The forgotten world

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German first edition, Scherl, Berlin 1926
The forgotten world , first edition from 1912

The Forgotten World (in the original: The Lost World ) is a 1912 novel by the British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle . The focus of the story is the exploration of a mysterious South American plateau in the jungle (see Tepui ), which is said to be inhabited by ancient animals.

This first episode of the Challenger Stories is one of the earlier science fiction novels in English, but also takes up elements of the adventure novel . The novel is based in part on careful scientific and historical research. Although it achieved some fame as an adventure classic , it fell short - especially in Germany - behind the well-known Sherlock Holmes stories from Arthur Conan Doyle's pen. Widespread German alternative titles are Die verlorene Welt or Der warrantbaren Professor .

Action at a glance

The young, aspiring journalist Edward Dunn Malone is looking for an opportunity to assert himself as a man and thus win his great love for himself. His editor sends him to the unbridled eccentric Biology Professor Challenger ( German  challenger ), whose theories on evolution make in the professional world for attention: According to him, some species of prehistoric times were not extinct, but existed, contrary to the general assumption particular under the Conditions of a remote plateau in South America continue. Malone gains the professor's trust, who then shows him his previous evidence - mainly bone finds and the estate of the American traveler Maple White - (Chapters 1–5).

When the conflict over Challenger's theses escalated in a public scholarly debate and the decision was made to investigate the matter with the help of an expedition of suitable men, the ambitious reporter seized the opportunity and volunteered alongside the athletic adventurer Lord John Roxton. He becomes their exclusive rapporteur; Challenger's adversary Summerlee is dispatched as scientific authority (Chapter 6).

The expedition then travels through several small intermediate stops to Pará , where it takes other locals - who are always viewed as a separate, rather subordinate group - into service and prepares for their “dive into the unknown”. She expects to find out more details there - to everyone's surprise, however, Professor Challenger appears in person and declares that he wants to take over the management of this crucial part of the company himself (Chapter 7).

The group then undertakes the dangerous, arduous journey to the location of the plateau, with Challenger's claims increasingly being confirmed. Finally, by making clever use of the natural conditions on site, the explorers also find a way to get up (Chapters 8 and 9).

At their actual destination, however, due to a betrayal, the way back is suddenly cut off, so that the group suddenly, without their servants, finds itself exposed to the unknown, untamed nature and its primeval inhabitants. (Chapter 9).

Undeterred, the expedition begins to set up camp and systematically explore the plateau from there. The scientists encounter numerous new questions and discoveries, the entourage as a whole gets into various conflicts with ancient animals - including, for example, iguanodons or other large dinosaurs - and other dangers that are overcome together. In contrast to later film adaptations, the novel typically does not focus on extreme tension and catastrophes (Chapters 9-11).

Due to an unforeseen turn of events, they finally come across “ape-men” who apparently migrated to the plateau a long time ago. They perceive the explorers as intruders in their territory who should be eliminated. However, they manage to avoid execution with the help of their firearms . Shortly before, Malone went it alone (Chapter 12) but also found today's people on the plateau, on whose side the expedition now intervenes in the armed conflict between the "ape men" and their descendants. Due to the superior war technique brought with them, the latter finally decide the "struggle for existence" for themselves (Chapters 13-14).

Finally, the group is offered several options for the difficult problem of their way back so that they can return home successfully, accompanied by a requested aid expedition (Chapter 15).

The bundled statements of the expedition participants and a spectacular demonstration finally succeed in clearly proving the correctness of Challenger's hypotheses in the world of the novel; the plateau is open to (civilizational) development by further explorers and great material profit opportunities are emerging. Only Malone's personal victory does not materialize, because his lover - contrary to the stereotypical expectations of the hero and the reader - has meanwhile married an accountant. Apart from that, however, all essential goals have been achieved and the superiority of the conquerors has been proven again.

Novel in context

The novel The Lost World , which is one of the earlier science fiction novels in English, is part of a trilogy about the scholarly figure of Professor Challenger . Like A. Conan Doyle's previous stories about Sherlock Holmes , he too gave the appearance of an authentic (travel) report and met with great public interest. It gained special importance - not necessarily in the sense of the author - as a so-called boy's book , a special, pedagogically oriented genre that was intended to support boys in their development along the prevailing role models.

In this context stands the extremely optimistic scientific image of the novel, its ideal of the male explorer and its idea of civilization : Responsible, daring researchers open up undreamt-of new worlds through precise, unbiased research and always meet their claim to objectivity . They can assert themselves and use their individual strengths for the benefit of a good cause - the successful conquest of the new country is a worthwhile goal of the expedition.

The novel incorporates many actual scientific discoveries and theories of its time. His conception of evolution , which is one of the starting points of the plot, is, however, still strongly teleological and, like his conception of civilization, presupposes the ideal of “modern man” with British-Western culture.

A likely source of inspiration in the field of literature is Luis Senarens ' series of novels about the hero Frank Reade. It is also known that A. Conan Doyle specifically researched and incorporated authentic travelogues of his time for this novel. In this context, prehistoric footprints in Sussex as well as the geological formation around Mount Roraima offer further links to historical reality.

Quite apart from such historical references, some of which are problematic, the story-rich novel continues to offer the fascination of discovering foreign countries in the imagination, meeting ancient animals and achieving success. In this sense, it also became a source of inspiration for numerous film adaptations , which, however, often diverged from the original and in particular focused on the discussion of dinosaurs . In contrast to the other Professor Challenger novels, The Lost World gained some importance in Germany.

German versions

The following German versions of A. Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World are available so far:

  • The lost world. Adventure novel . Translated by Karl Soll. A. Scherl, Berlin 1926 (German first edition)
  • The lost world. Adventure novel . Acc .: NN (licensed edition) The New Berlin 1956/1961
  • The militant professor . Collected Works in Individual Editions, Volume 6. German by Werner Engel. Blüchert, Hamburg 1962
    • this transfer from 1969 under the title The Forgotten World. A classic utopian novel by Heyne, Munich. ISBN 3-453-30274-5
    • and in 1978 under the title The Forgotten World. An adventurous journey to the land of the dinosaurs by Arena-Verlag, Würzburg
    • and 2000 under the title The Forgotten World as Arena-Taschenbuch, Würzburg, ISBN 3-401-00262-7 [abridged German version with commentary afterword]
  • The forgotten world. A classic fantasy novel . German by Elisabeth Simon. Heyne, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-453-30274-5
  • The forgotten world. A report on the latest amazing adventures by Professor George E. Challenger, Lord John Roxton, Professor Summerlee and Mr. ED Malone from the Daily Gazette , German by Reinhard Hillich, Das Neue Berlin 1986
  • The forgotten world. A Professor Challenger novel . German by Leslie Giger . Haffmans, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-251-20110-7 , Büchergilde-Gutenberg license edition, Frankfurt / Main, ISBN 3-76324039X
  • The lost world (Selected Works, Volume 6), German by Reinhard Hillich, Verlag 28 Eichen, Barnsdorf 2007, ISBN 978-3-9809387-8-5 .

Other edits

Movie and TV

The book was first filmed in 1925 as The Lost World by Harry O. Hoyt . The dinosaurs were brought to life with stop-motion technology. The film deviates from the novel in several points, for example a female companion was added to the expedition.

In 1960 Irwin Allen made another film called the Sunken World , which, however, differed greatly from the original and contained only a few basic features of it.

In 1992 a new film version of the classic book The Lost World appeared with John Rhys-Davies and David Warner , but in which the plateau is in Africa instead of South America . The film also drew a sequel called Return to the Lost World .

From 1998 there was another film adaptation of the book under the title Dinosaurs - The Forgotten World . However, the "Forgotten World" was relocated here, this time to Mongolia .

The novel was loosely based on the fantasy series The Lost World , which ran from 1999 to 2002. Although the original main characters appear in it, there are also two female supporting roles. Structure and plot are changed significantly: In addition to dinosaurs, sorcerers, vampires , lizard people and giant insects also appear in the series .

In 2000, the story by Stuart Orme was filmed relatively true to the original in collaboration with the BBC . The leading roles were played by Bob Hoskins as Professor Challenger, James Fox as Prof. Summerlee, Tom Ward as Lord Roxton and Matthew Rhys as Edward Malone. The characters Reverend Theo Kerr ( Peter Falk ), a fundamentalist clergyman, and Agnes Clooney ( Elaine Cassidy ) as his niece have been added.

In 2005, the low-budget forge The Asylum released the direct-to-video film King Of The Lost World , whose characters and parts of the plot use the original novel very freely; the film is mainly regarded as a mockbuster for Peter Jackson's film King Kong (2005) . The film's tagline was The Epic Tale of Arthur Conan Doyle, which inspired King Kong and Jurassic Park .

The extent to which one of the film adaptations presented so far fully does justice to the novel is still being discussed.

radio play

  • The Forgotten World , Ripper Records 2005, direction and adaptation: Frank Gustavus

Audio book


  • RD Batory and WAS Sarjeant, "Sussex Iguandon Footprints and the Writing of The Lost World " in: DD Gilette and MD Lockley (Eds.), Dinosaur Tracks and Traces : Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 13-18.

Web links

Commons : The Forgotten World  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files