The Lost World: novel



The TV series is based on the classic novel The Lost World written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is perhaps best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes (although he regarded Professor Challenger as his favourite of the two).

The full title of the novel is: "The Lost World - Being an Account of the Recent Amazing Adventures of Professor E. Challenger, Lord John Roxton, Professor Summerlee and Mr. Ed Malone of the 'Daily Gazette'".

The Lost World is just the first in a series of books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that feature Professor Challenger. He appears in the following works:

1912 - The Lost World
1913 - The Poison Belt
1926 - The Land of Mist
1927 - The Disintegration Machine
1928 - When The World Screamed
1952 - The Professor Challenger Stories

The Characters

In the novel there were four adventurers:

Professor George Edward Challenger

In the novel, Challenger is a fierce brute of a man, who physically attacks his critics (as Malone discovers on first meeting him). Challenger learns of the Lost World from the journal of his colleague Maple White (himself a resident of Detroit, Michigan). Maple White and another explorer, James Colver, were the first to reach the plateau but were attacked by apemen with only Maple White surviving to get word of their discovery to the outside world.

The character of Challenger is supposedly similar to one of the professors whose lectures Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attended as a young medical student.

Challenger is married, his wife's name is Jessie.

The Daily Gazette's notes on Professor Challenger:

"Challenger, George Edward. Born: Largs, N. B., 1863. Educ.: Largs Academy; Edinburgh University. British Museum Assistant, 1892. Assistant-Keeper of Comparative Anthropology Department, 1893. Resigned after acrimonious correspondence same year. Winner of Crayston Medal for Zoological Research. Foreign Member of'--well, quite a lot of things, about two inches of small type--`Societe Belge, American Academy of Sciences, La Plata, etc., etc. Ex-President Palaeontological Society. Section H, British Association'--so on, so on!--`Publications: "Some Observations Upon a Series of Kalmuck Skulls"; "Outlines of Vertebrate Evolution"; and numerous papers, including "The underlying fallacy of Weissmannism," which caused heated discussion at the Zoological Congress of Vienna. Recreations: Walking, Alpine climbing. Address: Enmore Park, Kensington, W.'

Chapter 2 - Try Your Luck With Professor Challenger

Malone's first meeting with Challenger:

There was a tap at a door, a bull's bellow from within, and I was face to face with the Professor.

He sat in a rotating chair behind a broad table, which was covered with books, maps, and diagrams. As I entered, his seat spun round to face me. His appearance made me gasp. I was prepared for something strange, but not for so overpowering a personality as this. It was his size which took one's breath away--his size and his imposing presence. His head was enormous, the largest I have ever seen upon a human being. I am sure that his top-hat, had I ever ventured to don it, would have slipped over me entirely and rested on my shoulders. He had the face and beard which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid, the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue, spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-gray under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger.

Chapter 3 - He Is A Perfectly Impossible Person

Professor Summerlee

66-year-old professor of Comparative Anatomy. Summerlee joins the expedition as a critic who Challenger intends to enlighten by showing him the wonders of the Lost World first hand. In the novel, Summerlee is the inventor of the group, constructing a balloon in one attempt to escape from the plateau.

In the TV series, Summerlee's wife (deceased) was named Anna, there was no mention of her in the novel.

As described by Malone:

The scientific attainments of Professor Summerlee are too well known for me to trouble to recapitulate them. He is better equipped for a rough expedition of this sort than one would imagine at first sight. His tall, gaunt, stringy figure is insensible to fatigue, and his dry, half-sarcastic, and often wholly unsympathetic manner is uninfluenced by any change in his surroundings. Though in his sixty-sixth year, I have never heard him express any dissatisfaction at the occasional hardships which we have had to encounter. I had regarded his presence as an encumbrance to the expedition, but, as a matter of fact, I am now well convinced that his power of endurance is as great as my own. In temper he is naturally acid and sceptical. From the beginning he has never concealed his belief that Professor Challenger is an absolute fraud, that we are all embarked upon an absurd wild-goose chase and that we are likely to reap nothing but disappointment and danger in South America, and corresponding ridicule in England. Such are the views which, with much passionate distortion of his thin features and wagging of his thin, goat-like beard, he poured into our ears all the way from Southampton to Manaos. Since landing from the boat he has obtained some consolation from the beauty and variety of the insect and bird life around him, for he is absolutely whole-hearted in his devotion to science. He spends his days flitting through the woods with his shot-gun and his butterfly-net, and his evenings in mounting the many specimens he has acquired. Among his minor peculiarities are that he is careless as to his attire, unclean in his person, exceedingly absent-minded in his habits, and addicted to smoking a short briar pipe, which is seldom out of his mouth. He has been upon several scientific expeditions in his youth (he was with Robertson in Papua), and the life of the camp and the canoe is nothing fresh to him.

Chapter 7 - To-Morrow We Disappear Into The Unknown

Lord John Roxton

Mid forties. In the novel and in the series, Roxton is a well-traveled game hunter looking to take on the greatest beasts to ever walk the earth.

As described by Malone:

Through the thin haze of my cigar-smoke I noted the details of a face which was already familiar to me from many photographs--the strongly-curved nose, the hollow, worn cheeks, the dark, ruddy hair, thin at the top, the crisp, virile moustaches, the small, aggressive tuft upon his projecting chin. Something there was of Napoleon III., something of Don Quixote, and yet again something which was the essence of the English country gentleman, the keen, alert, open-air lover of dogs and of horses. His skin was of a rich flower-pot red from sun and wind. His eyebrows were tufted and overhanging, which gave those naturally cold eyes an almost ferocious aspect, an impression which was increased by his strong and furrowed brow. In figure he was spare, but very strongly built--indeed, he had often proved that there were few men in England capable of such sustained exertions. His height was a little over six feet, but he seemed shorter on account of a peculiar rounding of the shoulders. Such was the famous Lord John Roxton as he sat opposite to me, biting hard upon his cigar and watching me steadily in a long and embarrassing silence.

Chapter 6 - I Was The Flail Of The Lord

Lord John Roxton has some points in common with Professor Summerlee, and others in which they are the very antithesis to each other. He is twenty years younger, but has something of the same spare, scraggy physique. As to his appearance, I have, as I recollect, described it in that portion of my narrative which I have left behind me in London. He is exceedingly neat and prim in his ways, dresses always with great care in white drill suits and high brown mosquito-boots, and shaves at least once a day. Like most men of action, he is laconic in speech, and sinks readily into his own thoughts, but he is always quick to answer a question or join in a conversation, talking in a queer, jerky, half-humorous fashion. His knowledge of the world, and very especially of South America, is surprising, and he has a whole-hearted belief in the possibilities of our journey which is not to be dashed by the sneers of Professor Summerlee. He has a gentle voice and a quiet manner, but behind his twinkling blue eyes there lurks a capacity for furious wrath and implacable resolution, the more dangerous because they are held in leash.

Chapter 7 - To-Morrow We Disappear Into The Unknown

Mr. Edward Dunn Malone

A 23-year-old Irish newspaper writer working for London's Daily Gazette who dreams of becoming a war correspondant. He goes on the expedition for no other ereason than to impress his girlfriend, Gladys Hungerton, who laments that he does not risk his life on daring adventures. Of course when Malone does return, she's long since forgotten about him and has married another man—a solicitor's clerk. It is also mentioned that Malone is an international rugby player for Ireland.

In the TV series, Malone has been changed to an American writer (working for the International Herald Tribune) who is already a verteran war correspondant having covered the Great War. His middle name has been changed from Dunn to something beginning with "T".

Malone's reason for joining the expedition:

"I'm in love with somebody else," said [Gladys].

It was my turn to jump out of my chair.

"It's nobody in particular," she explained, laughing at the expression of my face: "only an ideal. I've never met the kind of man I mean."

"Tell me about him. What does he look like?"

"Oh, he might look very much like you."

"How dear of you to say that! Well, what is it that he does that I don't do? Just say the word,--teetotal, vegetarian, aeronaut, theosophist, superman. I'll have a try at it, Gladys, if you will only give me an idea what would please you."

She laughed at the elasticity of my character. "Well, in the first place, I don't think my ideal would speak like that," said she. "He would be a harder, sterner man, not so ready to adapt himself to a silly girl's whim. But, above all, he must be a man who could do, who could act, who could look Death in the face and have no fear of him, a man of great deeds and strange experiences. It is never a man that I should love, but always the glories he had won; for they would be reflected upon me. Think of Richard Burton! When I read his wife's life of him I could so understand her love! And Lady Stanley! Did you ever read the wonderful last chapter of that book about her husband? These are the sort of men that a woman could worship with all her soul, and yet be the greater, not the less, on account of her love, honored by all the world as the inspirer of noble deeds."

She looked so beautiful in her enthusiasm that I nearly brought down the whole level of the interview. I gripped myself hard, and went on with the argument.

"We can't all be Stanleys and Burtons," said I; "besides, we don't get the chance,--at least, I never had the chance. If I did, I should try to take it."

"But chances are all around you. It is the mark of the kind of man I mean that he makes his own chances. You can't hold him back. I've never met him, and yet I seem to know him so well. There are heroisms all round us waiting to be done. It's for men to do them, and for women to reserve their love as a reward for such men. Look at that young Frenchman who went up last week in a balloon. It was blowing a gale of wind; but because he was announced to go he insisted on starting. The wind blew him fifteen hundred miles in twenty-four hours, and he fell in the middle of Russia. That was the kind of man I mean. Think of the woman he loved, and how other women must have envied her! That's what I should like to be,--envied for my man."

Chapter 1 - There Are Heroisms All Round Us

The Others

The characters of Marguerite Krux, Veronica Layton, her parents, and their expedition are not in the novel but were created for the series.

Residents of the Plateau

There are two humanoid species living on the plateau in the novel, the friendly, cave-dwelling Accala indians, and their enemy, the red-haired Doda apemen. It is Challenger's theory that both species have immigrated to the plateau at some point, the Accala being the more recent arrivals. In the TV series, the Apemen remain but the indians are changed to the Zanga, with various other groups appearing as required (Cannibals, Amazons, Time Travelers, etc)

We were able now to take a more leisurely view of the Indians whom we had rescued. They were small men, wiry, active, and well-built, with lank black hair tied up in a bunch behind their heads with a leathern thong, and leathern also were their loin-clothes. Their faces were hairless, well formed, and good-humored. The lobes of their ears, hanging ragged and bloody, showed that they had been pierced for some ornaments which their captors had torn out. Their speech, though unintelligible to us, was fluent among themselves, and as they pointed to each other and uttered the word "Accala" many times over, we gathered that this was the name of the nation.

Chapter 14 - Those Were The Real Conquests

Next he touched upon the Indians, and upon the extraordinary colony of anthropoid apes, which might be looked upon as an advance upon the pithecanthropus of Java, and as coming therefore nearer than any known form to that hypothetical creation, the missing link.

Chapter 16 - A Procession! A Procession!

The Plateau Expedition

The plateau is located somewhere in the Amazon Basin, the exact location is never given as Malone is careful to disguise its location to keep it a secret. The Challenger expedition reaches South America during the dry season in mid July, with their return to London occurring in early November the same year.

In the TV series the adventures arrive on the plateau by balloon, but in the novel their quest to reach the plateau is quite different.

Unable to climb the plateau itself, they are able to assend to the top of a smaller upcropping that rises beside the plateau itself. Once at the top of that peak, they cut down the lone tree growing there, directing its fall so that it crosses the gulf between the two formations, and use it as a bridge to cross over to the plateau (see illustration on book cover above). Once on the other side however, one of their guides pushes the tree off its perch, stranding the adventures on the other side.

Malone climbs a tree to survey the plateau:

The sun was just above the western sky-line, and the evening was a particularly bright and clear one, so that the whole extent of the plateau was visible beneath me. It was, as seen from this height, of an oval contour, with a breadth of about thirty miles and a width of twenty. Its general shape was that of a shallow funnel, all the sides sloping down to a considerable lake in the center. This lake may have been ten miles in circumference, and lay very green and beautiful in the evening light, with a thick fringe of reeds at its edges, and with its surface broken by several yellow sandbanks, which gleamed golden in the mellow sunshine. A number of long dark objects, which were too large for alligators and too long for canoes, lay upon the edges of these patches of sand. With my glass I could clearly see that they were alive, but what their nature might be I could not imagine.

From the side of the plateau on which we were, slopes of woodland, with occasional glades, stretched down for five or six miles to the central lake. I could see at my very feet the glade of the iguanodons, and farther off was a round opening in the trees which marked the swamp of the pterodactyls. On the side facing me, however, the plateau presented a very different aspect. There the basalt cliffs of the outside were reproduced upon the inside, forming an escarpment about two hundred feet high, with a woody slope beneath it. Along the base of these red cliffs, some distance above the ground, I could see a number of dark holes through the glass, which I conjectured to be the mouths of caves. At the opening of one of these something white was shimmering, but I was unable to make out what it was. I sat charting the country until the sun had set and it was so dark that I could no longer distinguish details. Then I climbed down to my companions waiting for me so eagerly at the bottom of the great tree. For once I was the hero of the expedition. Alone I had thought of it, and alone I had done it; and here was the chart which would save us a month's blind groping among unknown dangers. Each of them shook me solemnly by the hand.

Chapter 11 - For Once I Was The Hero

During their explorations, Challenger and the others have the honour of naming the plateau and its features. Giving credit where credit is due, Challenger names the plateau Maple White Land after its discoverer. The lake is given the name Lake Gladys by Malone but he later re-names it Central Lake.

At the end of the story, Roxton and Malone voice their intentions to make a return trip to the plateau.

The Dinosaurs and other wildlife

The explorers encounter several species of dinosaur while on the plateau. Those mentioned are:

  • Ichthyosaurus
  • Phororachus
  • Toxodon
  • Pterodactyl
  • Stegosaurus
  • Iguanodon

In the novel, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes dinosaurs nocturnal animals and also describes large carnivorous dinosaurs that move like kangaroos (interesting as the TV series is shot in Australia).

As well as the dinosaurs, there is a mention of "great elk", "monstrous three-eyed fish-lizards", and "huge water-snakes"