The Real Robinson Crusoe

Scottish archaeologist David Caldwell and Japanese explorer Daisuke Takahashi have recently discovered what they think may be the original campsite of the castaway who inspired Daniel Defoe’s famous novel Robinson Crusoe, a Scottish pirate named Alexander Selkirk.  Their expedition and findings are described in a recent in-depth article published in the online international version of the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Selkirk, a pirate, was stranded off Chile on an island called Más a Tierra (now known as Robinson Crusoe Island) for four years before being rescued in February, 1709.  He attained celebrity status when he returned to England in 1711, and his adventure came to the attention of Daniel Defoe.  Eight years later, Defoe published his immortal book, considered to be the first work of fiction in the English language.  

During their expedition to the island, Caldwell and Takahashi found possible evidence of Selkirk including fire sites, post holes, and a fragment from a navigational instrument.  They have recently published their findings in an academic journal called Post-Medieval Archaeology (brief abstract here).      

If you’re interested in reading more about the story of Selkirk, Greensboro Public Library has Timothy Severin’s recent In Search of Robinson Crusoe; and younger readers may enjoy Marooned:  The Strange But True Adventures of Alexander Selkirk, the Real Robinson Crusoe by Robert Kraske, or James Poling’s The Man Who Saved Robinson Crusoe:  The Strange Surprizing Adventures of the Original Robinson Crusoe and His Most Remarkable Rescuer.

We also of course have copies of Daniel Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe, as well as criticism, such as:  Twentieth Century Interpretations of Robinson Crusoe:  A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Frank H. Ellis; and Robinson Crusoe / Daniel Defoe:  An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism, edited by Michael Shinagel.  

Readers curious about the life of the novel’s author may be interested in Daniel Defoe:  Master of Fictions by Maxmillian E. Novak, and Daniel Defoe:  The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures by Richard West.


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