Six Degrees: From Mulch Diggums to Long John Silver
Well, I had to “dig” a bit to find a parallel to someone from the rather unusual crew I was presented with from J.L. Mbewe in her Six Degrees post about Artemis Fowl. What strikes me about the Six Degrees series is how utterly unique most of these characters are. I think that’s partially due to the fact that many of them have been fantasy characters and the worlds they inhabit are often quite unconventional.
So this week I once again had to stretch a little to find a fit. There aren’t many tunneling dwarven thieves with a flatulence problem after all. By a found a partner in crime, so to speak in the person of one Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Like Diggums, Long John is a scoundrel and a thief. And also like the dastardly dwarf he is hired by the good guys to help them recover something and yet he secretly is plotting to betray them at an opportune moment. If you haven’t read Treasure Island I’m afraid I probably just gave away an important part of the plot, but mentioning this was necessary to establish the connection.
Suffice it to say that the similarities end there. Silver sounds like he was more likable and charismatic than the dirt chewing dwarf from Fowl and he also wasn’t operating solo. He had quite a few others to help him out in his mutinous schemes. The ship he gets hired on to help also has no idea of his past when they sign him on so when he turns on them it’s quite a devastating blow.
I loved Treasure Island and if you’re interested in hearing more about what I thought of it, you can read my review. The story’s narrator and main character is Jim Hawkins, a young lad who quite innocently comes into possession of the map to Treasure Island and subsequently finds himself serving as a cabin boy on the Hispaniola in an expedition to recover the lost treasure said to be buried there. Jim is good natured, trusting, and also quite courageous and resourceful. Time after time he puts himself in danger in order to try and save the rest of the crew. It’s safe to say that he grows up rather quickly on board the ship, learning bitter lessons about human greed but also about friendship and sacrifice.
Dr. Livesey is the principal organizer of the voyage. He’s a no-nonsense sort whose only ambition is to see to it that the mission succeeds and that the others get their fair share of the treasure. Having served as a soldier in the past he’s a steely companion who never ceases to carry himself like a gentleman. One of Livesey’s staunchest supporter is Squire Trelawney. Though this man is emblematic of the phrase “loose lips sink ships” (it’s his inability to keep the Hispaniola’s mission as secret that attracts Silver and his crew to the voyage) he more than makes up for this indiscretion by fighting side by side with Livesey and the others when things go south. He’s the best shot on the crew and keeps his wits about him in battle like a true soldier.
Billy Bones is another pirate whose drunken dissipation eventually gets him killed. Cantankerous and stingy, he’s everything Silver is not as a pirate, but he has the one thing Silver doesn’t: the map to Treasure Island. Until he dies, that is, and it passes to Jim.
The final character I’ll mention is Benjamin Gunn, a former crew member of Captain Flint’s along with John Silver. Marooned on Treasure Island for three years, old Ben Gunn has more than a few rivets loose in his cannon. Though half mad from having to survive on his own, he ultimately gets the last laugh on Silver by thwarting his designs on Flint’s gold and helping Livesey and Hawkins get the upper hand.
I realize there are a lot of soldiers and pirates to choose from and not a lot of variety on the surface. I think in part that’s due to the fact that Treasure Island is not an overly involved or complicated tale. The characters pretty much are what they appear to be (except for Silver): good old fashioned Englishmen trying to make their way in the world as best they can.
Hopefully others will find some buried treasure in this classic tale of Adventure on the high seas. I look forward to seeing what flag the next ship raises in the Six Degrees of Kool Books series!