The world's most famous traveller is a fictional character, but his story was based on real events (the novel also describes real places)
Robinson Crusoe and his true story. The famous literary character who finds himself on a (seemingly) deserted island and manages to survive in a hostile environment thanks to his wit and thirst for life. But did you know that not only the island on which the amazing adventures of the English traveller took place, and Robinson Crusoe himself, were not entirely fictional?
Between fantasy and reality
The Life and Strange and Wonderful Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, was the first adventure novel in modern literature, and its author, the British writer and journalist Daniel Defoe, pioneered a genre in which real events and places - mostly exotic and distant - were mixed with elements of pure fantasy to create compelling stories capable of arousing the curiosity of readers who were fascinated by the many wonders that inhabited these distant lands.
In our case, one of the real-life ingredients Defoe used to make the story more realistic is precisely the island on which most of the narrative takes place. Not only that....
Robinson Crusoe Island
In the Pacific Ocean lies Robinson Crusoe Island, a small island in the Juan Fernández archipelago, about 700 km off the Chilean coast. Until 1996, the island was called Más a Tierra, but the Chilean government changed its name in homage to the character who brought it such fame.
Although the island is far from the continent and often prone to storms and tsunamis - just like in Defoe's novel - it is now unoccupied, with 885 people living on it.
There was also a small clash between several British ships and a German cruiser here in 1915 (World War I was indeed a "world war"), but the event that made it famous was different.
This is actually where Alexander Selkirk landed!
Robinson Crusoe and his true story. Alexander Selkirk.
"Who the hell is this Alexander Selkirk?" - you'll say. Well, he's a real Robinson Crusoe!
Selcreek was a Scottish sailor who, in 1704, found himself on the then uninhabited island of Mas-a-Tierra after a bitter dispute with the captain of his ship, who was unwilling to heed the advice of his subordinate, who suggested he stay on the island for repairs to the ship.
However, discipline was very strict in those days, and in fact Selkirk was condemned to die of hunger and thirst in that forgotten land.
But the captain underestimated the sailor's spirit!
Armed with only an axe, a knife, a pot, a blanket and a few shabby clothes, Selkirk actually managed to survive for two years in this remote place, getting his food from what the environment had to offer and reading the Bible every day. This spiritual exercise allowed him, above all, to keep his wits about him and to remember his native language.
During his long exile - before he was rescued by an English ship - two more galleons visited the island. However, these ships belonged to Spain, which had long been at war with England. So poor Selkirk also had to worry about how to hide from the enemy crews exploring the area!
After 4 years of total isolation, on 30 January 1709, Alexander saw 2 British ships moored on the island to refuel with water, introducing himself to the ship's commander and telling his story. The captain listened to Alexander's story with disbelief. Fortunately, however, there was a sailor on board who knew him and vouched for him. Alexander continued to sail for three more years, until 1711, when he returned home to Scotland.
After returning home, the story of the Scottish Castilian became popular, Alexander even wrote a story about his adventures: he wanted to publish it, but before doing so, gave it to a young writer, who advised Alexander not to publish the story. That writer's name was Daniel Defoe. It was from this story that he drew inspiration for his Robinson Crusoe, enriching Selkirk's already incredible adventures with fantasy (for example, the island in question in the novel is much warmer and inhabited by cannibals).
For the record, Selkirk was right about the need to repair the ship: shortly after leaving the Más a Tierra, the arrogant captain's ship sank near from Colombia!
Хорошо написано, многое я и не знал