Friday, 9 November 2012

Dating Nemo

Obviously, reading the title, you might be forgiven for thinking we're going out for lunch with a clown fish! But no! I'm talking about Captain Nemo. We really need to reclaim the man's name, people.

When I was looking at writing about a young Nemo, I obviously had to try and establish his age in the books written by Jules Verne. Easy, right? Just read the books and even if it doesn't tell you his exact age, there'll be clues the reader can pick up. 

Actually, it proved a tad more tricky!

You see, somewhere along the line, someone fouled up. This is the problem. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was followed by Mysterious Island. In Mysterious Island, Nemo is an old man, at least sixty years of age, and he is dying. In Twenty Thousand Leagues, Nemo is at the height of his powers and seems much younger.

In Mysterious Island, a group of prisoners of war escape from imprisonment in a balloon in 1865. after some three years they meet Nemo who is old and dying. He tells them that at the age of sixty, he moored the Nautilus under the island and waited to die. He had been there for six years, since 1862!

And yet the events of Twenty Thousand Leagues begin in the year 1866. 

Nobody knows how such an error happened. Editors are blamed as Verne himself had a reputation as a stickler for detail but I'm not convinced! In some translations there are even bogus footnotes that purport to relate to the chronology issue but just lead the reader in a circle back to the place they were reading!

What we do know is that Nemo died on October 15th 1868 and he was well into his sixties.

Happily, these problems meant that I could be a little 'flexible' with Nemo's age; he might have been born in 1800 or possibly 1802. I needed Nemo to be a teenager or maybe an "old 12." This meant that the first story takes place in 1814, a great time in History when every war seemed to have the prefix 'Anglo.' Lots of scope for intrigue and action!