89. Pits, Prisoners, Ships, and Buried Treasure

Readers of “The Fantastic Island” first published in December 1935 may recall that significant portion of the story occurred on a remote location in the Galapagos Islands. The story bears several similarities with a popular movie of the time, “The Most Dangerous Game.” One of the plot devices in the story that was not in the movie involved prisoners chained to posts digging holes in the ground.

The island’s evil master also uses the illusion of giant lizards to create an atmosphere of fear. It was later revealed that the villain was seeking a treasure aboard a ship that covered by a volcanic eruption.

There is also a more modern story that involves a similar plot. Prisoners are forced to dig holes in search of a lost treasure. “Holes” was written by Louis Sachar and first published in 1998. The book became a film in 2003.

The protagonist of the story is young Stanley Yelnats who is wrongly arrested and sentenced to a term at a Texas camp for youthful offenders. The camp warden requires every prisoner to dig a hole each day in a dried lakebed.

Prisoners must watch out for the poisonous, yellow-spotted lizard which inhabits the dried lakebed. Readers are eventually told that a century in the past a small boat with a treasure aboard sank in the lake and was never recovered. The warden is looking for this treasure.

Both stories share several points:

  • Prisoners are forced to dig holes.
  • Lizards play a menacing role.
  • A boat is buried underground.
  • The goal is a lost treasure.
  • The seeker has no moral claim to the treasure.

It is an interesting coincidence.  Both books are an excellent read.