Jules Verne’s classic novel, The Mysterious Island, first published
in 1874, is best remembered not so much as a castaway saga, but as the story that
the drew the adventures of Captain Nemo to a close. In The Mysterious Island,
Verne explains that Nemo was born an Indian prince, who joined the rebellion of
1857 against the British rule of his homeland. His family killed, he fled with a
few loyal followers to the seas, building his fabulous submarine, the Nautilus.
He then begins to take revenge against British warships at sea, as told in Twenty
Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.
In early 2012, two new versions of The Mysterious Island have appeared
on screen, one in movie theaters, the other on the Syfy Channel. In particular,
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, an enjoyable sequel to Journey to the
Center of the Earth 3-D (2008), incorporates elements of several Verne
stories, not only Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas and The Mysterious
Island, and a bit of The Golden Volcano, first published in English
The Mysterious Island, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas,
were first brought to the movie screen in a 1916 silent epic, actually the first
fiction film partly shot under the sea. Dozens of other versions of both novels
have appeared around the world since, including many pastiches continuing the voyages
of Captain Nemo.
A major recent discovery, however, changes the way we know The Mysterious Island
In fact, it was a novel Verne had been working on for a decade, an epic entitled
Shipwrecked Family: Marooned with Uncle Robinson
this version was rejected by Verne’s French publisher. He demanded it be entirely
rewritten, starting from scratch. That new novel is the classic known as The Mysterious
Only a few incidents are similar between the novels; and all the characters are
different. Shipwrecked Family told of a mother, father, and their young
children, whose ship is seized by pirates, and castaway on a small boat, with only
an avuncular old sailor to help them. By contrast, Mysterious Island begins
amidst the American Civil War, as prisoners escape in a balloon carried on a storm
to a Pacific island.
In Shipwrecked Family, like Mysterious Island, the castaways must learn
to survive with no resources outside of their own knowledge. Moreover, the flora
and fauna of the island do not match the hemisphere, and there it appears that some
of the animals have been used in scientific and biological experiments.
This was a theme added to the film adaptation of Mysterious Island in 1961
by Ray Harryhausen, and now that Shipwrecked Family has been published, it appears
Harryhausen was more in tune with Verne’s original ideas than could have been
guessed at the time. Exactly how Verne intended to complete Shipwrecked Family
remains unknown, due to his publisher’s intervention—and there is no
knowing if, as in Mysterious Island, Shipwrecked Family would
also have included the end of Captain Nemo. Given just how close we now know Verne
and Harryhausen were in their thinking, the North American Jules Verne Society dedicated
their publication of to the special effects master.
is the second volume (of eight published to date) in
an ongoing series of first-time-ever Verne translations, edited by Brian Taves for
the Verne Society, and published by BearManor Media, and available on Amazon.com
All the books are profusely illustrated with the original 19th century
engravings from Verne novels, and the cover is modified from one of the French first
editions. Supplementing the story is critical background, including two essays by
Verne about his enjoyment of “Robinson Crusoe” type stories. Expert
translation is provided by Sidney Kravitz, also translator of the definitive modern
edition of The Mysterious Island (Wesleyan University Press, 2002).
Of the Verne Society’s series, Michael Dirda of the Washington Post praised
the first volume, commenting:
“I am a Jules Verne reader and collector. As such, I deeply appreciate the
new editions of Verne being published by BearManor Fiction in its Palik Series.
The most recent volume The Marriage of a Marquis features a wealth of extras,
starting with essays by three of the leading Verne scholars of our time: Brian Taves,
the late Walter James Miller, and Jean-Michel Margot, followed by commentary by
translator Edward Baxter and an additional Verne fragment translated by Kieran M.
O’Driscoll. The paperback’s gorgeous cover resembles one of the classic
French Hetzel editions. Jules Verne was more than just a writer of boys’ adventures
and his oeuvre extends way beyond the four or five classics that everyone knows
about. He’s a writer well worth exploring and rediscovering.”