Robinson Crusoe, a Scottish Pirate
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Book: 
Petrified Lightning

Robinson Crusoe, a Scottish Pirate

Daniel Defoe's all—time favorite, the classic story of Robinson Crusoe, might never have been written but for an argument. The argument took place at sea between a Scottish privateer and his captain one night in 1704. The privateer, Alexander Selkirk, was the ship's first mate on an expedition to the South Seas. No one seems to know what the argument was about, but in the heat of the exchange Selkirk demanded to be put ashore. He was—on one of the uninhabited Juan Fernandez Islands, off the coast of Chile. In all, Alexander Selkirk could have considered himself a lucky man to have gotten off with just abandonment; in those days the captain at sea was an absolute monarch and could have had the ship's first mate flogged or even hanged for possible mutinous actions.

So Robinson Crusoe was based on a real man, Alexander Selkirk, who lived the lifestyle described by Daniel Defoe as a man shut off from civilization for many years. Selkirk raised goats and other small animals and had ship's dogs as his everyday companions. He did not encounter cannibals such as his fictional counterpart did, nor did he have his man Friday. Perhaps if he had stayed on the island longer than four and one—half years he might have. Rescued in 1709 and taken back to England, Selkirk recounted his adventures. This aroused much public interest, particularly among writers looking for a good story.

Daniel Defoe was a journalist at the time. He sought out the rescued pirate and in successive interviews came up with the immortal story of Robinson Crusoe, a pious man who was marooned on an uncharted island for over 24 years.