Debunking the Myth of the ‘Real’ Robinson Crusoe
Alexander Selkirk was marooned on an island for more than four years. But his story was very different from the famous novel.
For centuries, the English-speaking world has been enchanted by stories of people trapped on islands. Think Lord of the Flies, Cast Away, or even Gilligan’s Island.
Real-life buccaneer survival narratives were a major literary genre when Daniel Defoe published his hit novel Robinson Crusoe in 1719. Defoe was influenced by these narratives, and his resulting novel about a shipwrecked Englishman both mirrored and transformed the genre. In its first year, the novel went through several printings to meet public demand.
After Defoe’s death in 1731, some readers claimed the novel was inspired by Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish buccaneer who’d spent four and a half years on an island by himself. Today, many writers claim a connection between