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The Mysterious Island

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The Mysterious Island
Themysteriousisland
Author
Jules Verne
Publisher
Hetzel
Publish Date
1874

The Mysterious Island, by pioneering science-fiction author Jules Verne, is the story of a group of Union prisoners who escape from a Confederate prison and wind up on the title island, where they settle. Eventually, they discover that someone is watching them. It turns out that they landed on Captain Nemo's island, home port of the Nautilus.

The book contains a large amount of scientific knowledge, especially as it relates to the foundations of emergency survival, colonization, and eventual civilization.

One of the escaped prisoners is engineer Cyrus Smith (or Cyrus Harding in some translations). He determines, through methods available to anyone with a watch, that the island is "between the 35th and 40th parallels" south, and "between the 150th and 155th meridians west of the Greenwich meridian." According to the book, their island is at least 1200 miles from Tahiti and Pomotau, 1800 from New Zealand, and 4500 from the Americas.

In Lost

  • The book is possibly referenced by Shannon when she refers to their island as "Mystery Frickin' Island." (veracity debatable) ("Whatever the Case May Be")

Similarities and shared themes

The content of this book is referenced by the show both directly and thematically.

The following are direct references to this classic Verne work:

  • Joop, the Hanso Foundation's 105-year-old orangutan (captured by British explorers) was first seen in the early days of the Lost Experience. This is an obvious reference to Jupe (Jupiter), the ape in this novel. In a translation by Jordan Stump (2001, 2004 Random House), the ape's name is phonetically spelled Joop, to be more easily pronounced by American lips. Given Jules Verne's fame, and the fame of his books around the world, it is likely that the (fictional) ape-capturing explorers named their captured orangutan after the one in Verne's novel.

The following are coincidental similarities between the two stories":

  • The use of an electrically charged projectile, as did Captain Nemo in the Mysterious Island to kill some unwanted and hostile invaders.
  • The helicopter passengers need to lighten the weight of their craft in order to stay in the air. As with the the settlers in Chapter One of the Mysterious Island, they first strip their craft of everything nonessential, but do not lighten their aircraft enough, until one the passengers exits it (voluntarily in Lost and, presumably, accidentally in Mysterious Island). After these actions they are able to land in a relatively safe area.
  • The Verne castaways also have a dog, named Top, with them on their island. Top is a hound of "Anglo-Norman" breeding.
  • The date of the storm that eventually causes the crash of the balloon is March 23, 1865 (note the number 23).
  • The prisoners escape using a balloon, which crashes on the shores of an uncharted island, where mysterious events occur. As airplanes had not yet been invented, this is a match for the lost Flight 815.
  • The balloon crash also calls to mind Henry Gale and his balloon crash, though his came down in the interior, not the shores.
  • The colonists follow a cable that leads from the beach into the sea and down to the Nautilus' hiding place, similar to the cable that leads to the Looking Glass station.
  • Lincoln Island, the story's main island, is near two smaller islands, much like Hydra Island.


The following are more thematic references to Mysterious Island:

  • The three parts: Part I covers the immediate survival of the castaways and also hints at mysterious happenings on the island (similar to season one); Part II shows the castaways exploring the island and discovering more mysteries and ends with the sighting of a ship (similar to season two); Part III tells of increasing danger and final revelation of the mysterious island. Season 3 of Lost also reveals increasing danger as the Others prove themselves a growing threat to the survivors of Flight 815, though there is no final revelation about the island in the Season 3 finale.
  • The presence of hostiles on an island: Six marooned pirates hide in the forest of the island and threaten the castaways. This is similar to the presence of the hostile Others.
  • The protection of the island is lost: Strange events allow the castaways to survive and avoid disaster (such as a signal fire to guide their sloop and discovery of survival supplies). This protection is dropped when six nasty pirates are loose on the island. Locke's faith in the benevolence of the island is shaken when the smoke monster tries to attack him.
  • Cyrus Smith is an engineer and leader of the castaways. He has a broad base of knowledge and approaches all things in a methodic and scientific manner. Some of these character traits are shown in Jack. Here is a quote from the book regarding Cyrus: "Nevertheless, his dogged sense of reason was exasperated to find itself faced with such a thoroughly inexplicable event, and he raged at the thought that around him, or perhaps above him, lurked an influence he could not define." (Part II, Ch VI)
  • Herbert Brown (or Harbert, depending on the translation) is a 15-year old orphaned son of a sea captain and a talented naturalist. He is able to identify a wide range of flora and fauna on the island, which is an invaluable talent for the castaways. Having a boy among the castaways is similar to Walt with the Lostaways. The naturalist, to a lesser extent, for the Lostaways is Sun.
  • Gideon Spilett is a journalist for the New York Herald. While he lacks a specialist skill, he compensates by his dedication to helping in the best way he can. Charlie has some of these same characteristics. Gideon is able to save Herbert from a near-fatal gunshot wound. So he has some medical background like Jack.
  • Pencroff is a faithful, but also strong-willed and quick-tempered sailor.
  • Neb is an African American servant to Cyrus Smith. He is singularly devoted to Cyrus and willing to do anything to care for him. His specialty is cooking meals, though he is also a good hunter and assists with most other efforts of the castaways. His devotion is reminiscent of Rose-Bernard relationship.
  • Ayrton is a former sailor who had been exiled to Tabor Island when his plan to take over a ship for piracy had been discovered. He had been living on the island for twelve years before he was discovered by the castaways. Isolation had driven him to madness. It took much effort by the castaways to bring him back to his senses and then to convince him that his guilt had been forgiven. Despite their efforts, he still lived apart from the castaways. This character is reflected in the French woman, Rousseau.
  • Top is a dog with great intelligence. He is a trustworthy friend and is able to understand and carry out all orders by his master Cyrus. Vincent is also a dog who seems to know something more about the island.

See also

On the mystery island, the colonists use nitroglycerine to blow open an underwater cave that later becomes a better home than the previous one they had at the beach. The castaways used dynamite to blow open the hatch that becomes a better home than the beach.

On the mystery island, the engineer and the reporter keep the secret of the existence of another being in the island from the rest of the colonists, much like some characters of Lost keep the secret of the Others from the rest of the castaways.

Captain Nemo used a deserted island on the Pacific as a place where he could conduct experiments and build his vessel using electricity, when at the time the novel was written, electricity was almost a magical force. This is similar to how the DHARMA Initiative came to the island.

On the mystery island the colonists saw themselves as masters of their own fate. Yet Captain Nemo was helping them without the colonists' knowledge. This reflects the theme of fate vs free will on the island.

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