The Lost World (Conan Doyle novel)

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The Lost World
Lost world.jpg
Cover of the first edition of The Lost World.
Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Professor Challenger
Genre

Fantasy novel

Lost world
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date
1912
Media type Print
Followed by The Poison Belt

The Lost World is a novel released in 1912 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle concerning an expedition to a plateau in the Amazon basin of South America where prehistoric animals (dinosaurs and other extinct creatures) still survive. It was originally published serially in the popular Strand Magazine and illustrated by New-Zealand-born artist Harry Rountree during the months of April–November 1912. The character of Professor Challenger was in thrusting book. The novel also describes a war between indigenous people and a vicious tribe of ape-like creatures.

Plot summary[edit]

The group encountering Iguanodon

Edward Malone, a young reporter for the Daily Gazette, asks his editor for a dangerous assignment to impress the woman he loves, Gladys, who wishes for a great man capable of brave deeds and actions. His task is to approach the notorious Professor Challenger, who dislikes the popular press intensely and physically assaults intrusive journalists. The subject is to be his recent South American expedition which, surrounded by controversy, guarantees a hostile reaction. As a direct approach would be instantly rebuffed, Malone instead masquerades as an earnest student. On meeting the professor he is startled by his overwhelming intellect - his intimidating physique too - but believes his ruse is succeeding. Seeing through the masquerade, then confirming Malone's scientific knowledge is non-existent, Challenger erupts in anger and forcibly throws him out. Malone earns his respect by refusing to press charges with a policeman who saw his violent ejection into the street. Challenger ushers him back inside and, extracting promises of confidentiality, eventually reveals he has discovered living dinosaurs in South America. At a tumultuous public meeting in which Challenger experiences further ridicule, Malone volunteers for an expedition to verify the discoveries. His companions are to be Professor Summerlee, and Lord John Roxton, an adventurer who helped end slavery on the Amazon; the notches on his rifle showing how many slavers he killed doing so.

Running the gauntlet of hostile tribes, the expedition finally reaches the lost world with the aid of Indian guides, who are superstitiously scared of the area. When they finally succeed in scaling the cliffs and entering the lost world another helper, Gomez, whose brother was killed by Roxton in his fight against slavery, destroys their makeshift bridge. The four explorers are now trapped on the plateau.

Whilst investigating the wonders of the lost world, discovering many plants and creatures thought to be extinct, they narrowly escape an attack from pterodactyls. Although barely escaping with their lives, Roxton takes great interest in nearby blue clay deposits. At night a ferocious dinosaur is about to break through the thorn bushes surrounding their camp; Roxton averts disaster by bravely dashing at it, thrusting a blazing torch at its face to scare it away. Later, all except Malone are captured by a race of ape-men. Whilst in captivity they discover that a tribe of natives, with whom the ape-men are at war, inhabit the other side of the plateau. Roxton escapes and together with Malone mounts a rescue, preventing many unpleasant deaths, including a young native who is a prince of his tribe. The rescued natives take the party to their village, then with the help of their firepower return to defeat the ape-men. After witnessing the power of their guns, the tribe wish to keep them on the plateau but, helped by the young prince they saved, they eventually discover a tunnel leading back to the outside world.

Upon return to England, despite full reports from Malone many detractors continue to dismiss the expedition's account, much as they had Challenger's original story. Anticipating this, at a public meeting Challenger produces a young pterodactyl as proof, transfixing the audience and leaving them in no doubt of the truth. The explorers are instantly feted as heroes, and on a wave of adulation find themselves carried shoulder-high from the hall by cheering crowds.

At a private celebratory dinner, Roxton reveals to the others that the blue clay contained diamonds, and that he managed to extract about £200,000 worth, which is to be split between them. Malone returns to his love, Gladys, hoping she will recognise his achievements. Instead, he finds she has now changed her mind and married a very ordinary man instead, an insignificant clerk. Astonished at this turn of events, and with nothing to keep him in London, he decides to accompany Roxton back to the lost world.

Characters[edit]

  • Professor Challenger, zoologist
  • Edward D. Malone, reporter
  • McArdle, Edward's editor
  • Professor Summerlee, scientist
  • Lord John Roxton, adventurer
  • Gomez, brother to a slave master Roxton killed
  • Manuel, Gomez's friend
  • Zambo, South American black guide
  • Gladys Hungerton, Edward Malone's love interest

Animals featured[edit]

Non-avian dinosaurs[edit]

Encounter with Stegosaurus

Other extinct reptiles[edit]

Other prehistoric animals included[edit]

Mammals[edit]

Birds[edit]

Other creatures on the Plateau[edit]

  • Ixodes maloni, a species of blood-sucking tick; named after Malone, the first to be bitten by one
  • Moths; some large specimens were seen flying around the expedition's campfire.
  • A 50-foot-long black snake was seen by the expedition.

Creatures outside the Plateau[edit]

References in other works[edit]

The idea of prehistoric animals surviving into the present day was not new, but had already been introduced by Jules Verne in Journey to the Center of the Earth. In that book, published in 1864, the creatures live under the earth in and around a subterranean sea. In 1915, the Russian scientist Vladimir Obruchev produced his own version of the "lost world" theme in the novel Plutonia, which places the dinosaurs and other Jurassic species in a fictional space inside the hollow Earth connected to the surface via an opening in the Russian Far North.

In 1916, Edgar Rice Burroughs published The Land That Time Forgot, his version of The Lost World where lost submariners from a German U-Boat discovered their own lost world of dinosaurs and ape-men in Antarctica. Two other books in the series followed.

Author Greg Bear set his 1998 novel Dinosaur Summer in Conan Doyle's Lost World.

A 1994 release for the Forgotten Futures role-playing game was based on and includes the full text of the Professor Challenger novels and stories.

Conan Doyle's title was reused by Michael Crichton in his 1995 novel The Lost World, a sequel to Jurassic Park. (Its film adaptation, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, followed suit.) Both the book and its movie adaptation share a somewhat similar setting with the Conan Doyle story, involving a journey to an isolated area filled with living dinosaurs. At least two similarly named TV shows, Land of the Lost and Lost, nod to this source material, although the latter draws more from Doyle's short story "The Lost Special". At least two of the characters in Michael Crichton's novel The Lost World mention a palaeontologist called John Roxton. However, Crichton's Roxton, who is never seen, is something of an idiot, wrongly identifying one dinosaur and publishing a report stating that the braincase of Tyrannosaurus rex is the same as that of a frog and thus possesses a visual system attuned strictly to movement.

In the Valiant Comics series, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Turok meets Professor Darwin Challenger, a descendant of George Edward Challenger, who accompanies him during the events of the New River arc running from #7-#9. Darwin bears strong resemblance to his ancestor in both character and appearance. He is seen to be in possession of a Dimorphodon specimen shot by his grandfather and mentions that Maple White Land had since been destroyed in a cataclysmic event prior to the 1990s.

One of the Neopets plots, "Journey to The Lost Isle" is based on this book, with Roxton A. Colchester III, Hugo & Lillian Fairweather, and Werther as the adventurers, with Captain Rourke and Scrap as the guides.

The book was adapted in Czech comics by Vlastislav Toman/Jiří Veškrna (1970, 24 pages), followed by a sequel The Second Expedition (Vlastislav Toman/František Koblík, 26 pages) (reprinted together in Velká kniha Komiksů, ISBN 80-7257-658-5).

The 2002 animated adventure Dinosaur Island is an attempt to blend the original story with the popular reality series format, and was written by John Loy, writer of similar productions such as The Land Before Time.

Rafael Chandler's 2016 supplement "The World of the Lost" for the OSR Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing game system references the Doyle book not only in its title, but also in the its contents and setting themes, including prehistoric creatures on a plateau and a savage war forming the setting's background.

References to actual history, geography and current science[edit]

Map of Maple-White Land

The characters of Ed Malone and Lord John Roxton were modelled, respectively, on the journalist E. D. Morel and the diplomat Roger Casement, leaders of the Congo Free State reform campaign (the Congo Reform Association), which Conan Doyle supported.[1]

The setting for The Lost World is believed to have been inspired by reports of Doyle's good friend Percy Harrison Fawcett's expedition to Huanchaca Plateau in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, Bolivia. Fawcett organised several expeditions to delimit the border between Bolivia and Brazil – an area of potential conflict between both countries. Doyle took part in the lecture of Fawcett in Royal Geographical Society on 13 February 1911[2] and was impressed by the tale about the remote "province of Caupolican" (present day Huanchaca Plateau) in Bolivia – a dangerous area with impenetrable forests, where Fawcett saw "monstrous tracks of unknown origin".[3]

Fawcett wrote in his posthumously published memoirs: "monsters from the dawn of man's existence might still roam these heights unchallenged, imprisoned and protected by unscalable cliffs. So thought Conan Doyle when later in London I spoke of these hills and showed photographs of them. He mentioned an idea for a novel on Central South America and asked for information, which I told him I should be glad to supply. The fruit of it was his Lost world in 1912, appearing as a serial in the Strand Magazine [sic], and subsequently in the form of a book that achieved widespread popularity."[4] Additionally, a 1996 Science Fiction Studies review of an annotated edition of the novel suggested that another inspiration for the story may have been the 1890s contested political history of the Pacaraima Mountains plateaus, and Mount Roraima in particular.[5]

The dinosaur that attacks the camp during the night is vividly described (‘In the deep shadow of the tree...a crouching form full of savage vigour and menace... not higher than a horse, but the dim outline suggested vast bulk and strength). Identified as an Allosaurus, in real life it would have been more fearsome still, though the book also allowed the possibility of it being Megalosaurus or a juvenile Allosaurus, which would be closer to the description.

The novel also details a brief encounter with a giant snake, estimated by Challenger to have been over 50 feet long. Though not based on any known snake at the time, its inclusion likely came from reports by Fawcett. In 1907, Fawcett claimed to have witnessed and killed a giant anaconda of a similar size, though his report was unverified. However, the recent discovery of Titanoboa, which could easily fit the description given in the novel, indicates snakes of gargantuan size did indeed exist in prehistoric eras.

Following the stereotypes of the time in which the book was written, the dinosaurs are described often as extremely stupid; For example, at some point an Iguanodon pulls down the tree in which it is feeding, being injured and frightened in the process. This idea is generally omitted in the modern film versions.

Film, television and radio adaptations[edit]

(The character of Lord John Roxton was not included in this adaptation)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daniel Stashower. Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1999, pgs. 321-22
  2. ^ "B. Fletcher Robinson & 'The Lost World'". Paul Spiring. Archived from the original on 25 June 2009.
  3. ^ Harold T. Wilkins. Secret Cities of Old South America. Cosimo Inc., New York, 2008, p. 199
  4. ^ P. H. Fawcett, Brian Fawcett. Exploration Fawcett. 1953, p. 122
  5. ^ Bleiler, Everett (November 1996). "Lost Worlds and Lost Opportunities: the Pilot-Rodin Edition of The Lost World". Science Fiction Studies. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b Radio Plays 1945–1997: Serials by Roger Bickerton and Nigel Deacon

External links[edit]