Long John Silver
Treasure Island character
Long John Silver leading Jim Hawkins in The Hostage, illustration by N. C. Wyeth, 1911
Created byRobert Louis Stevenson
Voiced byVarious Voices
In-universe information
FamilyWife Rebecca Silver

John Silver or Long John Silver is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the novel Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson. The most colourful and complex character in the book, he continues to appear in popular culture. His one-leggedness and parrot, in particular, have greatly contributed to the image of the pirate in popular culture.


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Long John Silver is a cunning and opportunistic pirate who was quartermaster under the notorious Captain Flint. Long John Silver had a pet parrot called Captain Flint, often seen sitting on his shoulder where she would nibble on seeds. Silver claims to have served in the Royal Navy and lost his leg under "the immortal Hawke". "His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder, he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham—plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling." (Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson page 82). He claims to have been the only man whom Flint ever feared. Like many of Stevenson's characters, there is more than a modicum of duality in the character; ostensibly Silver is a hardworking and likeable seaman, and it is only as the plot unfolds that his villainous nature is gradually revealed. His relationship with Jim Hawkins, the novel's protagonist and narrator, is interesting, as he serves as a mentor and eventually father-figure to Jim, creating much shock and emotion when it is discovered that he is in charge of the mutiny, and especially when Jim must confront and fight him later on. Although willing to change sides at any time to further his own interests, Silver has compensating virtues: he is wise enough to pay attention to money management, in contrast to the spendthrift ways of most of the pirates, and is physically courageous despite his disability; for instance, when Flint's cache is found to be empty, he coolly stands his ground against five grown men despite having only Jim, a boy in his teens, to back him.

When Silver escapes at the end of the novel, he takes "three or four hundred guineas" of the treasure with him, thus becoming one of only two former members of Captain Flint's crew to get his hands on a portion of the recovered treasure; a separate cache of bar silver is apparently left on the island. (The repentant maroonee Ben Gunn is the other, but he spends all £1,000 in nineteen days.) Jim's own ambivalence towards Silver is reflected in the last chapter, when he speculates that the old pirate must have settled down in comfortable retirement: "It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."

Stevenson's portrayal of Silver has greatly influenced the modern iconography of the pirate.[1] Silver has a parrot, named Captain Flint in honor—or mockery—of his former captain,[2] who generally perches on Silver's shoulder, and is known to chatter pirate or seafaring phrases like "Pieces of Eight", and "Stand by to go about". Silver uses the parrot as another means of gaining Jim's trust, by telling the boy all manner of exciting stories (many of them likely fake) about the parrot's buccaneer history. "'Now that bird,' Silver would say, 'is, may be, two hundred years old, Hawkins—they live forever mostly, and if anybody's seen more wickedness it must be the devil himself. She's sailed with England—the great Cap'n England, the pirate. She's been at Madagascar, and at Malabar, and Surinam, and Providence, and Portobello... She was at the boarding of the Viceroy of the Indies out of Goa, she was, and to look at her you would think she was a baby."[3]

Silver is married to a woman of African descent, whom he trusts to manage his business affairs in his absence and to liquidate his Bristol assets when his actions make it impossible for him to go home. He confides in his fellow pirates, that he and his wife plan to rendezvous after the voyage to Skeleton Island is complete and Flint's treasure is recovered, at which point Silver will retire to a life of luxury. Ironically his "share" of Flint's treasure (£400) is considerably less than that of Ben Gunn's share (£1,000) and what he himself boasts is his "share" from England (£900) and from Flint (£2,000).

According to Stevenson's letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend William Henley, a writer and editor.[4] Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, described Henley as "...a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet".[5] In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island Stevenson wrote: "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you".[6]

Adaptations and related works

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There have been several major stage adaptations made.[17] The number of minor adaptations remains countless.


Orson Welles as Silver in Treasure Island (1972).
John Silver (left) is portrayed as a cyborg in Disney's Treasure Planet.


Other print media




  1. ^ Karg, p. 220.
  2. ^ Stevenson (1883), "The Voyage" [Ch. 10], pp. 80f.
  3. ^ "Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson". Project Gutenberg. p. Chapter 10. ((cite web)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ Prince, p. 78.
  5. ^ Elwin, p. 154.
  6. ^ Stevenson (1883), p. 316.
  7. ^ Larsson, Björn (1995). Long John Silver: The True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure as a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind. Geddes, Tom (Transl.). London, ENG: Penguin Random House/Harvill Secker. ISBN 1-86046-538-2. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  8. ^ Chupack, Edward (2008). Silver—My Own Tale as Told by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder. New Yor, NY: St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne. ISBN 978-0-312-53936-8. Retrieved February 21, 2017.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ Basil Rathbone (5 August 2017). "Robert Lewis Stevenson: TREASURE ISLAND" – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ www.digitaldeliftp.com. "The Definitive Favorite Story Radio Log with Ronald Colman". www.digitaldeliftp.com.
  11. ^ "Lux Radio Theater .. episodic log". www.otrsite.com. Archived from the original on 2016-12-05. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  12. ^ "Tale Spinners for Children". www.artsreformation.com.
  13. ^ "RL Stevenson – Treasure Island – BBC Radio 4 Extra". BBC.
  14. ^ "Treasure Island (BBC Audiobook Extract) BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation".
  15. ^ "The Old Sea Dog, Treasure Island, Afternoon Reading – BBC Radio 4". BBC.
  16. ^ "2. Treasure Island – Big Finish Classics – Big Finish". www.bigfinish.com.
  17. ^ Dury, Richard. Stage and Radio adaptations of Treasure Island Archived 26 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "THE THEATRE LINK". thomas-stewart-baker.com.
  19. ^ "Tom Hewitt Is Long John Silver in Treasure Island, Opening March 5 in Brooklyn". Playbill. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  20. ^ "Treasure Island". London Box Office. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  21. ^ "Treasure Island, National Theatre, review: 'yo-ho-hum'".
  22. ^ Animal Treasure Island (1971)
  23. ^ "Ostrov sokrovishch (1971)".
  24. ^ "Treasure Island (1972)".
  25. ^ "Return to Treasure Island (1988)".
  26. ^ "The Pagemaster (1994)".
  27. ^ "Muppet Treasure Island (1996)".
  28. ^ "Treasure Island (1999)".
  29. ^ "Treasure Planet (2002)".
  30. ^ "Pirates of Treasure Island (2006)".
  31. ^ "Treasure Island (2007)".
  32. ^ Storey, Don (2014). "The Adventures of Long John Silver". ClassicAustralianTV.com. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  33. ^ "The Adventures of Ben Gunn (TV Series 1958– )".
  34. ^ "Treasure Island (TV Series 1951– )".
  35. ^ "Treasure Island (TV Series 1957– )".
  36. ^ "Treasure Island (TV Series 1968– )".
  37. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377275/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_16
  38. ^ "Treasure Island (TV Movie 1982)".
  39. ^ "L'isola del tesoro (TV Mini-Series 1959– )".
  40. ^ "Die Schatzinsel (TV Mini-Series 1966– )".
  41. ^ "John Silver's Return to Treasure Island (TV Mini-Series 1986– )".
  42. ^ "Treasure Island in Outer Space (TV Mini-Series 1987– )".
  43. ^ "Treasure Island (TV Movie 1990)".
  44. ^ "Treasure Island (TV Movie 2012)".
  45. ^ Anderson, D.M. (December 30, 2014). "BLACK SAILS Ain't Your Daddy's Pirate Tale". Movie Pilot. Retrieved November 8, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  46. ^ ""Once Upon a Time" The Brothers Jones (TV Episode 2016)".
  47. ^ Masefield, John (1921) [1902]. Salt-Water Poems and Ballads. New York, NY: The Macmillan Company. pp. 64–65. Retrieved February 21, 2017. Masefield's original 1902 work was entitled Salt-Water Ballads.
  48. ^ Dorison, Xavier. Long John Silver (in French). Laufray, Mathieu (Illustr.). Dargaud.[full citation needed] Published by Cinebook in English.
  49. ^ "''Nathan Never – L'isola del tesoro/Treasure Island''". En.sergiobonellieditore.it. Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2010-12-06. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  50. ^ "Long John Silver (album)". Wikipedia. 18 September 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2017.

Further reading