Jules Verne Forum



RE: Verne accuracy

From: BUTCHER, Charles William <wbutcher~at~eng.ied.edu.hk>
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 1998 12:17:50 +0800
To: "'Jules Verne '" <jvf~at~math.technion.ac.il>, "'Pierre BRIAL '" <pbrial~at~guetali.fr>

My OUP 20T attempts to assess Ellis's comments: in sum, some are okay,
but some are wrong. In greater detail:

Ellis, Richard, Monsters of the Deep (New York: Knopf, 1994) passim
(harshly criticizes Verne for scientific 'errors', but itself contains a
number of mistakes).

Monstrous fiery mouths: 'fire flies' ('mouches à feu') in the Livre de
poche edition is an error for 'fiery mouths' ('bouches à feu'). Ellis
says that such sharks do not have 'glassy eyes' or a 'phosphorescent
substance', but in fact at least one species of dogfish shark is

which formed divergent tusks on each side: WJM and FPW point out that
tusks indicate a male dugong, and so Ned could not have seen its breasts
two pages previously. Ellis points out that dugongs do not have
'fingers', and describes as 'ludicrous' the comparison with a lion
attacking a deer, but erroneously implies that these two animals do not
share the same habitat. He also points out that dugongs are usually
inoffensive; and that 'one or two tons' is a lot of water for a small

that the most beautiful woman would not be able to surpass: MS2 has the
more misogynist 'to equal'. Ellis points out that walruses are not found
in the Antarctic. (Nor are the puffins seen in I 13.)

at least 4,000 kilograms: in fact the maximum size of the manatee is
about 5 metres and 700 kilograms. Ellis points out that the illustration
mistakenly shows manatees resting on rocks, whereas in reality they
never leave the water.

a painting of the said squid: Ellis says that the church referred to is
St Thomas's Chapel; and that the painting is an ex-voto from sailors
grateful for surviving the incident described in Montfort's book (see
note on following page).

reddish-brown: Ellis claims that this description is worse than 'wrong',
arguing that 'blue-green eyes' and a 'hornlike' tongue are errors and
that an eight-metre squid could not weigh 20,000 kilograms. But
'blue-green' is in fact a mistranslation and Verne may possibly be
indicating the length of the body without the tentacles.

        It has often been pointed out that Verne's squid has 'eight
arms' (like an _octo_pus), whereas squid in fact have ten. WJM and FPW
claim that Aronnax's 'triple heart' is 'really three modified blood
vessels' - but Ellis says 'squid do indeed possess three hearts'.

Bill Butcher


From: Pierre BRIAL
To: Jules Verne
Sent: 4/3/98 5:19:54 PM
Subject: Verne accuracy

After the discussion between Swati and Constantina, It will be
interesting to discuss about Verne accuracy. I hope that people who live
in place described by Jules Verne will give us their advice. Personaly
I've only visited Iceland and I found the description in Voyage au
centre de la Terre very accurate. Richard Ellis in "Monsters of the
Seas" says that Verne's descriptions of marine mammals in 20000 Lieues
sous les mers contain many mistakes. He argues that these animals was
not very well known, and Verne may have read popular books not very
informed about the subject. Ellis supposes also that Verne has
exaggerated size, weight and ferocious behaviour of these animals to
increase the dramatic effect of the novel.

Pierre Brial
Ingénieur Géomètre E.S.G.T.
1, impasse Mangata
97435 St-Gilles-les-Hauts
Tél.: +262 556415
Fax.: +262 556420
Received on Sat 04 Apr 1998 - 07:18:47 IDT

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