Robinson Crusoe Adaptations Detail

The Original

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (Tor Books). New material (introduction and afterward) 1988 copyright; 337 pages.

Readability, Faithfulness, and Appeal. I admit that this is not very readable, but since it’s the original, I’d be the first to recommend it. The appeal to me is its completeness. If I’d read a different book first, I’d always wonder about what had been changed and whether I’d really given Defoe a chance. My particular mass-market paperback copy has horribly small print and a very ugly cover, which would make it very unappealing for kids; let’s hope there are larger print unabridged options with nicer covers out there. (I suspect we all tend to judge books by their covers and the print size to some extent.)

The original contains strong survival and religious themes, as well as recognition that the savages are cannibals, since Crusoe finds human remains.

Quote: First Paragraph(s)

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull.  He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called – nay we call ourselves and write our name – Crusoe; and so my companions always called me.

I had two elder brothers, one of whom was lieutenant-colonel to an English regiment of foot in Flanders, formerly commanded by the famous Colonel Lockhart, and was killed at the battle near Dunkirk against the Spaniards.  What became of my second brother I never knew, any more than my father or mother knew what became of me.

Being the third son of the family and not bred to any trade, my head began to be filled very early with rambling thoughts.  My father, who was very ancient, had given me a competent share of learning, as far as house-education and a country free school generally go, and designed me for the law; but I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea; and my inclination to this led me so strongly against the will, nay, the commands of my father, and against all the entreaties and persuasions of my mother and other friends, that there seemed to be something fatal in that propensity of nature, tending directly to the life of misery which was to befall me. (page 2-3)

Quote: Finding the footprint

It happened one day about noon going toward my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man’s naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen in the sand. I stood like one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an apparition; I listened, I looked round me, I could hear nothing, nor see anything; I went up to a rising ground to look farther; I went up the shore and down the shore, but it was all one; I could see no other impression but that one.  I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to observe if it might not be my fancy; but there was no room for that, for there was exactly the print of a foot – toes, heel, and every part of a foot.  How it came thither I knew not, nor could I in the least imagine; but after innumerable fluttering thoughts, like a man perfectly confused and out of myself, I came home to my fortification, not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps, mistaking every bush and tree, and fancying every stump at a distance to be a man.  Nor is it possible to describe how many various shapes my affrighted imagination represented things to me in, how many wild ideas were found every moment in my fancy, and what strange, unaccountable whimsies came into my thoughts by the way. (page 171)

Abridgments

Puffin Classics

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (Puffin Classics). Abridged by Robin Waterfield, First published 1719, Published Puffin Books 1986, Reissued 1994; 273 pages.

Readability. Some paragraphs are kept in their entirety although many paragraphs eliminate information that may be considered unnecessary. It appears to be mostly Daniel Defoe’s language; some “harder” words are replaced with easier words, so it may be slightly easier to read than the original.

Faithfulness. Considering it is mostly Defoe’s own words, it is obviously faithful to Defoe’s language and style, if not a bit more concise; the footprint quote (found on page 123) is very similar to the original, substituting “ghost” for “apparition.” But I found that, at least in the passages after Crusoe finds the footprint, the abridger excised a few pages of religious meditations; be advised that this book, then, does eliminate a major theme of Robinson Crusoe. It does contain the recognition that the savages are cannibals, and I suspect that many of the themes of loneliness, fear, survival, and religious development are still present, just less repetitive and detailed.

Appeal. I like the larger print, and to be honest, I like the fact that some irrelevant details are excised. Just in the first few pages, for example, it quickly moves to Robinson Crusoe’s sea travels, rather than bogging me down with the lectures from his father. In the end (and much as I hate to say it), I would suggest this to a reader wanting to learn the story and experience Defoe’s language but daunted by classic literature. We want teens to want to read the classics. This is as close as you can get without being the real thing.

Quote: First Paragraph(s)

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull.  He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called, nay, we call ourselves and write our name, Crusoe, and so my companions always called me.

Being the third son of the family and not bred to any trade, my head began to be filled very early with rambling thoughts. I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea, and my inclination to this led me so strongly against the will, nay, the commands of my father, and against all the entreaties and persuasions of my mother and other friends, that there seemed to be something fatal in that propension of nature tending directly to the life of misery which was to befall me. (page 1)

Quote: Finding the footprint

It happened one day about noon going toward my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man’s naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen in the sand. I stood like one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an ghost; I listened, I looked round me, I could hear nothing, nor see anything; I went up to a rising ground to look farther; I went up the shore and down the shore, but it was all one; I could see no other impression but that one.  I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to observe if it might not be my fancy; but there was no room for that, for there was exactly the print of a foot, toes, heel, and every part of a foot; how it came thither I knew not, nor could I in the least imagine; but after innumerable fluttering thoughts, like a man perfectly confused and out of myself, I came home to my fortification, not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps, mistaking every bush and tree, and fancying every stump at a distance to be a man; nor is it possible to describe how many various shapes my affrighted imagination represented things to me in, how many wild ideas were found every moment in my fancy, and what strange, unaccountable whimsies came into my thoughts. (page 123-124)

Scholastic Junior Classics

Robinson Crusoe retold from Daniel Defoe (Scholastic Junior Classics). E.W. Doloch 1958; 127 pages.

Readability. It is not a breezy read; while the language is not completely modern, it is obviously still completely rewritten to be simplified for children and is therefore a departure from Defoe’s prose. And yet, all aspects of the adventure, including the loneliness, the survival, the fear, and the religious development, are told in a matter-of-fact way. This gives it a rather boring feel, I believe, and it is therefore harder to read than Defoe’s is.

Faithfulness. Because it is a retelling, this book is not completely faithful to Defoe. It eliminates the preliminary adventures. Surprisingly (but not so much considering the original publication date), Doloch’s abridgment retains many of the religious aspects. Throughout the book, Crusoe remembers that God protects him. The story does mention cannibals, even going so far as to define what it means to be a cannibal, and people die in battle.

Appeal. Combining the matter-of-fact adventure story with the dull prose, it doesn’t appeal to me much. While I only skimmed it, it seemed that even the emotions are dulled down: fear, loneliness, and even religious fervor are actions rather than emotions. The freaky looking black and white illustrations don’t add much to the appeal either.

Quote: First Paragraph(s)

I was born in England in a town beside the sea. I loved the sea and when I was a boy, I made up my mind that I was going to be a sailor.

When I grew up to be a young man, I became a sailor. I had many adventures, but the one I am about to tell you was the greatest adventure of them all. (page 7)

Quote: Finding the Footprint

One day, I went out for a walk along the shore of my island. I looked down and saw the print of a man’s bare foot in the sand!

At once, I was very much afraid. I stopped and looked all around. But I could see no one. I walked up and down the shore trying to find some more footprints. There was just the one. (page 63)

Great Illustrated Classics

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (Great Illustrated Classics). adapted by Malvina G. Vogel; 1992; 230 pages.

Readability. It is easy to read; it is written in modern language for children, although it does still feel more of a rehearsal of things that happened rather than a developed story.

Faithfulness. Although it tells the story from the third-person point of view in modern language, it doesn’t feel far departed from Defoe’s language because it is not written in slang. It does touch on some of the major themes of loneliness, fear, and survival, although not to a large extent; the story is more action than emotion. Religious themes are mentioned on occasion, but it does not support a subplot of Robinson’s relationship to God. It does mention cannibals and the fear of them.

Appeal. With large print and occasional black and white sketches, this may be an appealing book for children wanting to learn the story of Robinson Crusoe. There is also a map at the beginning and an illustration of the parts of a boat at the end; the beginning has a “cast of characters” listing.

Quote: First Paragraph(s)

“Robinson, if you go to sea, your life will be one of misery,” said Mr. Crusoe, “and you will live to regret it!”

But eighteen-year-old Robinson Crusoe was not moved by his father’s words of by the old man’s tears. The only thing he wanted in life was to go to sea to make his fortune. HE didn’t want to study law as his father had hoped. He didn’t want to share in his family’s successful business as his mother had hoped.

(page 9)

Quote: Finding the Footprint

Overjoyed at this discovery, Robinson climbed down the hill and returned to the shore. He hadn’t taken more than five steps in the sand when he stopped dead in his tracks. There in front of him, in a place where he hadn’t yet stepped, was a man’s footprint!

Robinson stood stunned for several minutes. It was a human print. IT had toes, a heel, and every part of a foot. And it was too large to be his own.

Robinson looked around and listened. Nothing! HE climbed back up the hill and looked further. Still nothing! He ran up and down the shore, but he saw nobody there and no other print. (page 88).

Classic Starts

Robinson Crusoe retold from the Daniel Defoe original (Classic Starts). Copyright by Deanna McFadden and Illustrated by Jamel Akib 2006; 150 pages, including discussion questions.

Readability. Crusoe’s story is completely retold and rewritten, using modern colloquialisms (“that’s for sure”) and lots of exclamation points. It is so readable, I found myself reading the entire thing. It does has very serious typos and errors. (See, for example, the quote below of the first sentence; the date is incorrect.)

Faithfulness. Obviously, by completely rewriting the story, the editors are not faithful to the language of the text to any extent. The editors gave Crusoe’s animal friends names (like “Shippy” for the dog), and they also eliminated some themes and rewrote other themes to be stronger; this version of the story had more emphasis on the fact that Crusoe disobeyed his father’s wishes, but there is not one single mention of Crusoe being religious or religiously changed from his experience. Almost all parts of Crusoe’s story are touched upon, including the part where he was kidnapped by pirates, escaped, and moved to Brazil. There is no mention of cannibals (only of savages that must be bad) and no one is killed in the book, other than those who died in the shipwreck: even the “battle” at the end lacks anyone being murdered.

Appeal. Despite my dislike of the generic, modern writing, I really enjoyed this version of the story. I loved the discussion questions at the end; this added some degree of scholarship, even though the stark change in language took some scholarship away from the classic. This is not Defoe’s classic, and I would suggest that reading the Classic Start version is still not preparation for reading the real thing: the language is so completely “easy” it won’t help a child with the more difficult prose. That said, it’s a book that helps children address a few of the themes Defoe originally developed in his classic novel.

Quote: First Paragraph

My name is Robinson Crusoe. In 1692, I was born in the town of York. I was the youngest of three sons. My eldest brother was a soldier and died in battle against Spain. My second brother simply disappeared. He left one day and never returned. My parents had lost two sons and did not want to lose a third. My father wanted me to stay home and become a lawyer, but I craved grand adventures and faraway lands – I wanted to be a sailor! (page 1)

Note: The birth year must be a typo; the last chapter of the book, he arrives back in York in 1686.

Quote: Find the Footprint

One day, during my usual long morning walk, I decided to pick some grapes for raisins. But then I had a flash of courage.

Maybe I’ll go make sure my boat is still there, I thought. I’m feeling brave today. So instead of visiting my summer house, I walked around to the beach where my boat was tied up. When I got there, I found a man’s footprint in the sand.

“Oh no!” I exclaimed, “Who could that be? It must be the natives! I don’t want them to see me! I don’t want them to discover me!” I ran as fast as I could all the way back to my camp. I checked over my shoulder again and again as I ran. What if they found me? What would they do to me? After running for almost an hour, I made it back to my fence, jumped up onto my ladder, and pulled it in after me. (pages 100-101).

Illustrated Versions

Scribner Storybook Classic

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe illustrated by N.C. Wyeth (Scribner Storybook Classic). Abridged by Timothy Meis, 2003; 52 pages.

Readability. Although this book uses many of Daniel Defoe’s words, it is very readable. I can’t put in to words why this book is so readable. It may be that the large pages have white space between the lines. The fact that it is only 52 pages long to begin with helps as well. The abridger did rewrite parts of it, but the language still seems remarkably like Defoe’s. Maybe it’s easier to read because there are beautiful full-color paintings every few pages. The style of the paintings match the text of the story, and that helps me read it.

Faithfulness. Again, although an abridgment, this abridger was faithful to the language and spirit of the original in many ways. He details Crusoe’s estrangement from his father as well as his spiritual transformation on the island. It details the kidnap from pirates and the “battle” at the end. And although it mentions Crusoe’s discovery of the bones, it does not discuss cannibalism. The most poignant way this book is faithful to the original is the sense of solitude and loneliness I got from each chapter. While this book is shorter than the original, it covers many of the basics. Crusoe’s story is faithfully told.

Appeal. This is my favorite adaptation: it is beautiful for perusing, but faithful in theme and language to Crusoe’s original. I love the beautiful paintings: they evoke the beauty of solitude in nature, as well as the adventure quality of Crusoe trying to fend for himself. It is a beautiful book for children to be introduced to the story, and I highly recommend it to child and adult alike.

Quote: First Paragraph

I was born in the year 1632 in the city of York, England. My father was originally from Bremen, Germany. He traveled from that land to settle in England, and marry my mother. I was called Robinson Kreutznauer upon my birth. But the people of the English countryside found it easier to pronounce our name differently, and soon we were called the Crusoes.

Very early in life I dreamed of leaving my small town and seeing what the wrodl had to offer me. I longed to ramble, and soon fixed my imagination upon sailing the seas in search of my fortune. My father, however, was against this notion of mine. He believe that I should enter the law profession and stay near to where I was born. (page 1)

Quote: Finding the Footprint

Since I had given up the idea of seeing the whole of the island by boat, I resolved to walk along its shore until I had seen it all. The day began similarly to all the others I had previously spend on this island, so I was not prepared for what I saw clearly upon the seashore.

There before me in the sand was the perfect impression of a man’s foot. I stood like on thunderstruck. It was not my footprint, for it was too small. And no beast could have made the mark either. No, another human being had set foot upon my island. A chill passed over me as I looked up and down the shoreline to see if this man was still around and watching me. (page 31)

Classics Illustrated

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe adapted by Sam Wray and Pat Boyette (Classics Illustrated). 1991; 44 pages with comic-like illustrations.

Readability. Written with Defoe’s words in illustrated comic boxes, it’s surprisingly hard to read. Most of the text is all caps italics, in very small print, in bright yellow boxes.

Faithfulness. The words appear to Defoe’s own. Defoe’s story is told with a lot of the details, including mention of the pirate kidnapping and escape. Most of this is action details, however, as it’s an illustrated novel; therefore, all the internal debates about survival, loneliness, fear, and God are missing. This makes it rather boring: I did this. I did that. “I had great labor and difficulty.” (page 9) So did I, reading it! Surprisingly, the graphic novel does mention and illustrate the remains of the cannibalistic feast. Gross!

Appeal. While I thought the illustrations would make this approachable, the illustrations were pretty ugly and the writing small and non-engaging. I don’t Defoe’s writing has much appeal in comic format.

Quote: First paragraph

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of good family and middle estate. My father had educated me well and designed me for the law; but I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea, and this led me so strongly against the will of my parents that there seemed to be something fatal in that propensity. [box outlined with small illustrations] (page 1)

Quote: Finding the footprint

Approaching my fifteenth year on the island, one day about noon, going toward my boat, I was exceedingly surprised at the print of a man’s naked food on the shore, plain to be seen in the sand! [illustration]

I listened; I looked around; I heard nothing and saw nothing. [illustration]

I climbed rising ground for a better look; I went up and down the shore; I returned to the footprint. [illustration]

Yes, it was exactly a footprint, toes, heels, every part of a foot! How it came there I could not imagine! [illustration]

(page 26)

Usborne Young Reading

Robinson Crusoe (Usborne Young Reading) from the story by Daniel Defoe. Retold by Angela Wilkes, Adapted by Gill Harvey, Illustrated by Peter Dennis; 2003; 62 pages.

Readability. This book is part graphic novel, and it was surprisingly easy to read. Part of the story is in large-print paragraph format, but the illustrations have details and thought bubbles that are integral to the story. I breezed through it, as it is a very low reading level.

Faithfulness. As with all completely rewritten versions of the story, it eliminated many themes, including the religious bent, and much of the introductory adventures. It’s also told in third person. It does illustrate the beach spread with bones, but tactfully avoids the concept of cannibalism.

Appeal. I think this book would appeal to a young reluctant reader. It portrays the adventure story with bright illustrations, and while it’s not incredibly detailed, it does encourage a kid to think about survival. It’s easy to read, and the adventures are engaging and exciting. I like the thought bubbles integrated with the illustrations; it makes it feel like a graphic novel, although it is not.

Quote: First Paragraph

Long ago, there lived a boy called Robinson Crusoe. He wasn’t at all interested in school or books. All he could think about was being a sailor. [illustration] (page 3)

Quote: Finding the Footprint

But then everything changed. One day, Crusoe was wandering along the beach when he saw a footprint. He stared at it for a moment, his heart thumping, then ran home. [illustration] (page 34)

Retelling the Story

The Adventures of Wishbone

Robinhound Crusoe (The Adventures of Wishbone series) by Caroline Leavitt, inspired by Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. 1997; 142 pages.

Readability. I thought I would love it, but I couldn’t do it; I’m completely the wrong audience and I struggled with this. Robinhound Crusoe is written as if it were (and it probably was) a television show. It didn’t feel like a book, and the writing was stilted and awkward. It flipped back and forth from a modern day story to that of the dog living the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. But like I said, I’m the wrong audience. I’ll bet a kid, who likes the show, would breeze right through it.

Faithfulness. Robinhound Crusoe is, at first glance, completely unfaithful to the original, both in writing style and in most of the themes. But it does get the general theme of survival across in a pretty strong way. While the dog relives the story of Robinson Crusoe, a modern-day boy is stuck without power and telephones. The boy learns to survive, just as Wishbone-turned-Robinhound does. The book does mention cannibals.

Appeal. Children who watch the television show would most appreciate it. Since I’ve never seen the television show, the set-up was unfamiliar. That said, I think a television show like this is a brilliant way to tell the story of classic literature. I’ll suspect kids would be more interested in Defoe after this type of exposure. That said, Robinhound Crusoe is not adequate preparation to picking up the original. They are completely different types of writing, and the original, I believe, requires a different type of careful reading.

Quote: First Paragraph (of Crusoe section)

Wishbone could see it all now. He was Robinson Crusoe, writing down his tale for future generations to read and learn from. He was now very old, and his fur was white. His tail had a little less wag, his body less bounce to the ounce. But as he retold his story, he imagined he was growing younger and younger. His fur took on more shine, and he had more spring in his step. He was suddenly scampering back in time to 1659 in London, England, becoming the young lad Crusoe. He was standing on all fours in his fathers’ richly appointed study, asking permission to seek his fame and fortune at sea. (page 16-17).

Quote: Finding the Footprint

One day, I was walking on the beach. I was thinking how lonely I felt, how I wished more than anything to see another human soul. Suddenly I came upon a footprint in the sand. Everything seemed to stop cold. I felt the fur stand up straight on the back of my neck. I looked around wildly, but even my keen eyes, which could spy a piece of kibble from thirty feet away, could see nothing. It’s only a mirage, I thought. I’m tired and I am seeing things. I shut my eyes tightly and then opened them again. I expected the footprint to be gone. But there it was. (page 91)

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