This article is about the character from the 1950 Treasure Island film. For the Treasure Planet character, see John Silver.

Long John Silver is a notorious pirate who formerly served in the crew of Captain Flint. He is a significant character and the main antagonist in Disney's 1950 film Treasure Island.


Early Life

Not much is made entirely clear about Long John's early life. He has claimed to have served under Admiral Hawke, although it is uncertain how much of this is true. It is known that he was the quartermaster under Captain Flint.

Treasure Island

Long John was later made a living working in a tavern. He was quickly hired by Squire Trelawney to join the crew of the Hispanola after the nobleman tried some of Long John's food.


Treasure Island

In Treasure Island, Long John Silver is a cunning and opportunistic pirate who was quartermaster under the notorious Captain Flint. Long John Silver had a pet parrot called Captain Flint, often seen sitting on his shoulder where she would nibble on seeds. Silver claims to have served in the Royal Navy and lost his leg under "the immortal Hawke". "His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham – plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling." He claims to have been the only man whom Flint ever feared. Like many of Stevenson's characters, there is more than a modicum of duality in the character; ostensibly Silver is a hardworking and likeable seaman, and it is only as the plot unfolds that his villainous nature is gradually revealed. His relationship with Jim Hawkins, the novel's protagonist and narrator, is interesting, as he serves as a mentor and eventually father-figure to Jim, creating much shock and emotion when it is discovered that he is in charge of the mutiny, and especially when Jim must confront and fight him later on. Although willing to change sides at any time to further his own interests, Silver has compensating virtues: he is wise enough to pay attention to money management, in contrast to the spendthrift ways of most of the pirates, and is physically courageous despite his disability; for instance, when Flint's cache is found to be empty, he coolly stands his ground against five grown men despite having only Jim, a boy in his teens, to back him.

When Silver escapes at the end of the novel, he takes "three or four hundred guineas" of the treasure with him, thus becoming one of only two former members of Captain Flint's crew to get his hands on a portion of the recovered treasure; a separate cache of bar silver is apparently left on the island. (The repentant maroonee Ben Gunn is the other, but he spends all £1,000 in nineteen days.) Jim's own ambivalence towards Silver is reflected in the last chapter, when he speculates that the old pirate must have settled down in comfortable retirement: "It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."

Stevenson's portrayal of Silver has greatly influenced the modern iconography of the pirate. Silver has a parrot, named Captain Flint in mockery of his former captain, who generally perches on Silver's shoulder, and is known to chatter pirate or seafaring phrases like "Pieces of Eight," and "Stand by to go about." Silver uses the parrot as another means of gaining Jim's trust, by telling the boy all manner of exciting stories (many of them likely fake) about the parrot's buccaneer history. "'Now that bird,' Silver would say, 'is, may be, two hundred years old, Hawkins- they live forever mostly, and if anybody's seen more wickedness it must be the devil himself. She's sailed with England- the great Cap'n England, the pirate. She's been at Madagascar, and at Malabar, and Surinam, and Providence, and Portobello ... She was at the boarding of the Viceroy of the Indies out of Goa, she was, and to look at her you would think she was a baby."

Silver is married to a woman of African descent, whom he trusts to manage his business affairs in his absence and to liquidate his Bristol assets when his actions make it impossible for him to go home. He confides in his fellow pirates, that he and his wife plan to rendezvous after the voyage to Skeleton Island is complete and Flint's treasure is recovered, at which point Silver will retire to a life of luxury. Ironically his "share" of Flint's treasure {£400} is considerably less than that of Ben Gunn's share {£1,000} and what he himself boasts is his "share" from England {£900} and from Flint. {£2,000}

According to Stevenson's letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend William Henley, a writer and editor. Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, described Henley as "...a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one's feet". In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island Stevenson wrote: "I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver...the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you".

Once Upon a Time

Silver appears in the fifth season of Once Upon a Time, portrayed by Costas Mandylor. His only appearance is in the episode "The Brothers Jones".

Before the First Curse

Captain Silver is a captain of a ship in which Liam Jones and his brother, Killian are in Silver's servitude. He laughs when Liam says they are going to leave and join the Royal Navy. However, Killian has taken to drinking and gambles away his prospects. When Liam presents Silver with the papers saying he signed up for the Navy, he says that Liam is allowed to go, but Killian will be required to remain behind. He watches gleefully as Liam tears up the papers and throws them overboard. During a hurricane several days later, Captai Silver tells the crew to sail straight into the storm, as he is searching for a treasure, a stone called the Eye of the Storm. Realizing everyone could be killed, Liam stages a successful mutiny against Silver and his supporters, tying them up after they surrender. However, Silver and the rest of the crew (with the exception of Liam and Killian) are drowned after Liam makes a deal with Hades to sink the ship in exchange for freedom. After his death, Silver is sent to the Underworld with the rest of the crew.

After the Third Curse

When Silver stops by the Underworld bar for his usual drink, he discovers that Liam and Hades have made a deal to destroy the pages of Hades' story to hide his weakness from the heroes. He later reveals this information to Killian outside the Sorcerers Mansion after Liam disposes of the pages. He and the rest of the crew blindfold Liam and Killian and take them to the cross-over point, planning to push them into the fiery depths of Hell below. However this plan is cut short when Hades appears, and instead blows Silver over the edge of the cliff, sending him to Hell.


Behind the scenes

  • Robert Newton later reprised his role, with identical costume and acting, in the 1954 non-Disney film Long John Silver, which presents itself as a sequel to Treasure Island. He continued to portray his take on Silver in an entire television mini-series spun off the film.

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