Adventure is an important part of children's psyche. Children often dream of strange fortunes, great feats, exciting events, long trips, and everything they can be drawn to from the monotony of everyday life. Heroes of adventure stories are mostly sailors, pirates, cowboys and Indians, convicts, researchers, adventurers and solitaires of all types. The concept of adventure story is quite simple: brave, strong and resourceful hero must make a difficult task, and overcome a lot of danger, but in the end, he wins. The most important features of adventure stories are a romantic setting, an unusual situation, and the special vitality of characters. The beginnings of adventure genre are found in Homer´s Odyssey, Cervantes´s Don Quijote, biblical motifs and medieval novels. Europeans and North Americans were having many real-life adventures in the nineteenth century: explorers were seeking the North Pole, Florence Nightingale was pioneering for female independence as a director of nursing in the Crimean War, and a railroad was being constructed across the United States. If a person could not go to a remote region and overcome the perils lurking there, the best next adventure was the vicarious one offered through books. (Norton, Donna: 59). The most popular writers of children's adventure novels are Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, J.F. Cooper, Zane Grey, Karl May, Howard Pyle, Jules Verne etc. I will introduce you to the most famous writers of adventure stories in children´s literature.
Daniel Defoe was born in 1660 in London, to James and Alice Foe. His father worked as a butcher and the young Daniel regretted the fact that he could not attend a prestigious school, such as Oxford or Cambridge. Defoe tried his best to be a gentleman, even changing his name from Foe to Defoe. As a result of his controversial writings, Defoe was arrested, imprisoned for a period of time, tried, and sentenced to pay a fine and to stand three times in the pillory.
His novel Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719. The story is about a young man who strongly desires to become a sailor. In spite of his family's opposition, he runs away to go to sea. His adventures lead him all over the world, but his most important journey is a spiritual one. The novel is basically about the life and adventures of Crusoe on the island, where he arrived after a shipwreck. A series of disasters happen to him as punishment for his rebellious nature. For example he was forced to spend twenty-eight years of his life on that deserted island. On the island, Crusoe is transformed. As he searches for peace, he must come to grips with his relationship to God. When he finally acknowledges his own Christianity, all the rebelliousness is driven out of him and he begins to live a peaceful existence on the island. This book was inspired by the true story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor. Robert Louis Stevenson admired it, saying that the footprint scene in Crusoe was one of the greatest in English literature, and most unforgettable: "One day, about noon, going towards 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 on the sand." This scene was a prelude to his meeting with Friday, one of the savages, whom Crusoe rescues from his captors. Crusoe "civilizes" Friday and converts him to Christianity. Friday remains faithful to Crusoe until the end.
It is not known how Defoe, living in London, came to know enough to write a story about ships, sailing, pirates, and savages. No matter the sources for Robinson Crusoe, it is definitely an entertaining and realistic adventure tale. Although not written for children, this book was extremely popular with them. It has inspired a new genre, the Robinsonade as works like The Swiss Family Robinson (1812) by Johann David Wyss.
Jonathan Swift was born in 1667 in Dublin, Ireland. Not only he had...
References: 1. Norton, Donna. Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children´s Literature.
2. Carpenter, Humphrey and Prichard, Mari. The Oxford Companion to Children´s Literature.
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