|Notes on Swiss Family Robinson
||[Aug. 10th, 2009|05:00 pm]
I have been reading a lot of classic books that i have never read, but should have, as well as revisiting the occasional book that I haven't read since childhood. Recent books finished within the past month include "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne, "2001/2010/2061" by Arthur C. Clarke, and "A Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame. |
Today I just finished "Swiss Family Robinson" by Johann Wyss.
Well. It was a surprisingly dense and difficult read for a kid's book. It sat on my bed-side stand for a month as I read it in snatches before going to sleep- which it was quite good at helping with. I would even call it poorly written, which is surprising for something considered a classic! Part of this may possibly be due to bad translation- my version is a 1940 fifth printing- and it is possible that the grammatical awkwardness is attributable to that. Frankly however, the story itself is just as bad. The story is really just a tale of how every conceivable useful plant and useful/dangerous animal from *every* continent was found on the island. Unfortunately for the animals, the common result of metting the Family Swiss was to be killed or, extremely rarely, forcefully domesticated.
You scoff, but there were probably, literally, over 200 animals killed by the family in the course of the narrative. Everything from porcupines, to boa constrictors, to alligators, to jackals, wolfs, bears, elephants, ostriches, lions, warthogs, seals, whales, doves, ducks, geese, penguins, monkeys, orangutans.... ad nauseum. It was amazing- even if you discount the amazingly laughable density and variety of animals (which is duplicated by the fauna, but at least the plants can't be shot!). Every chapter is a natural history lesson in how to defeat and colonize the land, mainly by butchering it's natural inhabitants or drastically altering the landscape to be more useful. Literally EVERY TIME a group of animals is stumbled across the family does its best to shoot them all, and then extremely occasionally they domesticate a lone wounded survivor! On more than one occasion after killing every animal in a herd/flock/pride/whatever they introspectively comment that it would have been nice to capture one instead.... ... ... the mind boggles. They even kept a museum of their stuffed and preserved conquests.
I completely recognized that "it was a different time" but the book seems insanely horrible now. Halfway through the book I was reading it just to see what new and exciting animal they would shoot dead next!
I did try to find online a list of the animal deaths in Swiss Family Robinson. I imagined that someone other than me has probably been just as startled by the sheer slaughter of everything the family came across, but no joy.
One good think came out of reading it: I now have the urge to add the move to my netflix list. I loved it as a kid!