The first of February apparently was¬†Robinson Crusoe Day, with a plethora of activities, books, lesson plans and more being offered around the Internet, for readers small and not-so-small. It’s Feb 1 because that’s the day Alexander Selkirk — who may have been a key inspiration for¬†Robinson Crusoe —¬†was apparently¬†rescued from the island of Juan Fernandez. Certainly, there are other possible models, among them a narrative by Ibn Tufayl that was “a sensation among intellectuals in Daniel Defoe’s day“:

Nearly eleven years back, on the occasion of Ibn Tufayl’s narrative being adapted for children,¬†Martin Wainwright argued that “Tufayl’s footprints mark the great classic”,¬†Robinson Crusoe.

That may be. But whether or no the 12th-century¬†Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, son of Awake)¬†influenced Defoe’s 1719 desert-island novel, the¬†Andalusia-born philosopher’s work is interesting on its own two feet.

The narrative tells the story of an orphaned boy, Hayy, who is raised in the wild by a gazelle, and how he comes to grips with human reason and human society. Some call it a philosophical narrative, some a coming-of-age novel, some a compendium of Islamic science,¬†some proto-science fiction. The narrative has inspired numerous adaptations; in addition to the one in 2003, in 2011 Iranian-American director¬†Mohammad Ghaffari adapted it to the stage, also apparently suited for children, as it continued in Minneapolis’s Children’s Theatre Company.

Hayy ibn Yaqzan was also re-translated by Lenn E. Goodman and published in 2003.

An open-source version of¬†Hayy ibn Yaqzan’s¬†original English translation, by Simon Ockley, pub. 1708. Not exactly suited to the modern reader, but:

Via the Gutenberg project

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