WebFind: “The Strange and Surprising Adventures of Jumbo Crusoe”

The True and Surprising Adventures of Jumbo Crusoe, which appears to have been first published in 1890 in the United States, by Berger Publishing, replaced Daniel Defoe’s world famous castaway Robinson Crusoe with an elephant and his companion, Friday, with a bear.

The adapted story was subsequently published in Britain by Ernest Nister and New York-based E.P. Dutton, in 1905 as The Strange and Surprising Adventures of Jumbo Crusoe.

The book was written in rhyme by Clifton Bingham, who wrote numerous anthropomorphic stories and contributed to a number of British children’s annuals at the turn of the twentieth century.

The illustrations are the work of G.H. Thompson (1853-1933) who was highly regarded for his picture book art, creating a world of humanised animals, in books such as The Animals’ Touring Club, and many more.

Jumbo Crusoe may seem a surprising take on the character, with Friday far more than the dutiful servant of the original story, often proving braver and more proactive than his elephantine rescuer over the short children’s version, in marked contrast to how their relationship appears in the opening frontispiece.

The book was reprinted several times, in multiple languages.

One of the most widely published books in history, Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, was first published on 25th April 1719 under the original title, The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner.

Well received in the literary world, within the first year of its publication the book had already run through four editions. It has since spawned numerous sequels and adaptations for stage, film, and television.

Jumbo Crusoe is far from being the only anthropomorphic take on Robinson Crusoe, and if you’re curious to know more, then you may want to check out the academic study, Robinson Crusoe after 300 Years, published last year, edited by Andreas K E Mueller and Glynis Ridley, which is far cheaper to buy digitally than in traditional print.

Noting how Defoe’s story has been interpreted as both religious allegory and frontier myth, publisher Bucknell University Press notes hero Robinson Crusoe has been viewed variously as the self-sufficient adventurer and the archetypal coloniser and capitalist.

“Defoe’s original has been reimagined multiple times in legions of Robinsonade or castaway stories, but there is still more to say – the Crusoe myth is far from spent. The contributors to this wide-ranging collection suggest new and unfamiliar ways of thinking about this most familiar of works, asking us to consider the enduring appeal of “Crusoe”, more recognisable today than ever before.”

There’s a copy of Jumbo Crusoe available here for just $5, but note the seller is based in North America and shipping and customs duties will apply to a purchase from beyond that country

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