THE LIFE AND ASTONISHING ADVENTURES OF JOHN DANIEL (1751): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

John DanielFull Title: A NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE AND ASTONISHING ADVENTURES OF JOHN DANIEL, A SMITH AT ROYSTON IN HERTFORDSHIRE, FOR A COURSE OF SEVENTY YEARS. (1751) – Written by Ralph Morris, supposedly a pseudonym used by an unknown man.

Around the year 1650 John Daniel, a smith in Royston, is subjected to the relentless advances of his sultry stepmother. To avoid a situation which would hurt his father, John goes off to sea on a ship bound for the Moluccas. Enroute the ship goes under, with the only survivors being John Daniel and a young man who turns out to really be a woman in disguise.

John and this woman – named Ruth – are castaways on an uncharted and uninhabited island somewhere near Java. Food, shelter, fresh water and game animals are in huge supply, so John and Ruth name the place the Isle of Providence. The couple perform a do-it-yourself wedding ceremony and begin having children.

As the years go by our main characters have six sons and five daughters. Any other ships that draw near the island always wreck, leaving no survivors so the family abandons hope of rescue. Five of the sons and five of the daughters are married to each other when they reach their teen years. (All together now: “Eeewww!”)

John Daniel 2The unmarried son, Daniel (yes his name is Daniel Daniel) has a knack for inventing things and builds a flying machine. Its general shape is like one of our modern-day airplanes but the wings are leather over metal rod frames and in order to fly the wings must “flap,” which they do, powered by a pump.

John insists on accompanying his son Daniel (I’ll call him “Dan-Dan” from this point on) on the “mechanical eagle’s” test-flight. The flying machine performs even better than Dan-Dan hoped, but is so strong and fast that it winds up taking the inventor and his father to the moon.

The moon – like in a lot of these works of proto-science fiction – has a breathable atmosphere plus forests, mountains and oceans. The inhabitants are very thin humanoids covered with fur. These moon people cultivate vegetation the leaves of which can be chewed to provide both food AND moisture. John and Dan-Dan stock up on those leaves and fly back to Earth.

Our adventurers are off-course and mistakenly land on an island way over in the south Atlantic. On this island the pair encounter a tribe of mutant humans who sport webbed hands and feet plus talons. The tribe’s members are all descended from the union of a human woman and a horny, slightly humanoid sea creature.

The tribe speaks English like their mother and are excellent hosts. Their mutated appendages enable them to swim faster than normal humans and to easily prey on fish for food.

Eventually John and his son fly off again in their mechanical device. It is still a little too powerful to be easily controlled and this time the father-son duo wind up crash-landing in Lapland. John and Dan-Dan consult a Lapp shaman who tells them that Ruth is dying and that John and Ruth’s children and numerous grandchildren are ruining the island paradise with a civil war.

The pair try to find their way back to the Isle of Providence by boat but Dan-Dan dies in an accident. John Daniel, heartbroken by the way everything has turned out, is now a broken man and settles in England. Our protagonist dies in England after telling his sad tale to “Ralph Morris” the story’s author. +++       

  

FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE:   https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/

FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here:   https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/

© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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