The Swiss Family Robinson

The Swiss Family Robinson has delighted generations of readers with its exciting tale of a family which, though shipwrecked, displays “the right stuff” and builds a charming colony that later, they do not want to leave. Cut off from the comforts and companionship of other humans, they use a familiarity with natural history and biology to find the resources and build the tools to construct a canoe, weave cloth, irrigate a garden, and turn an immense hollow tree into a lofty house with a spiral staircase. They domesticate buffaloes, wild asses, and monkeys. They establish farms and plantations. And finally, they have a terrifying encounter with natives from a nearby island.

Johann David Wyss, the author, did not live to complete his tale. Storytellers over the years have injected so many episodes into the various versions that probably none closely match the original. (Indeed, the Baroness de Montholieu expanded the book from two volumes into five when she translated it into French.) This effort was re-translated into English in 1849 by W.H.G. Kingston, abridging the edition severely. It follows the British sensibilities of the period in terms of sentence structure and emphasis. (Summary by Mark F. Smith)

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