Tom Sawyer: the man, the myth, the island…or the boy, the novel, the attraction.
Samuel Langhorn Clemens, aka Mark Twain, is one of America’s best-known humorists, lecturers and novelists. His The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) launched him to celebrity status, with his subsequent The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) being considered “the Great American Novel.” Mark Twain’s masterfully written colloquial speech and dialect created lively, authentic characters who, it seemed, lived out the action in front of the reader’s own eyes and helped develop and popularize a distinctive American literary genre.
Twain’s Sawyer/Finn books appealed to Walt Disney as they were set in his familiar boyhood home state of Missouri and they spoke of true adventure, something Walt could never resist. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer chronicled the escapades of a kid who was prone to mischief, loved to explore and often found himself in a heap of trouble.
Of Tom Sawyer, Twain wrote, “MOST of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine…Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in” (Mark Twain, Hartford, 1876, emphasis mine). I think Tom Sawyer, the book and the character, certainly reminded Walt Disney of what he once was, and it’s no surprise he added an entire island dedicated to those “queer enterprises” of youth to his beloved Disneyland Park in 1956. The attraction was also added to the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Frontierland in 1973.
At Tom Sawyer Island, kids can relive the adventures of Tom Sawyer and his pal Huck Finn. Located in the middle of Rivers of America, this lush playground is accessible only by rafts that periodically launch from Tom’s Landing near the entrance to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Here the deepwoods mischief Mark Twain’s characters got into along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River springs to life.
Once ashore, kids can scramble up the hill and explore the old windmill. They can hide from “Injuns” and discover treasure in cool, dark caves. They can man the guns at Fort Langhorn, watch out for river pirates and escape down the tunnel and across the “barrelly” bridge if the enemy gets too close! And if they trek to Tom Sawyer Island first thing in the morning and discover one of the paintbrushes Tom has cleverly hidden in the scrub, they can return it to a Cast Member and receive a special prize. Tom Sawyer Island is a great place for kids to release some energy (and for their parents to reclaim a bit of their youth).
- Tips: Tom Sawyer Island (aglassslippervacation.com)
- Wordless Wednesday – Tom Sawyer Island (mydreamsofdisney.com)
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