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The Swiss Family Robinson (German: Der Schweizerische Robinson) is a novel, first published in 1812, about a Swiss family who are shipwrecked in the East Indies en route to Port Jackson, Australia.
As written by Swiss pastor Johann David Wyss, and edited by his son Johann Rudolf Wyss, the novel was intended to teach his four sons about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world and self-reliance. Wyss's attitude towards education is in line with the teachings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and many of the episodes have to do with Christian-oriented moral lessons (frugality, husbandry, resignation, co-operation, etc). The adventures are presented as a series of lessons in natural history and the physical sciences and resemble other similar educational books for children in this period, for example, Charlotte Turner Smith's Rural Walks: in Dialogues intended for the use of Young Persons (1795), Rambles Further: A continuation of Rural Walks (1796), A Natural History of Birds, intended chiefly for young persons (1807). However the novel differs in that it is based on the model of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, a genuine adventure story, and presents a geographically impossible array of mammals — including pangolins, porcupines, capybaras, camels, monkeys, lions, leopards, tigers, bears, onagers, peccaries, wild boars, tapirs, mustangs, kangaroos, elephants, hyenas, wolves, giraffes, jackals, walruses, platypuses, koalas, wombats, dingos, zebras, bison, rhinos, hippos, and moose — and a flora that probably could never have existed together — including the rubber plant, flax, coconut palms, sago palms, and Myrica cerifera — on a single island for the edification, nourishment, clothing, and convenience of the children
Over the years there have been many versions of the story with episodes added, changed, or deleted. Perhaps the most well known English version is by William H. G. Kingston first published in 1879. It is based on Isabelle de Montolieu's 1824 French adaptation and continuation Le Robinson suisse, ou, Journal d'un père de famille, naufragé avec ses enfans in which were added further adventures of Fritz, Franz, Ernest, and Jack. Other English editions which claim to include the whole of the Wyss-Montolieu narrative are by W. H. Davenport Adams (1869-10) and Mrs H. B. Paull (1879). As Carpenter and Prichard write in The Oxford Companon to Children's Literature (Oxford, 1995), "with all the expansions and contractions over the past two centuries (this includes a long history of abridgments, condensations, Christianizing, and Disney products), Wyss's original narrative has long since been obscured." The closest English translation to the original is William Godwin's 1816 translation, reprinted by Penguin Classics.
Although movie and TV adaptations typically name the family "Robinson", it is not a Swiss name; the "Robinson" of the title refers to Robinson Crusoe. The German name translates as the Swiss Robinson, imply a Swiss version of Robinson Crusoe, rather than a Swiss family named Robinson.
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