#bookaday 27: Want to be one of the characters
There are so many book characters I'd like to be that picking just one for the purposes of this challenge is really quite tough. Cassandra Mortmain from I Capture The Castle, Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, Pippi Longstocking, the narrator of Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger who turns her hunting-and-shooting neighbours into terrified human-bird hybrids, His Dark Materials' Lyra Bellacqua, The Hitch-hikers' Guide to the Galaxy's Zaphod Beeblebrox, Huckleberry Finn and any number of protagonists from Golden Age detective fiction - who wouldn't want to be Lord Peter Wimsey or Albert Campion - are all strong contenders.
However, I've decided to pick Jim Hawkins from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Jim Hawkins, who narrates the story, is a young boy who lives at his parents' inn, The Admiral Benbow, which is situated on the south-west coast and frequented by sailors. Now, already that sounds ideal to me - imagine the constant stream of exciting and exotic characters who would have passed by a seaside pub in the mid-1700s. I'm picturing glamorous women of ill repute, mysterious exotic-looking foreigners and tattooed, snuff-snorting men with pet monkeys smuggled back from adventures overseas. However, things get even more exciting when an old sailor staying at the inn dies, leaving behind his mysterious sea-chest, which turns out to contain a treasure map showing the location of a vast amount of treasure buried by the notorious pirate Captain Flint.
Before you know it, Hawkins has been engaged as a cabin boy on board the Hispaniola, which sets sail on a mission financed by the local squire, Trelawney, to recover Flint's treasure. The adventure steps up a gear, of course, when it becomes clear that the vast majority of the ship's crew are Flint's former pirates, recruited by the one-legged ship's cook Long John Silver and determined to fight Hawkins, Trelawney, Captain Smollett and military surgeon Dr Livesey for the buried treasure.
I'm well aware that sailing to the tropics in the 1700s was no picnic, and also, Hawkins does have a number of brushes with death during his adventure and is almost constantly in a state of terrified jeopardy. Despite this, though, it's all just so exciting. Pirates! Islands! Treasure! The lure of the sea! Muskets! Pistols! Cutlasses! People with names like Black Dog and Blind Pew! Mad old bearded recluses marooned in caves! Treasure Island has it all, and Hawkins is in the thick of the action at every turn.
Practically everything you know about pirates comes from Treasure Island - it really is impossible to over-estimate how important it was in creating the pirate genre and shaping our mental picture of what a pirate is and does. You can forget Johnny Depp hamming it up in a wig and eyeliner - Treasure Island is the original and best, and never have I so much wanted to be part of a book's world as I did when I read it.