The Riddle of the Sands
Overview
 
The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service is a 1903 novel
1903 in literature
The year 1903 in literature involved some significant new books.-Events:* October 24 - Mark Twain moves to Florence.* The first Goncourt Prize for French literature is awarded to John Antoine Nau....

 by Erskine Childers
Robert Erskine Childers
Robert Erskine Childers DSC , universally known as Erskine Childers, was the author of the influential novel Riddle of the Sands and an Irish nationalist who smuggled guns to Ireland in his sailing yacht Asgard. He was executed by the authorities of the nascent Irish Free State during the Irish...

. It is an early example of the espionage novel, with a strong underlying theme of militarism. It has been made into a film and TV film.

It is a novel that "owes a lot to the wonderful adventure novel
Adventure novel
The adventure novel is a genre of novels that has adventure, an exciting undertaking involving risk and physical danger, as its main theme.-History:...

s of writers like Rider Haggard, that were a staple of Victorian Britain
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

"; perhaps more significantly, it was a spy novel that "established a formula that included a mass of verifiable detail, which gave authenticity to the story – the same ploy that would be used so well by John Buchan
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir was a Scottish novelist, historian and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the 15th since Canadian Confederation....

, Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming
Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

, John le Carré
John le Carré
David John Moore Cornwell , who writes under the name John le Carré, is an author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels under the pseudonym "John le Carré"...

 and many others." Ken Follett
Ken Follett
Ken Follett is a Welsh author of thrillers and historical novels. He has sold more than 100 million copies of his works. Four of his books have reached the number 1 ranking on the New York Times best-seller list: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions, Triple, and World Without End.-Early...

 called it "the first modern thriller."

The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

, in a list published to coincide with the Big Read
Big Read
The Big Read was a survey on books carried out by the BBC in the United Kingdom in 2003, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time...

 campaign in 2003, listed the book at number thirty seven in "The 100 Greatest Novels" from the past 300 years.
Encyclopedia
The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service is a 1903 novel
1903 in literature
The year 1903 in literature involved some significant new books.-Events:* October 24 - Mark Twain moves to Florence.* The first Goncourt Prize for French literature is awarded to John Antoine Nau....

 by Erskine Childers
Robert Erskine Childers
Robert Erskine Childers DSC , universally known as Erskine Childers, was the author of the influential novel Riddle of the Sands and an Irish nationalist who smuggled guns to Ireland in his sailing yacht Asgard. He was executed by the authorities of the nascent Irish Free State during the Irish...

. It is an early example of the espionage novel, with a strong underlying theme of militarism. It has been made into a film and TV film.

It is a novel that "owes a lot to the wonderful adventure novel
Adventure novel
The adventure novel is a genre of novels that has adventure, an exciting undertaking involving risk and physical danger, as its main theme.-History:...

s of writers like Rider Haggard, that were a staple of Victorian Britain
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

"; perhaps more significantly, it was a spy novel that "established a formula that included a mass of verifiable detail, which gave authenticity to the story – the same ploy that would be used so well by John Buchan
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir was a Scottish novelist, historian and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the 15th since Canadian Confederation....

, Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming
Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

, John le Carré
John le Carré
David John Moore Cornwell , who writes under the name John le Carré, is an author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels under the pseudonym "John le Carré"...

 and many others." Ken Follett
Ken Follett
Ken Follett is a Welsh author of thrillers and historical novels. He has sold more than 100 million copies of his works. Four of his books have reached the number 1 ranking on the New York Times best-seller list: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions, Triple, and World Without End.-Early...

 called it "the first modern thriller."

The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

, in a list published to coincide with the Big Read
Big Read
The Big Read was a survey on books carried out by the BBC in the United Kingdom in 2003, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time...

 campaign in 2003, listed the book at number thirty seven in "The 100 Greatest Novels" from the past 300 years.

Literary significance and criticism

The book enjoyed immense popularity in the years before World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and was extremely influential. As Childers's biographer Andrew Boyle
Andrew Boyle
Andrew Philip More Boyle was a Scottish journalist and biographer. His biography of Brendan Bracken won the 1974 Whitbread Awards and his book The Climate of Treason exposed Anthony Blunt as the "Fourth Man" in the Cambridge Five Soviet spy ring.He was born in the Scottish city of Dundee and was...

 noted: "For the next ten years Childers's book remained the most powerful contribution of any English writer to the debate on Britain's alleged military unpreparedness". It was a notable influence on John Buchan and Ken Follett
Ken Follett
Ken Follett is a Welsh author of thrillers and historical novels. He has sold more than 100 million copies of his works. Four of his books have reached the number 1 ranking on the New York Times best-seller list: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions, Triple, and World Without End.-Early...

, who described it as "an open-air adventure thriller about two young men who stumble upon a German armada preparing to invade England."

In 1998, nautical writer Sam Llewellyn
Sam Llewellyn
Sam Llewellyn, born in 1948, is a British author of literature for children and adults.-Biography:Sam Llewellyn was born on Tresco, Isles of Scilly, where his ancestors lived for many years. He grew up in Norfolk. He attended Eton College and later St. Catherine's College, Oxford...

 wrote a continuation of the story named The Shadow in the Sands. This is subtitled "being an account of the cruise of the yacht Gloria in the Frisian Islands in April of 1903 and the Conclusion of the Events described by Erskine Childers".

Plot summary

Carruthers, a minor official in the Foreign Office is contacted by an acquaintance, Davies, asking him to join in a yachting holiday in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. Carruthers agrees, as his other plans for a holiday have fallen through. He arrives to find that Davies has a small sailing boat, not the comfortable crewed yacht that he expected. Davies gradually reveals that he suspects that the Germans are undertaking something sinister in the German Frisian islands
East Frisian Islands
The East Frisian Islands are a chain of islands in the North Sea, off the coast of East Frisia in Lower Saxony, Germany. The islands extend for some from west to east between the mouths of the Ems and Jade / Weser rivers and lie about 3.5 to 10 km offshore...

, based on his belief that he was nearly wrecked by a German yacht luring him into a shoal in rough weather. Carruthers and Davies sail back to the Frisian Islands and spend some time exploring the shallow tidal waters of the area, moving closer to the mysterious site where there is a rumoured secret treasure recovery project in progress. They are watched by a German navy patrol boat, which warns them away from the area.

Taking advantage of a thick fog, Davies navigates them covertly through the complicated sandbanks in a small boat to investigate the site. They find that it is actually the centre of a German plan to invade England. The invasion plan is master-minded by a renegade Englishman, but Davies has fallen in love with his daughter and he does not want to hurt her by revealing her father's treason. Eventually they manage to escape with the information and the invasion plan is foiled.

Historical context

It was one of the early invasion novels, "...a story with a purpose" in the author's own words, written from "a patriot's natural sense of duty", which predicted war with Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and called for British preparedness. The whole genre of "invasion novels" raised the public's awareness of the potential threat of Imperial Germany and as a result the Royal Navy developed several bases (Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

, Invergordon
Invergordon
Invergordon is a town and port in Easter Ross, in Ross and Cromarty, Highland, Scotland.-History:The town is well known for the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931. More recently it was also known for the repair of oil rigs which used to be lined up in the Cromarty Firth on which the town is situated...

 and Rosyth
Rosyth Dockyard
Rosyth Dockyard is a large naval dockyard on the Firth of Forth at Rosyth, Fife, Scotland, owned by Babcock Marine, which primarily undertakes refitting of Royal Navy surface vessels.-History:...

) on the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 coast of the British Isles to prepare for the possibility of war with Germany. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 later credited the book as a major reason why the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 had decided to establish the new naval bases. When war was declared he ordered the Director of Naval Intelligence
Director of Naval Intelligence
The Director of Naval Intelligence refers to either one of two posts, both related to naval intelligence:* The head of the Naval Intelligence Division of the British Admiralty; or* The head of the Office of Naval Intelligence in the United States....

 to find Childers, whom he had met when the author was campaigning to represent a naval seat in Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

, and employ him. At the time Childers was writing Riddle he was also contributing to a factual book published by The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

in which he warned of outdated British army tactics in the event of "conflicts of the future". He developed this theme in two further works he published in 1911: War and the Arme Blanche and German Influence on British Cavalry.

The novel contains many realistic details based on Childers's own sailing trips along the East Frisia
East Frisia
East Frisia or Eastern Friesland is a coastal region in the northwest of the German federal state of Lower Saxony....

 coast and large parts of his logbook
Logbook
A logbook was originally a book for recording readings from the chip log, and is used to determine the distance a ship traveled within a certain amount of time...

 entries from an 1897 Baltic
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 cruise "appear almost unedited in the book." In August 1910, inspired by the work, two British amateur yachtsmen, Captain Bernard Trench RM
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 and Lieutenant Vivian Brandon RN
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, undertook a sailing holiday along the same section of the Frisian coast, during which they collected information about German naval installations. The two men joined "Room 40
Room 40
In the history of Cryptanalysis, Room 40 was the section in the Admiralty most identified with the British cryptoanalysis effort during the First World War.Room 40 was formed in October 1914, shortly after the start of the war...

", the intelligence and decoding section of the British Admiralty, on the outbreak of war.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The Riddle of the Sands also provided the plot for the film of the same title
The Riddle of the Sands (film)
The Riddle of the Sands is a 1979 British spy thriller based on the novel of the same name by Erskine Childers. Set in 1901, and starring Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale, it concerns the efforts of two British yachtsmen to avert a German plot to invade England.It was filmed on the North Sea...

 released in 1979, starring Michael York
Michael York (actor)
Michael York, OBE is an English actor.-Early life:York was born in Fulmer, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, the son of Florence Edith May , a musician; and Joseph Gwynne Johnson, a Llandovery born Welsh ex-Royal Artillery British Army officer and executive with Marks and Spencer department stores...

 as Charles Carruthers and Simon MacCorkindale
Simon MacCorkindale
Simon Charles Pendered MacCorkindale was a British actor, film director, writer and producer. MacCorkindale spent much of his childhood moving around due to his father's commission with the Royal Air Force. Poor eyesight prevented him from following a similar career in the RAF, so he instead...

 as Arthur Davies.

In Germany, the novel was popularized by the TV movie Das Rätsel der Sandbank, produced in 1984 by the public TV and radio station Radio Bremen
Radio Bremen
Radio Bremen , Germany's smallest public radio and television broadcaster, is the legally mandated broadcaster for the city-state of Bremen...

, starring Burghart Klaußner
Burghart Klaußner
Burghart Klaußner is a German film actor. He has appeared in 50 films since 1983.-Selected filmography:* The Riddle of the Sands * Just a Matter of Duty * Good Bye Lenin! * The Edukators...

 as Davies and Peter Sattmann as Carruthers.

External links

  • The Riddle of the Sands at LibriVox
    LibriVox
    LibriVox is an online digital library of free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers and is probably, since 2007, the world's most prolific audiobook publisher...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK