in the Royal Navy and lost his leg under "the immortal Hawke". "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." (Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson page 82). He claims to have been the only man whom Flint ever feared. Like many of Stevenson's characters, there is more than a modicum of duality in the character; ostensibly Silver is a hardworking and likeable seaman, and it is only as the plot unfolds that his villainous nature is gradually revealed. His relationship with Jim Hawkins, the novel's protagonist and narrator, is interesting, as he serves as a mentor and eventually father-figure to Jim, creating much shock and emotion when it is discovered that he is in charge of the mutiny, and especially when Jim must confront and fight him later on. Although willing to change sides at any time to further his own interests, Silver has compensating virtues: he is wise enough to pay attention to money management, in contrast to the spendthrift ways of most of the pirates, and is physically courageous despite his disability; for instance, when Flint's cache is found to be empty, he coolly stands his ground against five active seamen despite having only Jim, a boy in his teens, to back him.
When Silver escapes at the end of the novel, he takes "three or four hundred guineas" of the treasure with him, thus becoming one of only two former members of Captain Flint's crew to get his hands on a portion of the recovered treasure; a separate cache of bar silver is apparently left on the island. (The repentant maroonee Ben Gunn is the other, but he spends all £1,000 in nineteen days.) Jim's own ambivalence towards Silver is reflected in the last chapter, when he speculates that the old pirate must have settled down in comfortable retirement: "It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."
Stevenson's portrayal of Silver has greatly influenced the modern iconography of the pirate. Silver has a parrot, named Captain Flint in honor--or mockery--of his former captain, who generally perches on Silver's shoulder, and is known to chatter pirate or seafaring phrases like "Pieces of Eight", and "Stand by to go about". Silver uses the parrot as another means of gaining Jim's trust, by telling the boy all manner of exciting stories about the parrot's buccaneer history. "'Now that bird,' Silver would say, 'is, maybe, two hundred years old, Hawkins--they lives forever mostly, and if anybody's seen more wickedness it must be the devil himself. She's sailed with England--the great pirate Cap'n England. She's been at Madagascar, and at Malabar, and Surinam, and Providence, and Portobello... She was at the boarding of the Viceroy of the Indies out of Goa, she was, and to look at her you would think she was a baby."
Silver is married to a woman of African descent, whom he trusts to manage his business affairs in his absence and to liquidate his Bristol assets when his actions make it impossible for him to go home. He confides in his fellow pirates, that he and his wife plan to rendezvous after the voyage to Skeleton Island is complete and Flint's treasure is recovered, at which point Silver will retire to a life of luxury. Ironically his "share" of Flint's treasure (£400) is considerably less than that of Ben Gunn's share (£1,000) and what he himself boasts is his "share" from England (£900) and from Flint (£2,000).
According to Stevenson's letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend William Henley, a writer and editor. Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, described Henley as "...a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet". In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island Stevenson wrote: "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you".
- A prequel novel to Treasure Island, Porto Bello Gold was published in 1924 by Arthur D. Howden Smith.
- British historian Dennis Judd presents Silver as the main character in his 1977 prequel, The Adventures of Long John Silver, and in the 1979 sequel, Return To Treasure Island.
- John Silver is also the protagonist in Björn Larsson's fictional 1995 autobiography, Long John Silver: The True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure as a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind, published in Sweden in 1995.
- Silver is the main character in Edward Chupack's 2008 Silver--My Own Tale as Told by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder.
There have been several major stage adaptations made. The number of minor adaptations remains countless.
- For a time, in London, there was an annual production of the musical Treasure Island, based on a book by Bernard Miles and Josephine Wilson. The music was composed by Cyril Ornadel and the lyrics by Hal Shaper. The musical was performed at the Mermaid Theatre, originally under the direction of Bernard Miles, who played Long John Silver, a part he also played in various television versions. Comedian Spike Milligan would often play Ben Gunn in these productions, and in 1981, Tom Baker played Long John Silver.
- Pieces of Eight, a musical adaptation by Jule Styne, premiered in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1985.
- The Henegar Center for the Arts in downtown historic Melbourne, Florida ran an adaptation in August 2009.
- The story is also a popular plot and setting for a traditional pantomime where Mrs. Hawkins, Jim's mother is the dame.
- On 18 February 2011, a play adaptation by Richard Rose opened at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.
- In 2011, Tom Hewitt starred in B.H. Barry and Vernon Morris's stage adaptation of the novel, which officially opened 5 March at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn.
- In July 2011, Bristol Old Vic staged a large-scale outdoor production of Treasure Island outside the theatre on King Street, Bristol directed by Sally Cookson, with music by Benji Bower.
- From October 2013 to 2014, Mind the Gap Theatre Company, the UK's leading theatre company working with actors with learning disabilities embarks on a national tour of Treasure Island, retold with a twist by Olivier award-winning writer Mike Kenny.
- In 2013, YouthPlays published Long Joan Silver by Arthur M. Jolly, an adaptation where all of the pirates are women.
- A new version by Bryony Lavery and directed by Polly Findlay was produced at London's Royal National Theatre from December 2014 to April 2015. In this version of the play, Jim is a girl.
- Another Doctor Who alumnus, Arthur Darvill, played Silver in the 2014 National Theatre production of Treasure Island.
- As part of their 2017 Season, the Stratford Festival of Canada premiered a new adaptation of Treasure Island by Canadian playwright Nicolas Billon.
- Charles Ogle played Silver in the 1920 silent film adaptation of Treasure Island.
- Wallace Beery was the first speaking Long John Silver in the 1934 film version of Treasure Island.
- Robert Newton became the definitive Long John Silver in the 1950 Disney live-action film version of Treasure Island. Reportedly, the writers of this piece, and Newton, were the first to present the phrase "Arrrrrh, matey!". A 1954 film, Long John Silver, again starred Robert Newton as the title character, which he would reprise in television (see below).
- Robert Newton followed up his two feature films with a 1955 Australian-produced TV series The Adventures of Long John Silver.
- Peter Wyngarde played Silver in the 1958 TV series The Adventures of Ben Gunn.
- BBC Television has presented the story in miniseries format four times, with the role of Silver being played by Bernard Miles in 1951 and again in 1957;, Peter Vaughan in 1968; and Alfred Burke in 1977. Miles played the role one final time in a 1982 TV movie.
- In 1959, Ivo Garrani played Silver in an Italian TV miniseries.
- Ivor Dean played the character in an acclaimed European four-part mini-series in 1966. He intended to reprise the role in another series with more adventures of Silver and began writing it with director Robert S. Baker, but his sudden death in 1974 stopped all further plans. In 1985, the Ivor Dean script was used as foundation for the Disney 10-part TV series Return to Treasure Island, starring Brian Blessed as Long John Silver.
- A Soviet miniseries, the 1982 Treasure Island, had Silver portrayed by Oleg Borisov.
- Anthony Quinn played Silver in the 1987 TV miniseries Treasure Island in Outer Space.
- Charlton Heston portrayed a darker Long John Silver in the 1990 made-for-television movie, Treasure Island.
- Eddie Izzard played Long John Silver in the 2012 Sky mini-series.
- Luke Arnold played John Silver in the Starz TV series Black Sails (2014-2017), a prequel story set 20 years before Treasure Island. In this series, Silver as a young man begins as a scheming cook who rises to serve as quartermaster on the Walrus and on a captured Spanish Man O' War, later to lead the pirate and former-slave forces that attempt to re-take Nassau from the British.
- Costas Mandylor portrays "Captain Silver" in the 2016 episode "The Brothers Jones" on ABC's Once Upon a Time.
Other print media
- A Ballad of John Silver, a poem from John Masefield, was published in 1921.
- Long John Silver is a Franco-Belgian comics series written by Xavier Dorison and illustrated by Mathieu Laufray which was published in French and English.
- John Silver, a fictional space pirate with mechanical leg who appears in the Italian comic book Nathan Never, was inspired by Long John Silver.
- Stevenson, Robert Louis (1883). Treasure Island. Cassell & Company. Archived from the original on June 20, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
- Elwin, Malcolm (1939). Old Gods Falling. New York: The Macmillan Company. OCLC 968055.
- Prince, Alison (1994). Kenneth Grahame: An Innocent in the Wild Wood. London: Allison & Busby. ISBN 9780850318296.
- Karg, Barbara; Spaite, Arjean (2007). The Everything Pirates Book: A Swashbuckling History of Adventure on the High Seas. Avon, MA: Adams Media. ISBN 9781598692556.
- Jolly, Arthur M (2013). Long Joan Silver. Los Angeles: YouthPLAYS, Inc. ISBN 9781620882054.
- ^ Karg, p. 220.
- ^ Stevenson (1883), "The Voyage" [Ch. 10], pp. 80f.
- ^ "Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson". Project Gutenberg. p. Chapter 10. Archived from the original on 2007-05-27.
- ^ Prince, p. 78.
- ^ Elwin, p. 154.
- ^ Stevenson (1883), p. 316.
- ^ Larsson, Björn (1995). Long John Silver: The True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure as a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind. Geddes, Tom (Transl.). London, ENG: Penguin Random House/Harvill Secker. ISBN 1-86046-538-2. Retrieved 2017.
- ^ Chupack, Edward (2008). Silver--My Own Tale as Told by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder. New Yor, NY: St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne. ISBN 978-0-312-53936-8. Retrieved 2017.
- ^ Basil Rathbone (5 August 2017). "Robert Lewis Stevenson: TREASURE ISLAND" - via Internet Archive.
- ^ "The Definitive Favorite Story Radio Log with Ronald Colman". www.digitaldeliftp.com.
- ^ "Lux Radio Theater .. episodic log". www.otrsite.com. Archived from the original on 2016-12-05.
- ^ "Tale Spinners for Children". www.artsreformation.com.
- ^ "RL Stevenson - Treasure Island - BBC Radio 4 Extra". BBC.
- ^ "Treasure Island (BBC Audiobook Extract) BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation".
- ^ "The Old Sea Dog, Treasure Island, Afternoon Reading - BBC Radio 4". BBC.
- ^ "2. Treasure Island - Big Finish Classics - Big Finish". www.bigfinish.com.
- ^ Dury, Richard. Stage and Radio adaptations of Treasure Island Archived 26 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine..
- ^ "THE THEATRE LINK". thomas-stewart-baker.com.
- ^ "Tom Hewitt Is Long John Silver in Treasure Island, Opening March 5 in Brooklyn". Playbill. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 2011.
- ^ "Treasure Island". London Box Office. Retrieved 2014.
- ^ "Treasure Island, National Theatre, review: 'yo-ho-hum'".
- ^ Animal Treasure Island (1971)
- ^ Storey, Don (2014). "The Adventures of Long John Silver". ClassicAustralianTV.com. Retrieved 2017.
- ^ Anderson, D.M. (December 30, 2014). "BLACK SAILS Ain't Your Daddy's Pirate Tale". Movie Pilot. Archived from the original on August 31, 2016. Retrieved 2015.
- ^ Masefield, John (1921) . Salt-Water Poems and Ballads. New York, NY: The Macmillan Company. pp. 64-65. Retrieved 2017. Masefield's original 1902 work was entitled Salt-Water Ballads.
- ^ Dorison, Xavier. Long John Silver (in French). Laufray, Mathieu (Illustr.). Dargaud. Published by Cinebook in English.
- ^ "''Nathan Never - L'isola del tesoro/Treasure Island''". En.sergiobonellieditore.it. Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. Retrieved .
- ^ "Long John Silver (album)". Wikipedia. 18 September 2017. Retrieved 2017.
- Stevenson, Robert Louis; Colvin, Sidney, Sir (1899). Letters to his family and friends. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. OCLC 9524286.