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The Swiss Family Robinson

The Swiss Family Robinson

3.9 9
by Johann Wyss

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The Swiss Family Robinson is an adventure story with a decidedly domestic centre, in which smugness and safety thoroughly outbalance the element of danger. Inspired by Rousseau's theories of education, the story of the shipwrecked Swiss pastor and his family is liberally seasoned with suspense, adventure, and discovery. Popular from the moment of its publication in


The Swiss Family Robinson is an adventure story with a decidedly domestic centre, in which smugness and safety thoroughly outbalance the element of danger. Inspired by Rousseau's theories of education, the story of the shipwrecked Swiss pastor and his family is liberally seasoned with suspense, adventure, and discovery. Popular from the moment of its publication in 1812. it established a pattern for children's literature and continues to appeal to young readers and adults
alike. - ;The Swiss Family Robinson is an adventure story with a decidedly domestic centre, in which smugness and safety thoroughly outbalance the element of danger. Inspired by Rousseau's theories of education, the story of the shipwrecked Swiss pastor and his family is liberally seasoned with suspense, adventure, and discovery. Popular from the moment of its publication in 1812. it established a pattern for children's literature and continues to appeal to young readers and adults
alike. -

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Wyss's adventure is probably the most successful "robinsonade" since Daniel Defoe's original Crusoe. It also has the distinction of being the first written for children. As Jon Scieszka points out in his introduction to this latest reissue, what kid isn't interested in survival in paradise? This 19th-century "Father Knows Best" is narrated by Father—a stand-in for the clergyman Wyss—as Fritz, Ernest, Jack and Franz are stand-ins for Wyss's own sons. How neat is it to have a dad who instantly knows how to safely prepare the poisonous manioc root. Or cavalierly use explosives to blow up the hull of their wrecked ship to free the perfect, family-sized sailboat imprisoned within. There is no moss growing on Mother, either. Turn your back on the woman for 24 hours and she has designed, planted, and is apparently already harvesting impressive vegetable gardens. As for the boys, they are courage incarnate, regularly standing up to such challenges as the attack of raging bears, not to mention lions . . . . Bears and lions on a tropical island? Well, yes, the book is pure fantasy—with solid moral lessons firmly attached—straight out of the Romantic Era. Even so, one has to absolutely agree with Scieszka: it was great fun to read when we were 10 years old, and it is still great fun! Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-- It goes without saying that, in the process of condensing and rewriting these books down to a fourth-grade reading level, most of the distinguished aspects of the works--writing style, language, atmosphere, characterization--have been sacrificed for a simple, not to say simplistic, master-plots approach that conveys the incidents but fails to impart the justification for their continuing endurance in the canon of juvenile literature. The books are illustrated with some attention paid to the sense of the plots and characters. For those who persist in the fallacy that knowing what the so-called "classics'' of children's literature are about is a satisfactory substitution for actually experiencing them by reading the original, this series is acceptable. For the rest of us, it's as if someone's painted a guppy white and called it Moby Dick. --Christine Behrmann, New York Public Library

Product Details

Oxford University Press, UK
Publication date:
Oxford World's Classics Series
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Barnes & Noble
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The Swiss Family Robinson

By Wyss, Johann David

Tor Classics

Copyright © 1996 Wyss, Johann David
All right reserved.

Shipwrecked and Alone
For many days we had been tempest-tossed. Six times had the darkness closed over a wild and terrific scene, and returning light as often brought but renewed distress, for the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost.
We were driven completely out of our course; no conjecture could be formed as to our whereabouts. The crew had lost heart and were utterly exhausted by incessant labor.
The riven masts had gone by the board, leaks had been sprung in every direction, and the water, which rushed in, gained upon us rapidly.
Instead of reckless oaths, the seamen now uttered frantic cries to God for mercy, mingled with strange and often ludicrous vows, to be performed should deliverance be granted.
Every man on board alternatively commended his soul to his Creator, and strove to bethink himself of some means of saving his life.
My heart sank as I looked round upon my family in the midst of these horrors. Our four young sons were overpowered by terror. "Dear children," said I, "if the Lord will, He can save us even from this fearful peril; if not, let us calmly yield our lives into His hand, and think of the joy and blessedness of finding ourselves forever and ever united in that happy home above."
At these words my weeping wife looked bravely up, and, as the boys clustered roundher, she began to cheer and encourage them with calm and loving words. I rejoiced to see her fortitude, though my heart was ready to break as I gazed on my dear ones.
We knelt down together, one after another praying with deep earnestness and emotion. Fritz, in particular, besought help and deliverance for his dear parents and brothers, as though quite forgetting himself.
Our hearts were soothed by the never-failing comfort of childlike, confiding prayer, and the horror of our situation seemed less overwhelming. "Ah," thought I, "the Lord will hear our prayer! He will help us."
Amid the roar of the thundering waves I suddenly heard the cry of "Land, land!" while at the same instant the ship struck with a frightful shock, which threw everyone to the deck and seemed to threaten her immediate destruction.
Dreadful sounds betokened the breaking up of the ship, and the roaring waters poured in on all sides:
Then the voice of the captain was heard above the tumult shouting, "Lower away the boats! We are lost!"
"Lost!" I exclaimed, and the word went like a dagger to my heart; but seeing my children's terror renewed, I composed myself, calling out cheerfully, "Take courage, my boys! We are all above water yet. There is the land not far off; let us do our best to reach it. You know God helps those that help themselves!" With that, I left them and went on deck. What was my horror when through the foam and spray I beheld the only remaining boat leave the ship, the last of the seamen spring into her and push off, regardless of my cries and entreaties that we might be allowed to share their slender chance of preserving their lives. My voice was drowned in the howling of the blast; and even had the crew wished it, the return of the boat was impossible.
Casting my eyes despairingly around, I became gradually aware that our position was by no means hopeless, inasmuch as the stern of the ship containing our cabin was jammed between two high rocks, and was partly raised from among the breakers which dashed the fore part to pieces. As the clouds of mist and rain drove past, I could make out, through rents in the vaporous curtain, a line of rocky coast, and rugged as it was, my heart bounded toward it as a sign of help in the hour of need. Yet the sense of our lonely and forsaken condition weighed heavily upon me as I returned to my family, constraining myself to say with a smile, "Courage, dear ones! Although our good ship will never sail more, she is so placed that our cabin will remain above water, and tomorrow, if the wind and waves abate, I see no reason why we should not be able to get ashore."
These few words had an immediate effect on the spirits of my children, who at once regarded our problematical chance of escaping as a happy certainty, and began to enjoy the relief from the violent pitching and rolling of the vessel.
My wife, however, perceived my distress and anxiety in spite of my forced composure, and I made her comprehend our real situation, greatly fearing the effect of the intelligence on her nerves. Not for a moment did her courage and trust in Providence forsake her, and on seeing this my fortitude revived.
"We must find some food, and take a good supper," said she, "it will never do to grow faint by fasting too long. We shall require our utmost strength tomorrow."
Night drew on apace, the storm was as fierce as ever, and at intervals we were startled by crashes announcing further damage to our unfortunate ship.
"God will help us soon now, won't He, father?" said my youngest child.
"You silly little thing," said Fritz, my eldest son, sharply, "don't you know that we must not settle what God is to do for us? We must have patience and wait His time."
"Very well said, had it been said kindly, Fritz, my boy. You too often speak harshly to your brothers, although you may not mean to do so."
A good meal being now ready, my youngsters ate heartily, and retiring to rest were speedily fast asleep. Fritz, who was of an age to be aware of the real danger we were in, kept watch with us. After a long silence, "Father," said he, "don't you think we might contrive swimming belts for mother and the boys? With those we might all escape to land, for you and I can swim."
"Your idea is so good," answered I, "that I shall arrange something at once, in case of an accident during the night."
We immediately searched about for what would answer the purpose, and fortunately got hold of a number of empty flasks and tin canisters, which we connected two and two together so as to form floats sufficiently buoyant to support a person in the water, and my wife and young sons each willingly put one on. I then provided myself with matches, knives, cord, and other portable articles, trusting that, should the vessel go to pieces before daylight, we might gain the shore not wholly destitute.
Fritz, as well as his brothers, now slept soundly. Throughout the night my wife and I maintained our prayerful watch, dreading at every fresh sound some fatal change in the position of the wreck.
At length the faint dawn of day appeared, the long, weary night was over, and with thankful hearts we perceived that the gale had begun to moderate; blue sky was seen above us, and the lovely hues of sunrise adorned the eastern horizon.
I aroused the boys, and we assembled on the remaining portion of the deck, when they, to their surprise, discovered that no one else was on board.
"Hullo, papa! What has become of everybody? Are the sailors gone? Have they taken away the boats? Oh, papa! Why did they leave us behind? What can we do by ourselves?"
"My good children," I replied, "we must not despair, although we seem deserted. See how those on whose skill and good faith we depended have left us cruelly to our fate in the hour of danger. God will never do so. He has not forsaken us, and we will trust Him still. Only let us bestir ourselves, and each cheerily do his best. Who has anything to propose?"
"The sea will soon be calm enough for swimming," said Fritz.
"And that would be all very fine for you," exclaimed Ernest, "but think of mother and the rest of us! Why not build a raft and all get on shore together?"
"We should find it difficult, I think, to make a raft that would carry us safe to shore. However, we must contrive something, and first let each try to procure what will be of most use to us."
Away we all went to see what was to be found, I myself proceeding to examine, as of great consequence, the supplies of provisions and fresh water within our reach.
My wife took her youngest son, Franz, to help her to feed the unfortunate animals on board, who were in a pitiful plight, having been neglected for several days.
Fritz hastened to the arms chest, Ernest to look for tools; and Jack went toward the captain's cabin, the door of which he no sooner opened than out sprang two splendid large dogs, who testified their extreme delight and gratitude by such tremendous bounds that they knocked their little deliverer completely head over heels, frightening him nearly out of his wits. Jack did not long yield to either fear or anger; he presently recovered himself. The dogs seemed to ask pardon by vehemently licking his face and hands, and so, seizing the larger by the ears, he jumped on his back, and, to my great amusement, coolly rode to meet me as I came up the hatchway. When we reassembled in the cabin we all displayed our treasures.
Fritz brought a couple of guns, shot belt, powder flasks, and plenty of bullets.
Ernest produced a cap full of nails, an ax, and a hammer, while pincers, chisels, and augers stuck out of all his pockets.
Little Franz carried a box, and eagerly began to show us the "nice sharp little hooks" it contained. "Well done, Franz!" cried I. "These fishhooks, which you, the youngest, have found, may contribute more than anything else on the ship to save our lives by procuring food for us. Fritz and Ernest, you have chosen well."
"Will you praise me too?" said my dear wife. "I have nothing to show, but I can give you good news. Some useful animals are still alive: a cow, a donkey, two goats, six sheep, a ram, and a fine sow. I was but just in time to save their lives by taking food to them."
"All these things are excellent indeed," said I, "but my friend Jack here has presented me with a couple of huge, hungry, useless dogs, who will eat more than any of us."
"Oh, papa, they will be of use! Why, they will help us to hunt when we get on shore!"
"No doubt they will, if ever we do get on shore, Jack; but I must say I don't know how it is to be done."
"Can't we each get into a big tub, and float there?" returned he. "I have often sailed splendidly like that, round the pond at home."
"My child, you have hit on a capital idea," cried I. "Now, Ernest, let me have your tools--hammers, nails, saws, augers, and ax; and then make haste to collect any tubs you can find!"
We very soon found four large casks, made of sound wood and strongly bound with iron hoops; they were floating with many other things in the water in the hold, but we managed to fish them out and drag them to a suitable place for launching. They were exactly what I wanted, and I succeeded in sawing them across the middle. Hard work it was, and we were glad enough to stop and refresh ourselves with wine and biscuits.
My eight tubs now stood ranged in a row near the water's edge, and I looked at them with great satisfaction; to my surprise, my wife did not seem to share my pleasure!
"I shall never," said she, "muster courage to get into one of these!"
"Do not be too sure of that, dear wife; when you see my contrivance completed, you will perhaps prefer it to this immovable wreck."
I next procured a long, thin plank, on which my tubs could be fixed, and the two ends of this I bent upward so as to form a keel. Two other planks were nailed along the sides of the tubs; they also being flexible, were brought to a point at each end, and all firmly secured and nailed together. I felt satisfied that in smooth water this craft would be perfectly trustworthy. But when we thought all was ready for the launch we found, to our dismay, that the grand contrivance was so heavy and clumsy, that even our united efforts could not move it an inch.
"I must have a lever," cried I. "Run and fetch the capstan bar!"
Fritz quickly brought one, and, having formed rollers by cutting up a long spar, I raised the fore part of my boat with the bar, and my sons placed a roller under it.
"How is it, father," inquired Ernest, "that with that thing you alone can do more than all of us together?"
I explained, as well as I could in a hurry, the principle of the lever; and promised to have a long talk on the subject of mechanics, should we have a future opportunity.
I now made fast a long rope to the stern of our boat, attaching the other end to a beam; then placing a second and third roller under it, we once more began to push, this time with success, and soon our gallant craft was safely launched: so swiftly indeed did she glide into the water that, but for the rope, she would have passed beyond our reach. The boys wished to jump in directly; but, alas, she leaned so much on one side that they could not venture to do so.
Some heavy things being thrown in, however, the boat righted itself by degrees, and the boys were so delighted that they struggled which should first leap in to have the fun of sitting down in the tubs. But it was plain to me at once that something more was required to make her perfectly safe, so I contrived outriggers to preserve the balance, by nailing long poles across at the stem and stern, and fixing at the end of each empty brandy casks.
Then the boat appearing steady, I got in; and turning it toward the most open side of the wreck, I cut and cleared away obstructions, so as to leave a free passage for our departure, and the boys brought oars to be ready for the voyage. This important undertaking we were forced to postpone until the next day, as it was by this time far too late to attempt it. It was not pleasant to have to spend another night in so precarious a situation; but yielding to necessity, we sat down to enjoy a comfortable supper, for during our exciting and incessant work all day we had taken nothing but an occasional biscuit and a little wine.
We prepared for rest in a much happier frame of mind than on the preceding day, but I did not forget the possibility of a renewed storm, and therefore made everyone put on the belts as before; then retiring to our berths, peaceful sleep prepared us all for the exertions of the coming day.
All new material in this edition is copyright 1996 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC


Excerpted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Wyss, Johann David Copyright © 1996 by Wyss, Johann David. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Johann Wyss (1743-1818) was a Swiss pastor who is best remembered for his book The Swiss Family Robinson. It is said that he was inspired by Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, but wanted to write a story from which his own children would learn, as the father in the story taught important lessons to his children. The Swiss Family Robinson was first published in 1812 and translated into English two years later. It has since become one of the most popular books of all time. The book was edited by his son, Johann Rudolf Wyss, a scholar who wrote the Swiss national anthem. Another son, Johann Emmanuel Wyss, illustrated the book.

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The Swiss Family Robinson: Critical Reading Series 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book because how the family was surrounded on a island and they lived on the island for a long time and they saw differante things like animals birds fish and other animals i would recamend this book to people that like storys that are very adventrese in the story i like how they made there house ote of different thing like there house in the tree that was really cool and the house that was made in the rocks and the house that wene they first got on the island i think the athor howe was thelling the story was really geting in to the story i like the pictures in the story i thot that was really cool. i liked how they got on the island dy make a raft that was made out of some of the ship i like the animals in the story like the dogs they where really coll and they helped hunt the animals for the family the muncky was really cool he helped geting the food for the family the donkey helped ate doing the farming but i really hate when the donkey got atene by the snake ate the end of the story i was really amased wen they said that they wonted to stay on the island i that that was really whered in the digening of the story they wanted to stay on the island and nowe they wont to stay on the island.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this story what happens is, these people were on a ship and they were in a terrible storm. The crew abbondon the ship and left a family still on a the ship during the storm. After the storm the family realized they were stranded on an island that hadn't been inhabitated by people, so they decide to make thier home there. There are six main characters in this book. They are, The father , the narrorator for the story, Elizabeth the wife and the mother, Fritz 15, Jack 13, Ernest 11, and the youngest Francis who was only 8. I liked this book it was very thrilling and had lots of action. I recommened this book to just about anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was pretty boring..had to read it for school....it just never leads to anything...u keep thinking now somethings going to happen but it never does
Guest More than 1 year ago
i liked this book because...it was interesting and adventrous.i also liked how johann wyss made the book from the fathers point of view.also i liked how she put animals in the book espically the donkey bacause it reminded me of a llama! what i diliked was it was sort of boring but interesting at the same time.plus,at first the family left the animals behind!..stranded on a deserted island..all alone in like the middle of know where!to me thats animal cruelty.and how she made the snake eat the donkey!because i love donkeys!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not like it because it was boring and there was not enough excitement.Every thing they needed they had on the Island food,water,and shelter it was like a vacation to them.If I wrote this book I would more action in it,and they would not have all of those things on the Island.I also did not like it because they would not be able to live on the Island for 10 years.If I was on the Island I would hide all of the food,water and I would live in a hiden cave.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good book and is very interesting. Rereading it makes it seem boring because they just come out and tell you most of the things that happen, leaving very few small details to miss the first time you read it, leaving no reason to read through again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON is an extroidinary book for people who like adventure books. It is a fun action packed adeventure book. some times it feels like you are right in the middle of the action. This book is filled with spectacular details about how it feels to be abandoned on an Island. A family that is shipwrecked on an Island needs to find a way to live. The book is such a good book that I think everybody should read it. THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON is the best adventure book I have ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story takes places on a deserted island where the Robinson family got stranded after a terrible storm. This family has to work hard to survive on the island. Until a passing ship spots them on the shore and rescues them, they must live there. Elizabeth, her husband, and their four boys, Fritz, Jack, Ernest, and Francis are the Robinsons. They are stranded on the island for approximately ten years. During that time, they meet Emily Montrose, a sailor who was stranded on the island as well. The Robinsons ship is wrecked off the shores of a deserted island by a treacherous storm. They have to live on the island until someone finds them. They build houses for themselves and a barn for the animals. They hunt and fish for their food. They are living an exciting, tropical life, totally different from the one they left back in Switzerland. They make several discoveries while on the island. One day, they spot a ship on the horizon and don¿t know if it is a pirate ship or a rescue ship. If they get the chance to leave do you think they¿ll take it?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very suspensful....