A Journey to the Center of the Earth (French: Voyage au centre de la Terre, also translated under the titles Journey to the Centre of the Earth and A Journey to the Interior of the Earth) is a classic 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne. The story involves a German professor (Otto Lidenbrock in the original French, Professor Von Hardwigg in the most common English translation) who believes there are volcanic tubes going toward the center of the Earth. He, his nephew Axel (Harry), and their guide Hans encounter many adventures, including prehistoric animals and natural hazards, eventually coming to the surface again in southern Italy.
From a scientific point of view, this story has not aged quite as well as other Verne stories, since most of his ideas about what the interior of the Earth contains have since been soundly refuted. However, a redeeming point to the story is Verne's own belief, told within the novel from the viewpoint of a character, that the inside of the Earth does indeed differ from that which the characters anticipate. One of Verne's main ideas with his stories was also to educate the readers, and by placing the different extinct creatures the characters meet in their correct geological era, he is able to show how the world looked a long time ago, stretching from the ice age to the dinosaurs.
The story begins on Sunday 24, May 1863, in the Lidenbrock house in Hamburg, with Professor Lidenbrock rushing home to peruse his latest purchase, an original runic manuscript of an Icelandic saga written by Snorri Sturluson ("Heimskringla"; the chronicle of the Norwegian kings who ruled over Iceland). While looking through the book, Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel find a coded note written in runic script. (This is a first indication of Verne's love for cryptology. Coded, cryptic or incomplete messages as a plot device will continue to appear in many of his works and in each case Verne goes a long way to explain not only the code used but also the mechanisms used to retrieve the original text.) Lidenbrock and Axel translate the runic characters into Latin letters, revealing a message written in a seemingly bizarre code. Lidenbrock attempts a decipherment, deducing the message to be a kind of transposition cipher; but his results are as meaningless as the original.
Professor Lidenbrock decides to lock everyone in the house and force himself and the others (Axel, and the maid, Martha) to go without food until he cracks the code. Axel discovers the answer when fanning himself with the deciphered text: Lidenbrock's decipherment was correct, and only needs to be read backwards to reveal sentences written in rough Latin. Axel decides to keep the secret hidden from Professor Lidenbrock, but after two days without food, he cannot stand the hunger and reveals the secret to his uncle. Lidenbrock translates the note, which is revealed to be a medieval note written by the (fictional) Icelandic alchemist Arne Saknussemm, who claims to have discovered a passage to the centre of the Earth via Snæfellsjökull in Iceland. In what Axel calls bad Latin, the deciphered message reads:
|“||In Snefflls [sic] Iokulis kraterem kem delibat umbra Skartaris Iulii intra kalendas deskende, audas uiator, te [sic] terrestre kentrum attinges. Kod feki. Arne Saknussemm.||”|
In slightly better Latin, with errors amended:
|“||In Sneffels Joculis craterem, quem delibat umbra Scartaris, Julii intra kalendas descende, audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges; quod feci. Arne Saknussemm||”|
which, when translated into English, reads:
|“||Descend, bold traveler, into the crater of Snæfellsjökull, which the shadow of Scartaris touches (lit: tastes) before the Kalends of July, and you will attain the centre of the earth; which I have done. Arne Saknussemm||”|
After descending into this crater, the three travelers set off into the bowels of the Earth, encountering many strange phenomena and great dangers, including a chamber filled with combustible gas, and steep-sided wells around the "path". After taking a wrong turn, they run out of water and Axel almost dies, but Hans taps into a neighboring subterranean river. Lidenbrock and Axel name the resulting stream the "Hansbach" in his honor and the three are saved. At another point, Axel becomes separated from the others and is lost several miles from them. Luckily, a strange acoustic phenomenon allows him to communicate with them from some miles away, and they are soon reunited. After descending many miles, following the course of the Hansbach, they reach an unimaginably vast cavern. This underground world is lit by electrically charged gas at the ceiling, and is filled with a very deep subterranean ocean, surrounded by a rocky coastline covered in petrified trees and giant mushrooms. The travelers build a raft out of trees and set sail. The Professor names this sea as the Lidenbrock Sea. Whilst on the water, they see several prehistoric creatures such as a giant Ichthyosaurus, which fights with a Plesiosaurus and wins. After the battle between the monsters, the party comes across an island with a huge geyser, which Lidenbrock names "Axel Island". A lightning storm again threatens to destroy the raft and its passengers, but instead throws them onto the coastline. This part of the coast, Axel discovers, is alive with prehistoric plant and animal life forms, including giant insects and a herd of mastodons. On a beach covered with bones, Axel discovers an oversized human skull. Axel and Lidenbrock venture some way into the prehistoric forest, where Professor Lidenbrock points out, in a shaky voice, a prehistoric human, more than twelve feet in height, leaning against a tree and watching a herd of mastodons. Axel cannot be sure if he has really seen the man or not, and he and Professor Lidenbrock debate whether or not a proto-human civilization actually exists so far underground. The three wonder if the creature is a man-like ape, or an ape-like man. The sighting of the creature is considered the most alarming part of the story, and the explorers decide that it is better not to alert it to their presence as they fear it may be hostile.
The travelers continue to explore the coastline, and find a passageway marked by Saknussemm as the way ahead. However, it is blocked by what appears to be a recent cave-in and the three despair at being unable to hack their way through the granite wall. The adventurers plan to blast the rock with gun cotton and paddle out to sea to escape the blast. Upon executing the plan, however, they discover that behind the rockfall was a seemingly bottomless pit, not a passage to the center of the earth. The travelers are swept away as the sea rushes into the large open gap in the ground. After spending hours being swept along at lightning speeds by the water, the raft ends up inside a large volcanic chimney filling with water and magma. Terrified, the three are rushed upwards, through stifling heat, and are ejected onto the surface from a side-vent of a volcano. When they regain consciousness, they discover that they have been ejected from the active volcano on the Isle of Stromboli. They return to Hamburg to great acclaim — Professor Lidenbrock is hailed as one of the great scientists of history, Axel marries his sweetheart Gräuben, and Hans eventually returns to his peaceful life in Iceland. The Professor has some regret that their journey was cut short.
At the very end of the book, Axel and Lidenbrock realize why their compass was behaving strangely after their journey on the raft. They realize that the needle was pointing the wrong way after being struck by an electric fireball which nearly destroyed the wooden raft.
The book was inspired by Charles Lyell's Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man of 1863 (and probably also influenced by Lyell's earlier ground-breaking work "Principles Of Geology", published 1830 - 33). By that time geologists had abandoned a literal biblical account of Earth's development and it was generally thought that the end of the last glacial period marked the first appearance of humanity, but Lyell drew on new findings to put the origin of human beings much further back in the deep geological past. Lyell's book also influenced Louis Figuier's 1867 second edition of La Terre avant le déluge which included dramatic illustrations of savage men and women wearing animal skins and wielding stone axes, in place of the Garden of Eden shown in the 1863 edition.
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- The 1871 English language edition published by Griffith and Farran (named Journey to the Centre of the Earth at Project Gutenberg) is an abridged and altered translation. It changes the Professor's name to Hardwigg, Axel's name to Harry (or Henry) Lawson, and Grauben's name to Gretchen. It omits some chapters, and rewrites portions of and adds portions to others. The Redactor's note by Norm Wolcott, at Project Gutenberg, claims that this translation is the most popularly reprinted one, despite the flaws. The 1877 translation by Ward, Lock, & Co., Ltd., translated by Frederick Amadeus Malleson, is more faithful, though it too has some slight rewrites (according to the Redactor at its Project Gutenberg page, where its title is translated as Journey to the Interior of the Earth).
- The 1877 translation by Ward, Lock, & Co., Ltd., translated by Frederick Amadeus Malleson was adapted by AD Classic Books' 2008 edition of Journey to the Centre of the Earth. In this edit by A.R. Roumanis, antiquated writing and out of date sayings were replaced which makes this the most modernized version available.
- The novel frequently uses the device of the Professor explaining or arguing scientific matters with Axel, in order to communicate scientific facts on which the world-view is based. In the midst of their descent, this role reverses at one point, as Axel points out strata to the Professor as another example of the same story-telling method. Many things postulated in the novel are now known to be incorrect, including the temperature of space being minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and volcanoes erupting due to a reaction between water and chemicals in the Earth's crust.
- 1959 — Journey to the Center of the Earth, USA, directed by Henry Levin, starring Pat Boone and James Mason. The film introduces a villain for better presentation.
- 1978 — Viaje al centro de la Tierra, Spain, directed by Juan Piquer Simón, starring Kenneth More and Pep Munné. It was distributed in the United States as Where Time Began.
- 2008 — Journey to the Center of the Earth is a 3-D film by Eric Brevig. Cast members include Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem and Josh Hutcherson. The film follows as a sequel to the original book.
- 2008 — Journey to the Center of the Earth - A direct-to-DVD release by The Asylum, which is a loose adaptation of the original book. It was released as Journey to Middle Earth in the United Kingdom.
- An animated television series, Journey to the Center of the Earth, first broadcast in 1967, starring the voices of Ted Knight, Pat Harrington, Jr., and Jane Webb.
- A limited animation television special in the Famous Classic Tales series was aired by CBS in 1977.
- A 1989 movie called Journey to the Center of the Earth took only the title and a general idea from the Verne novel, and had a unique plot aimed at a teen audience. It was written by Debra Ricci, Regina Davis, Kitty Chalmers, and Rusty Lemorande, and was directed by Lemorande and Albert Pyun. It stars Emo Philips, Paul Carafotes, Jaclyn Bernstein, Kathy Ireland, Janet Du Plessis, Nicola Cowper, Lochner De Kock, and Ilan Mitchell-Smith. It was based on an uncompleted version, more faithful to Verne's text, written and directed by Lemorande, that had been left unfinished because of Cannon Films' premature closure.
- In 1993, NBC aired an adaptation, the cast of which included John Neville, F. Murray Abraham and Kim Miyori.
- The Wishbone 1996 episode "Hot Diggety Dawg" was based on the novel, featuring several major scenes starring the title character as Professor Lidenbrock.
- The 1999 Hallmark Entertainment movie starred Treat Williams, Jeremy London, Bryan Brown, Tushka Bergen, and Hugh Keays-Byrne (this version deviates considerably from Verne's original).
- A TV film version by RHI Entertainment starring Rick Schroder, Peter Fonda, Victoria Pratt, Steven Grayhm and Mike Dopud was shot on location in and around Vancouver on high definition video during the summer of 2007. The show aired on February 4, 2008 and been released on DVD. Victoria Pratt and Peter Fonda's characters were added to the original story.
- A stage version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, written by Gerald Fitzgerald and directed by Steve-Shayle Rhodes, was produced at Pegasus Theatre in Dallas, Texas in 2000, with substantial changes made to the characters and the plot
- A thrill ride based on the book, Journey to the Center of the Earth, is open at The Mysterious Island section of Tokyo DisneySea's theme park.
- A water ride at Water World in Federal Heights, Colorado called 'Voyage to the Center of the Earth' is loosely based on the book.
- Video games called Journey to the Center of the Earth: in the early 1980s by Ozisoft ; in 1988 by Chip Software  for the Commodore 64; in 1989 by Topo Soft  for the ZX Spectrum and in 2003 by Frogwares .
- A board game adaptation of the book designed by Rüdiger Dorn was released by Kosmos in 2008. 
- Rick Wakeman's album Journey to the Centre of the Earth combines song, narration and instrumental pieces to retell the story and Return to the Centre of the Earth tells the story of a later set of travelers attempting to repeat the original journey.
- A radio drama adaptation was broadcast in the Radio Tales series for National Public Radio.
- Alien Voices, an audio theater group led by Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie, released a dramatized version of Journey to the Center of the Earth through Simon and Schuster Audio in 1997.
Allusions/references from other works
- The 1912 novel The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has very similar ideas to Journey's.
- Doctor Emmett Brown, one of the two main fictional characters of the Back to the Future film series, attributed the origins of his lifelong devotion to science to having read as a child the works of Jules Verne in general, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth in particular (this is evident when he reveals that he tried to dig to the Center of the Earth at the age of twelve). Back to the Future III especially pays homage to Journey of the Centre of the Earth where Dr. Brown carves his initials in a mineshaft after storing the time machine, just like Arne Saknussemm did to help guide future explorers. At the end of the film, it is also revealed that Dr. Brown's two sons are named Jules and Verne.
- The first part of the second season of Around the World with Willy Fog by Spanish studio BRB Internacional was "Journey to the Centre of the Earth".
- A concept album called Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Rick Wakeman, was released in 1974.
- Rick Wakeman released a second concept album called Return to the Centre of the Earth in 1999.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the Pellucidar series using the Journey to the Centre of the Earth concept.
- The surname of Kathy Ireland's character in Alien From L.A. (1988), a film about a girl who falls through the earth and discovers a repressive subterranean society, is Saknussemm.
- The 1992 adventure/role-playing game Quest for Glory III by Sierra Entertainment used Arne Saknoosen the Aardvark as a bit character for exploration information, alluding to the explorer Arne Saknussemm.
- The DC Comics comic book series Warlord took place in Skartaris, a land supposed to exist within a Hollow Earth.
- The novel Captain Nemo: The Fantastic History of a Dark Genius has the events of this novel based on 'real' events that occurred to a real Captain Nemo, who gave the details of his encounters to Verne.
Debus, Allen (July 2007), "Re-Framing the Science in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth", Science Fiction Studies 33 (3), pp. 405–20.
- ↑ Project Gutenberg, Voyage au centre de la terre
- ↑ Project Gutenberg, Voyage au centre de la terre, 1871 English
- ↑ Project Gutenberg, Voyage au centre de la terre, 1871 English
- ↑ To produce the cipher, the text is written backwards, and then each letter and punctuation mark is placed in a separate cell of a 7x3 matrix, going row by row. When each cell is filled with the first 21 letters, the 22nd letter is placed in the first cell, and so again through the matrix repeatedly until the message is complete. To decipher, one copies out the first letter of each cell, then the second, and so forth, and finally the resulting message is read backwards.
- ↑ Script error.
- ↑ The Legacy
- ↑ Lemon
- ↑ World of Spectrum
- ↑ Moby Games
- ↑ Board Game Geek
- Browne, E. Janet (2002), Charles Darwin: vol. 2 The Power of Place, London: Jonathan Cape, ISBN 0-7126-6837-3
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- A Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Griffith and Farran, 1871) entire novel at HolyeBooks.org
- Journey to the Centre of the Earth and PDF Full text of the Oxford University Press translation, with introduction, notes and appendices. Most modern translation available online.
- Journey into the Interior of the Earth (Malleson, trans.; Ward, Lock & Co., 1877) from JV.Gilead.org.il
- A Journey to the Interior of the Earth (Malleson, trans.; Ward, Lock & Co., 1877) - in easy to read HTML format.
- A Journey to the Interior of the Earth at Project Gutenberg (English)
- Free audiobook of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" from Librivox
- Journey to the Center of the Earth - Classics Illustrated comic book
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