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"Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh

Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh

More loneliness than any man could bear

Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh""
The Police, "Message In A Bottle"

A Robinsonade is a plot about characters being stranded in the wilderness far away from civilization, and forced to live off the land in order to survive. It takes its name from the 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, which spawned enough imitations that its name was used to define a genre. The term was coined in 1731 by the German writer Johann Gottfried Schnabel in the Preface of his work Die Insel Felsenburg.

At its heart, the Robinsonade is a Man vs. Nature conflict. The characters are forced to battle for survival. Sometimes they succeed in style, turning their desolate location into taste of paradise; sometimes they fail, descending into a pit of savagery. How easy this survival is depends on the location and the skill level of the person stranded. Depending on the work, the characters might find themselves in a bountiful paradise or an exceptionally hostile enviroment. Sometimes the person is already a skilled survivor before they become marooned, but more often they are forced to undergo a difficult learning process full of Character Development. Additional conflicts can also be introduced. If a group of characters are marooned together, the Robinsonade allows for a variety of interpersonal interactions. Another variation is to have the location inhabited by natives, who can be either hostile or a helpful.

The Deserted Island is the archetypical setting of such stories. The island serves to keep the characters on it trapped, allowing attempts to get off the island to move the story forward. However, the location need not be an island. Any sufficiently isolated Wild Wilderness will do. In Science Fiction, a deserted planet can be substituted for the island.

While many such works try to depict nature in a realistic manner, others delve into the realm of Speculative Fiction. Characters may be forced to deal with some sort of strange phenomenon, such as Eldritch Abominations, dinosaurs, mutant man-eating shrews, or mutant animal human hybrids. This is especially likely if they are trapped in a Lost World.

If a character is marooned alone or is willingly choosing solitude, he may Go Mad From the Isolation. Compare with Bottle Episode.

Examples of Robinsonade include:


Anime and Manga

  • Maison Ikkoku had a (subverted) desert island episode (released as an OVA) that is mostly notable for having one of the worst puns in Takahashi history in its title (and that's saying something), playing off "nanpa" being both "hit on/pick up girls" and "shipwreck".
    • She did it again in the Ranma ½ manga, with Ranma and several girls fighting for their virtue when a plague turned all the males that had been shipwrecked with them into that most hideous of monsters - honeymooners on a tourist trip to Hawaii! Oh Noes!
  • Mujin Wakusei Survive puts its cast on a deserted planet, and then, just to be thorough, starts them out on an island on said planet.
  • The "Lincoln Island" arc from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.

Film

  • Cast Away
  • Robinson Crusoe on Mars - just what it says.
  • The Killer Shrews.
  • Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.
  • Hell In The Pacific: Two soldiers, one Japanese and one American, are marooned on an island in World War II. Neither understand the other's language, and after a period of hostility, work together to survive and escape the island.
  • Alive was a movie based on a true story of the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes. The survivors were stranded in the mountains without food and resorted to eating the flesh of those killed in the crash.
  • The Blue Lagoon - two kids are shipwrecked and grow up on a deserted island with no adult supervision.
  • Paridise: a Blue Lagoon ripoff starring Willie Aames & Phoebe Cates.
  • Swiss Family Robinson: The 1960 Disney Film of the Book, one of Disney's top grossing movies of all time, adjusting for inflation.

Literature

  • Robinson Crusoe
  • The Swiss Family Robinson : A marooned family...
    • The original German title of the book, which translates roughly as "the Swiss Robinson Crusoes" (the family name is almost certainly not Robinson, unlike what the English title suggests) quite blatantly acknowledges the influence.
  • The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
    • Verne liked this trope: he also wrote Two Years Vacation (a bunch of New Zealand schoolboys) and The Robinson Crusoe School (the good-for-nothing son of a millionaire, who feels the young man needs to be toughened up). The preface of Two Years Vacation acknowledges it, describing the infinite number of books that could be written by dropping different groups of people onto different desert islands.
    • The castaways in In Search of the Castaways have spent several years marooned on the next island over from The Mysterious Island, and that book ends with its villain, Ayrton, being left marooned there, where he can be rescued by the heros of The Mysterious Island, and redeem himself. And they in turn are rescued by the people who come back to collect Ayrton after leaving him in exile for twelve years.
  • The Coral Island : Boys marooned, without adult company, who prosper.
  • Lord of the Flies : Boys marooned, without adult company, who don't prosper. A Deconstruction of the genre.
  • Tunnel In The Sky, by Robert A. Heinlein - More marooned children, this time of mixed genders on an alien planet. They were intentionally marooned as part of a high school wilderness survival course. However, due to a small technological "hiccup," they were actually marooned for much longer than expected.
  • Life of Pi is this on a boat. He actually does find an island partway through, but it turns out to be made out of carnivorous algae. So he gets back on the boat and leaves. Subverted in that He made it all up, possibly
  • Jurassic Park, all of them
  • Ben Gunn in Treasure Island.
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau.
  • Dr Franklin's Island by Ann Halam. Loosely based on H.G. Wells' novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, it tells the story of three teenagers who end up on an island owned by Dr. Franklin, a brilliant but insane scientist, who wants to use them as specimens for his transgenic experiments.
  • The Cay.
  • Survivor Type, a short story by Stephen King. After an an accident on cruise, a lone man washes up on an island. In an unusual variation, it's a very tiny island with absolutely nothing growing on it. Occasionally he lucks out and catches a bird, or some dead sealife washes ashore. Guess what he eats the rest of the rest of the time. Go on, guess.
  • Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, is a YA novel about a 13-year-old boy who is lost in the northern Canadian wilderness when the light plane taking him to visit his father crashes in a lake. He starts out with only a hatchet, but later in the summer, manages to salvage some other gear from the downed plane after a storm moves it closer to the shore of the lake. A three-time Newbery Award Winner (No, no Death by Newbery Medal) it's as much a coming of age story as a robinsonade.
  • The first half of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley is a robinsonade featuring teenaged Alec Ramsey and the title stallion on a small island following a shipwreck.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Clone Wars: Wild Space has this happen to Obi-Wan and Bail Organa. As expected it's of the marooned-on-a-deserted-planet variety.
  • My Side of the Mountain plays with this trope by having the young protagonist purposefully go into the wilderness alone, with the intent of living off the land. Despite his determination to survive on his own and his careful study and preparation for wilderness survival, he still ends up visiting a nearby town from time to time.
  • Steel Beach by John Varley has a section with this trope, initially somewhat inexplicably. It turns out to be a set of fictitious implanted memories of the protagonist spending time in a Robinson Crusoe manner living normally, used as a method of therapy by the AI overseeing everything, to try to help with psychological disorders e.g. suicidal depression
  • The Col Sec Trilogy at very least owes a lot to the concept.

Live Action TV

  • Lost - a Deserted Island with plenty of Phlebotinum
  • Gilligan's Island.
  • Lost in Space where the family was even the Robinsons In Space!
    • For most of season 1 they were stranded on an unknown planet. At the beginning of season 2 they managed to take off, only to crash land on an almost identical planet. D'oh! At least in season 3 they managed to actually get back into space.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Kirk maroons Khan in the episode "Space Seed". Also, Zephram Cochran (inventor of Warp Drive) was stranded all alone on a deserted something-or-other in space.
    • Khan and his augments actually made a fairly good living on the world they were marooned on. Then a nearby planet exploded and it promptly became a Crapsack World and Khan's wife died...
  • Flight 29 Down was a show about a bunch of kids and a pilot who got stranded on an island after their plane crashed. They split up, and the show focuses on one group of kids, while the others are off-screen with the pilot for most of the series.
  • Survivor takes the cynical version where everyone turns on each other and makes it an acutal competition.
  • Primeval stranded Abby and Connor in the Cretaceous for a year. They managed to do rather well given their lack of supplies, but although they were in good health when they returned, the entire experience was clearly traumatic. It's likely that their nascent romance played a major role in keeping them sane, together, and alive.
    • Also notable as one of the few examples on this list where running into dinosaurs would be quite normal.
  • In an episode of Quantum Leap, "The Leaping of the Shrew", Sam leaps into the body of a Greek sailor who's shipwrecked on an island with a spoiled heiress (played by Brooke Shields from the above-mentioned The Blue Lagoon), who was planning to enter an Arranged Marriage before her yacht capsized. Sam helps set up shelter for them and attempts to create a signal flare with her aerosol hairspray can, but she had used up all the hairspray. She later reveals that she intentionally emptied the hairspray cans because she had fallen in love with the sailor and didn't want to return to civilization and her arranged marriage. According to Sam, the two would be rescued in ten years, by which time they would have four children, and would be Happily Married for many years after their rescue.

Newspaper Comics

  • A frequent plot device in the Newspaper Comics strip Prince Valiant is that when Val takes a sea voyage, his ship almost inevitably gets waylaid on some cursed island with a puzzle Val must solve to avoid the crew being trapped forever or killed.

Video Games

  • Parodied in the Monkey Island games with Herman Toothrot, the crazy old hermit living on the titular island who, in the fourth game, is revealed to be the amnesiac grandfather of the Love Interest. He has a boat. He just doesn't use it because it's traditional to wait and be rescued.
    • If you've sunk your own boat by the time you get as far as being ready to head home, Herman will even lend you his boat so that you can rescue him in it.
  • Parody: The Hub Level of Super Mario Sunshine has a pianta stuck on a desert island (about 100 feet offshore of the capital city) for "the last ten years" because he can't swim. When the ocean floods (!), he manages to swim to a city rooftop -- But then he misses sitting on the island.
    • Paper Mario 2 has a chapter in which the characters are shipwrecked on an island. The community that ends up being built there flourishes, so most of the former crew decided to stay even after they get an undead pirate captain to ferry them back and fourth to the mainland whenever they want.
  • The Survival Kids/Lost in Blue series uses this as its main plot driver: You are a child (or young adult) stranded on a desert island, and must either figure out how to escape or how to thrive in your new surroundings.
  • Minecraft - even though there are NPCs around now, they don't really affect game-play in any way (yet), and they only spawn in villages (which are quite rare) to begin with.


Web Comic


Western Animation

 Commander Hoek: We're marooned!

Cadet Stimpy: Just like the title of this cartoon!

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