Robinson Crusoe in Words of One Syllable


Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)

(4.5 stars; 2 reviews)

Mary Godolphin was the pseudonym of Lucy Aikin who undertook translating great literature into single-syllable words so that young readers could enjoy plots that were considerably more interesting than, say, the McGuffey readers of the 1880's or the "Dick and Jane" primers of the 1950s (still around today as "decodable readers" in elementary schools).

She produced this volume based on Daniel Defoe's most famous work, considered by many to be the first English novel (1719). She also rendered Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Wyss' Swiss Family Robinson, which she translated as well.

I’ve recorded this as a complement to my voicing for LibriVox of Robinson Crusoe by Defoe and the companion recording of James Baldwin’s version, Robinson Crusoe Written Anew for Children (actually more for adolescents). So many different versions for a variety of young audiences speaks to the timelessness of Defoe’s original! (Summary by Denny Sayers)

(2 hr 59 min)

Chapters

Chapter 1 16:18 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 2 17:09 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 3 14:55 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 4 16:10 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 5 15:10 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 6 15:30 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 7 9:04 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 8 13:04 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 9 12:06 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 10 16:38 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 11 13:26 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)
Chapter 12 19:48 Read by Denny Sayers (d. 2015)

Reviews

Curious literary exercise, exciting tale, great reader

(4 stars)

Ostensibly written as a young child's version of the classic, this book is rather hobbled by its strange, author-imposed limitations. The tale is novel-length and is not what modern parents would consider suitable for their darling tots: slavery (our hero buys and gathers slaves), murder (singular and wholesale), starvation, cannibalism... Nor is the language chosen for simplicity- this is no primer- but, it seems, merely for the number of syllables in each word. This constraint is clearly awkward, and sometimes muddies the sense of the text. Just imagine telling a tale of shipwreck, castaways, and desert islands without using the words shipwreck, castaway, desert or island. Nor water, rifle, hammer, bullet, lonely, thirsty... Thank goodness Crusoe planted corn instead of carrots, and hunted goats instead of rabbits! I made rather a game of trying to "reconstitute" the original text, e.g., "bible" is replaced with "the book of God's word". "Cannibal" is "man who eats the flesh of man", etc. A curious work, overall. Not a great literary piece, but stars awarded to the author for pulling it off (could you do it?) and to the reader for a job well done. Personally I can't help but believe the book's premise was the result of a bar bet of some sort.