Robinson Crusoe

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Robinson Crusoe by Walter Paget

Robinson Crusoe [ ˌrɒbɪnzɔn ˈkruːsoʊ ] is a novel by Daniel Defoe , in which the story of a sailor is told who spends around 28 years on an island as a shipwrecked man . The book was published in 1719. The literary motif of being locked in on an island is also known as the Robinsonade after him .

The title of the English original is: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oronoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pirates. Written by Himself. (“The life and strange and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, a sailor who lived for twenty-eight years alone on an uninhabited island on the coast of America, near the mouth of the great Orinoco; washed ashore by a shipwreck, at all but himself died. With a record of how he was finally strangely liberated by pirates. Written by himself. ")

The great success of the book - after its first publication on April 25, 1719, three more editions appeared in the same year - led to the sequel The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe on August 20, 1719 and a peculiar fold-up under the now introduced "brand name" Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, with his Vision of the Angelick World. Written by himself (August 6, 1720).

One of the book's illustrators (around 1894) was the Briton Walter Paget (1863–1935).


Robinson Crusoe and Friday in a painting by Carl Offterdinger (1829–1889)

The first-person narrator and protagonist Robinson Crusoe was born in York in 1632 as the son of a Bremen merchant who had emigrated to England and originally named Kreutzner (Kreutznaer). His father impressed the young Robinson that he belonged to the middle class and warned him urgently against going to sea, that is where he would perish. Robinson Crusoe ignores these admonitions and is ambushed and enslaved by pirates on one of his first voyages off the coast of North Africa . After two years of imprisonment in the Moroccan port city of Salé, he succeeds in escaping together with the boy Xury, who is also enslaved; both sail south along the African Atlantic coast. Finally, they are picked up by a Portuguese captain on the high seas . He brings them across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil ; Robinson sells Xury to the captain, but lets him assure him in writing that after ten years of service, when he becomes a Christian, Xury will be released.

In Brazil, Robinson’s trading skills make quick money. He buys his own sugar plantation and works it as best he can. He goes back to sea to get black slaves from Guinea for his and other plantations . During this voyage, he was the only member of the crew to survive a shipwreck during a storm in the Caribbean . He is stranded on a remote island in the mouth of the Orinoco . During the following days, Crusoe was able to rescue various items of equipment from the shipwreck with a self-made raft, before he discovered one morning that it had disappeared after another storm.

Robinson builds a small fortress in which he lives. He begins to grow barley , hunt and make clothes from the skins of wild goats . About the twelfth day after his landing, he erected a large cross on which he carved September 30, 1659 as the date of his arrival on the island, and decided to carve a notch in the cross every day from then on. He also keeps a diary until he runs out of ink. He equips his fortress with muskets rescued from the ship . He does all of this with extreme caution because he does not feel safe on the island.

Crusoe becomes seriously ill. A man appears to him in a fever who descends from a black cloud on a great flame and tells him that his life has not yet brought him to repentance. Robinson will be fine. Previously not religious , his belief in God grows, to whom he believes he owes his life and everything he owns on the island. So every morning he reads a Bible that he was able to retrieve from the ship.

Crusoe erects an arbor away from his fortress. On an expedition to the west end of the island, he spotted land in the ocean some distance away. He uses goats caught on the island for breeding purposes and thus arrives at his own herd of goats.

Crusoe finds the remains of a cannibal meal (by W. Paget)

One day he discovers a footprint in the sand that is bigger than his own. Two years later he found the remains of a cannibal feast on the beach . The island is apparently occasionally visited by cannibals who hold their feasts there.

One night Robinson dreams that cannibals are visiting the island he lives on with a victim who escapes and runs to Robinson. In fact, a year and a half later, “savages” reappear on the island, and one of their intended victims runs towards Robinson's hiding place, pursued by two cannibals. Robinson and the persecuted succeed in killing the two cannibals. Robinson calls the savage who fled to him, who later becomes his friend and servant, Friday as a reminder of the day on which he saved his life. On Friday he teaches the English language, familiarizes him with the European way of life and introduces him to Christian teaching.

Before Robinson says he is finally rescued after 28 years, he and Friday manage to free a shipwrecked Spaniard and another native from the hands of the cannibals who want to hold a feast on Robinson's island again. The rescued native turns out to be Friday's father, while the Spaniard reports that other Spaniards stranded with him on Friday's home island are leading a miserable existence on Friday's home island. So it is decided that on Friday father should go with the Spaniard to bring the other Europeans to Robinson's island.

While the two are still on the way, one day an English ship anchored off the island, whose crew mutinied and decided to leave the captain and two others on the apparently uninhabited island. Robinson, the captain and his followers manage to retake the ship with cunning and violence. Now the surviving ringleaders are exposed to the mutiny on the island, and Robinson drives back to England on December 19, 1686, where he arrives on June 11, 1687 after 35 years of absence.

From there he embarked on Friday for Lisbon , where he met the old Portuguese captain, who gave him an account of his plantations in Brazil. Robinson learns that while he was away, he has become a wealthy man as his plantation has now made a small fortune. To return to England, Robinson and Freitag first use the overland route, on which they have adventures with wolves and a bear. Back in England, Robinson sells his plantations in Brazil, lays the money and marries.

After the death of his wife, he visits the island again and has the residents tell their story. After initially fierce fighting, the Spaniards came to an agreement with the mutineers, as the island was attacked by cannibals. The residents now form a peaceful colony to which Robinson can even bring new settlers on later visits.

Background of the story

Friday (illustration by W. Paget)

The story of Robinson Crusoe can be traced back to the life of the adventurer Alexander Selkirk . This belonged to the team of the privateer William Dampier and was abandoned in 1704 after a dispute with his captain on the island of Más a Tierra , which is part of the Juan Fernández archipelago and is now called Robinson Crusoe . Selkirk stayed on the island for four years and four months until he was rescued on February 2, 1709. After his return to England Richard Steele recorded Selkirk's story and published it in 1713 in his magazine "The Englishman". Probably Daniel Defoe was inspired by this text for his novel Robinson Crusoe . Allegedly Defoe Selkirk is said to have met in the still existing pub (Llandoger Trow) in Bristol . Steele's account of Selkirk's adventure and Defoe's imagination combined to form a work that is now one of the classics of world literature.

This classic was reduced to an adventure novel shortly after its publication - Defoe's Original is actually a two-part social review, in which only the first part is about Robinson's time on the island.

Reception in German-speaking countries

Robinson Crusoe with parasol by Offterdinger & Zweigle, around 1880

In the year after the publication of the original edition of the work, four different translations were available in Germany, and from 1722 a significant number of more or less original German-language adaptations of the material followed. Among the most important of these Robinsonades are Johann Gottfried Schnabel's Insel Felsenburg and the Swiss Robinson by Johann David Wyss . One of the first reviews with an illustration of the book hero in woodcut was found in the magazine Remarquable Curiosa in 1720 .

The Robinsonades were based partly more on the instructive, partly more on the adventurous side of the original. Often the name Robinson was mentioned in the title, as well as to distinguish it from the competition, the profession or the region of origin of the hero - the latter especially in Austria.

In German-speaking countries, the book has served as a template for young people's novels on several occasions. Most successful was Robinson the Younger by Joachim Heinrich Campe (1779/80); the work is considered to be the first specific German youth publication.

In the 2014 novel Kruso , the author Lutz Seiler shapes the friendship between Kruso and Ed based on the relationship between Robinson and Friday.

Austrian Robinsonads appeared in large numbers from the second half of the 18th century and were usually characterized by the fact that they replaced Robinson's companion Friday with a female person. The Hungarian Robinson Andreas Jelky by Ludwig Hevesi was based on true events, as was the autobiographical Carinthian Robinson by Leonhard Eisenschmied . Karl Temlich's Austrian Robinson (1791) Andreas Geißler from Vienna, on the other hand, is just as fictional as most of the others. The Styrian Robinson (1793) and the Robinson from Bohemia (1796) are also known, and finally Robinson the Upper Austrian was published in 1802 , a fictional autobiography by Johann Georg Peyer.

Film adaptations

The story of Robinson Crusoe has been filmed many times since the silent era .

In 1946 the Soviet version of Robinson Kruso appeared with Pawel Kadotschnikow as Crusoe and Juri Lyubimow as Friday. This film was shot as a 3D film in color and was the first feature film to be shown on a wire grid screen . This made it possible to look at it spatially without the usual 3D glasses .

In 1954 Luis Buñuel also took on the template ( Robinson Crusoe ) and achieved an unexpected commercial success. Dan O'Herlihy , who played the title role , was nominated for an Oscar .

For the series of adventure Vierteiler the ZDF the story of Robinson Crusoe was in 1964 selected as the first fabric ( The strange and unique adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, by himself reported ). The title role was played by the hitherto unknown Robert Hoffmann , on Friday Fabian Cevallos played. This version is considered to be the most faithful film adaptation to date.

The 1966 Walt Disney production Robin Crusoe, the Amazon Chief with Dick Van Dyke in the title role was an unsuccessful attempt to set the subject in the present day.

Another Soviet film was released in 1972 . Directed by Stanislaw Sergejewitsch Goworuchin .

The film adaptation made by Jack Gold in 1975 under the title Friday and Robinson ( Man Friday ) with Peter O'Toole (as Robinson) and Richard Roundtree (Friday) in the leading roles also attracted attention . Jack Gold stuck to the story, but at the same time used it to caricature the ideas of the “civilized white man” of the time and thus at the same time to criticize colonialism, proselytizing, racism and similar phenomena.

In 1976 Sergio Corbucci shot with Robinson Jr. (also called Robinson Junior ) a present-day parody of the Defoe fabric, in which a luxury-spoiled Milanese fashion designer ( Paolo Villaggio ) is washed up on a lonely island and is later given a female Friday ( Zeudi Araya ) to the side.

In 1982 Krátky Film in Prague completed an elaborately produced puppet film with drawings as flashbacks. This was first performed in Germany in 1983 as The Miraculous Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (original Czech title: " Dobrodružství Robinsona Crusoe, námořníka z Yorku ").

In 1988 there was a British version of Caleb Deschanel , in the main role Aidan Quinn , original title Crusoe , German title Robinson Crusoe - Reise ins Abenteuer . The soundtrack was composed by Michael Kamen .

In the US there was another film adaptation in 1997 with Pierce Brosnan as Robinson Crusoe and William Takaku as Friday, but it is not as close to the original narrative as the others. Directed by George Miller and Rodney K. Hardey.

In 2002 Thierry Chabert shot a French two-part TV series in 16: 9 format (original title: L'île de Robinson and Robinson et Vendredi , German title: Die Insel des Robinson und Robinson und Freitag ) with Pierre Richard as Robinson (approx. 190 min) . This version is also critical of society. So Robinson demands civilized behavior from his servant Friday and justifies it as progress against Friday's people, the savages. However, the civilized Europeans in this film often show themselves as cowards, liars and murderers, whereas Freitag ( Nicolas Cazalé ) as savages shows the typical virtues such as courage, strength of character, loyalty and honesty. In contrast to the version of the novel, at the end of the day, Freitag accompanies Robinson back to his plantation and experiences the oppression and exploitation of the slaves there. As a black man, he is not respected by whites. Both Robinson and Friday try to protect the slaves. The other plantation owners then set fire to Robinson's house. Robinson and Friday flee to Europe. There Robinson wants to spread the idea that all people are equal.

The motif of the story forms the basis for further films. Thus, among others, Robert Zemeckis film Cast Away - Lost with Tom Hanks as Verschollenem unmistakable parallels to be displayed on the Crusoe.

As early as 1964, the American director Byron Haskin shot a science fiction version under the title Robinson Crusoe on Mars , titled Emergency Landing in Space by the German distributor .

The four film adaptations of Henry De Vere Stacpoole's novel from 1908 (1923, 1949, 1980, 2012) are also Robinsonads in the narrow sense of the word.

The Blue Lagoon (Original title: The Blue Lagoon ) is an American drama from 1980. The director was Randal Kleiser , the screenplay was written by Douglas Day Stewart based on the novel by Henry De Vere Stacpoole from 1908. The main roles played Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins .

In 2012, the TV movie Blue Lagoon: The Awakening was shown on US TV. Storyline Entertainment and Peace Out Prods produced the film in association with Sony Pictures Television. Starring Brenton Thwaites and Indiana Evans .

The erotic adventure film Dream Island - Tenderness and Danger in a Tropical Paradise , by Luigi Russo, with Sabrina Siani, Fabio Meyer and Mario Pedone came from Italy in 1982 .

In 2005, the Private Media Group made a porn adaptation called Robinson Crusoe on Sin Island , which won an AVN Award .

A number of radio plays and readings have also been published in Germany. Particularly noteworthy are a reading by Rufus Beck , published by Hörbuch Hamburg , and a radio play edited and directed by Sven Stricker , published in 2005 by Münchner Hörverlag , which is based on the original version of the material.

In 2008/2009 a TV series called Crusoe was broadcast on NBC . There, the stranded Robinson, played by Philip Winchester , already has a family and two children whom he had to leave on the run from false accusations, and wants nothing more than to return to them. He saves Friday ( Tongayi Chirisa ) and from then on lives with him on the island, on which the technically and technically gifted Crusoe has already built a lot.

Significance for fantastic literature

Title page from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (London first edition: W. Taylor, 1719)

Stronger than z. As in Edgar Allan Poe's strange adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) and unlike in HG Wells ' The Time Machine (1895) occurs in Robinson Crusoe of the man in the wasteland of space, time and eternity. As a result, the depressing loneliness can be felt in its severity and the novel has had a significant influence on science fiction . In addition to other innumerable and diverse suggestions - such as the title The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–1767) by Lawrence Sterne - The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner provide a template and background from The Lord of the Flies (1954), for which William Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983.


  • The Robinson Crusoe House in Bremen has been in Böttcherstraße since 1926 .
  • One of the most comprehensive robinsonade libraries worldwide with around 4,000 works in more than 50 languages ​​is located in the art (witness) house in the Swiss community of Rapperswil-Jona on Lake Zurich . The international business lawyer Peter Bosshard and his wife Elisabeth put the collection together. The greatest jewel is a second edition of the second part of Daniel Defoe's original Robinson , published in 1719 .
  • The artist Werner Kruse (1910-1994) worked under the pseudonym Robinson .


  • Wilfried Dittmar: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner . In: Kindlers Literature Lexicon . Paperback edition, dtv, Munich 1986, vol. 7, pp. 5708–5710.
  • Ian Watt : Robinson Crusoe, Individualism and the Novel . In: Willi Erzgräber (Ed.): Interpretations , Vol. 7: English literature from Thomas More to Laurence Sterne. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. et al. 1970, pp. 227-260.
  • Robert Weimann : Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe. In: Franz K. Stanzel : The English novel. From the Middle Ages to the Modern. Volume I. Bagel Verlag Düsseldorf 1969, pp. 108-143.

German editions

The text has appeared in different (abridged or complete) editions and in different translations.

Literary adaptations


Web links

Commons : Robinson Crusoe  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Robinson Crusoe  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Appendix: History and sources of the novels" in: Norbert Miller (Ed.): Daniel Defoe. Novels. First volume. 2nd revised edition, Carl Hanser, Munich 1974, p. 732 ff.
  2. Oliver Zelt: Common, brutal and vicious. The real old-style pirates were very different from those in Hollywood films. In: Berliner Zeitung. May 24, 2007, miscellaneous p. 32.
  3. Marco Evers: Stranded in Paradise . In: The mirror . No. 6 , 2009, p. 130-131 ( Online - Feb. 2, 2009 ).
  4. ^ Poliander: Remarquable Curiosa. Acta Publica, Erfurt 1720, pp. 314-319 (with woodcut illustration).
  5. ^ Herder's Conversations Lexicon . 1st edition. Herder'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Freiburg im Breisgau 1854 ( [accessed on April 25, 2019] Lexicon entry "Robinson Crusoë").
  6. Walter Wehner: Defoe, Daniel. (Bibliography)
  7. ^ Robinson Crusoe after Daniel Defoe , speaker Felix von Manteuffel , der Hörverlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 978-3-89940-937-6
  8. Michael Salewski : Zeitgeist and time machine. Science fiction and history. Dtv , Munich 1986, pp. 9-12.
  9. Robinson Crusoe is the greatest survivor In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung from January 12, 2019
  10. Art (convincing) house Rapperswil: Robinson Library