The Real Robinson Crusoe

Who hasn’t read the book, seen the film, or at least heard of the story? Very few, I would expect. The remarkable tale of Robinson Crusoe was written by the English writer, Daniel Defoe, and first published in 1719.

But where did Defoe get the inspiration for his famous book? There are several theories, but the most widely held view is that of the tale of a Scottish sailor named, Alexander Selkirk.

Selkirk was born in Scotland in 1676. He chose a life on the ocean, and in 1704, during a voyage on the pirate ship, Cinque Ports, he argued with the ship’s captain over the boat’s seaworthiness. Selkirk was the ship’s navigator and it is thought that he hoped for munity and for the crew to side with him. But the munity did not happen and unable to resolve their differences, he requested to be put ashore on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. The tropical island was roughly 600 kilometres west of Chile and his captain was more than happy to oblige! Selkirk remained on the remote island for almost five years before he was rescued. During those years, he survived only on what nature and his own ingenuity provided for him.

Perhaps Defoe met Selkirk, although there is no record of such a meeting. But there is no doubt that Daniel Defoe would have heard the tale as it was widely publicised following Selkirk’s return.

Robinson Crusoe Island

It is interesting to note, that in 1966, the Chilean government renamed the island – Robinson Crusoe Island.

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