Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo is a fictional character featured in Jules Verne's novels "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" (1870) and "The Mysterious Island" (1874). "Nemo" is Latin for "no one", and also Greek for "give what is due" (see Nemesis).

Nemo, one of the most famous heroes in fiction, is a mysterious figure. He is a scientific genius who roams the depths of the sea in his submarine, the "Nautilus", which he built on a deserted island. Nemo tries to project a stern, controlled confidence, but he is driven by a thirst for vengeance, and wracked by remorse over the deaths of his crewmembers and even by the deaths of enemy sailors. In "The Mysterious Island", a still mysterious but gentler Nemo secretly helps the castaways off the island and in the end warns them that the island will perish in a volcanic eruption. Nemo dies of a mysterious illness just before the eruption and is buried in his ship that is then sunk.


Nothing concerning his past is revealed in the "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", excepting his having reason to hate the countries of the world and his apparent loss of his family. It is in its sequel, "The Mysterious Island", that Nemo declares himself Prince Dakkar, the Hindu son of the Raja of Bundelkund. He was deeply antagonistic to the British Raj of India. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, in which he lost his family and his kingdom, he devoted himself to scientific research and develops an advanced submarine, the "Nautilus". He and a crew of his followers cruise the seas, battling injustice, especially imperialism. The gold of Spanish ships sunk in Vigo Bay, as a result of the Battle of Vigo Bay, provided them with bullion.

He claims to have no interest in the affairs of the world above, but occasionally intervenes to aid the oppressed, giving salvaged treasure to Cretans revolting against their Turkish rulers, by saving (both physically and financially) a pearl hunter who was the unfortunate victim of a diving accident or by sinking warships or by saving the castaways from drowning in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and covertly watching over the castaways in "The Mysterious Island".

Nemo had a European or English education, as he states that he had spent his youth studying and touring Europe. In his first meeting with Professor Aronnax and his companions, the latter speak to him in French, English, Latin and German, all of which Nemo later reveals he is fluent in. Aronnax goes on to comment that Nemo's French was perfect and unaccented, and relies on his intuition and knowledge of ethnology to assess that he was from Southern latitudes. However, he was unable to determine the country of his origin. The "Nautilus"'s library and art collection reveal him to be familiar with European culture and arts. Further he was an accomplished player of the organ.

He is said to have died, on board the "Nautilus", at Dakkar Grotto on Lincoln Island in the South Pacific. The last rites were administered by Cyrus Harding, one of the castaways on the island who had been saved by the Captain himself, and the ship then submerged into the waters of the grotto.


The best account of the Captain's character may be had from the observations of Professor Arronax, a character in, and narrator of, "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea", who is stated to have embarked upon that curious voyage with the captain when the latter was about forty years of age. He is described as a reticent man throughout the account; tall and swarthy in appearance, he had a high nose and eyes set on the far sides of his face, an attribute that gave him an exceptional range of vision. In the later account given in "The Mysterious Island", the aged Captain Nemo is said to sport a long white beard.

He eschews dry land having forsworn all ties with it, and when he does step on it, does so only when the land is uninhabited, such as with Antarctica and desert islands such as Lincoln Island, of "The Mysterious Island". He, is quite enamored by the sea and holds that true freedom exists only beneath the waves. In keeping with his detestation for the nations of the surface he uses no products that are not marine in nature, be it food, clothing, furnishing or even, tobacco.

Little is revealed about his political opinions except that he has an almost maniacal hatred of oppression, with which he identifies all the imperialistic nations of the world and does not hesitate to identify himself with those oppressed, be they Cretans rising against the Turks ruling them or poor Ceylonese pearl-divers eking out a living or even grey whales being attacked by cachalots. In "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", when Professor Arronax insinuates that he was violating maritime and international law, by sinking war-ships, he states that he was merely defending himself from his attackers and that the laws of the world on the surface did not apply to him any longer.In one scene in Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", Nemo exclaims, "On the surface, they can still exercise their iniquitous laws, fight, devour each other, and indulge in all their earthly horrors. But thirty feet below the (sea's) surface, their power ceases, their influence fades, and their dominion vanishes. Ah, monsieur, to live in the bosom of the sea! .... There I recognize no master! There I am free!"

He is devoted to his crew, and can barely contain his grief when one of them happens to be killed, as is portrayed in the aftermath of the giant-squid attack in the Bahamas and the mysterious midnight encounter with a surface ship. He also appears to retain loving memories of his family, for Professor Arronax witnesses him weeping over the portrait of a young lady and two children, apparently his family. He betrays the same compassion in his treatment of the castaways in "The Mysterious Island".

Though short-tempered, he maintains very great control over himself, giving vent to his anger but rarely. He was also a man of immense courage, in the forefront of every activity, releasing the "Nautilus" from the Antarctic ice in which she gets trapped, and in fighting off the squids at the Bahamas. Professor Arronax states that he was a man of superhuman stamina working consecutive eight-hour shifts without a break, with little oxygen, to free the "Nautilus" from the ice. He is also an intrepid explorer, having discovered Atlantis, according to Jules Verne, a glimpse of which is had by Professor Arronax.

An extraordinary engineer, he designed and built the "Nautilus", besides inventing most of her outstanding features, such as her electric propulsion and navigation systems. He has an exceptional mastery of under-sea navigation, taking upon himself the most difficult passages of the voyage described in "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea", such as those under the Isthmus of Suez and that under the Antarctic ice-sheet.

He had an immense knowledge of marine biology, and it was his respect for Professor Arronax's expertise in that field which led to his befriending the professor when the latter was cast upon the "Nautilus" by chance. Further he is said to have read and annotated all the tomes he possessed in the "Nautilus"'s vast library. In addition to these indubitable indications of an exceptional intellect, he repeatedly demonstrates his ability to create innovative solutions.

He had very fine taste in art, possessing several masterpieces of both painting and sculpture, from ancient and modern European masters, all of which were housed in the Grand Salon of the "Nautilus", along with his inestimably valuable collection of pearls, corals and such other marine products, which he had gathered with his own hands. In the opinion of Professor Arronax, the collection of the Grand Salon far outstripped that of the Louvre. However, the Captain regarded them as little more than the remainder of a past life, a life he chose to forget, but yet retain some memories of, for according to him, these were but a part of his original collection.

Despite the opulence that is visible all through the "Nautilus", he is a man of spartan habits, retaining for his own use the barest minimum. In Professor Arronax's opinion, the Captain's cabin resembled a monk's cellar, furnished with little besides a bed and the navigation instruments so integral to the "Nautilus".

The Captain tells Professor Arronax that his intention was to have the story of his life, which he was even then in the process of writing when the Professor and his companions were cast upon the "Nautilus", would be sealed in an unsinkable casket and thrown overboard by the last survivor of the "Nautilus"'s crew, in the hope that it would be washed up somewhere.

He appears to have some sort of hatred, fear or remorse, never revealed to the reader, for the last words heard from him by Professor Arronax, before abandoning the "Nautilus", were "Almighty God, enough! Enough!"


His emblem, as given in a description of the flag he raised when claiming Antarctica, is a large golden "N", on a black field. The motto of the "Nautilus", was "Mobilis in mobili", which may be roughly translated from Latin as, "moving amidst mobility".


In the initial draft of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", Nemo was a Polish noble, Szlachta, vengeful because of the murder of his family during the Russian repression of the Polish insurrection of 1863-1864. Verne's editor Pierre-Jules Hetzel feared a book ban in the Russian market and offending a French ally, the Russian Empire. He made Verne obscure Nemo's motivation in the first book.Fact|date=January 2008 In the second book of "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea", Nemo comes close to revealing his Indian ancestry, though this is not obvious except in retrospect, in a scene where he saves a Ceylonese fisherman while on a pearl diving expedition in the Gulf of Mannar.

Chronological inconsistency

"Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" was written between 1869 and 1870 and records the voyages of the Nautilus between 1866 and 1868. "The Mysterious Island" was written in 1874 but plays immediately after the American Civil War, from 1865 to 1867. This would mean that the Captain Nemo appearing in "The Mysterious Island" dies "before" the Captain Nemo in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" sets out on his undersea voyages. Also, when Captain Nemo is finally met in "The Mysterious Island," he mentions having met Aronnax 16 years previously.

The Nautilus goes down in the Maelstrom on June 2 1868 according to "20,000 leagues Under The Sea". ("Mysterious Island" gives this date as June 22 1867) Captain Nemo dies on the Nautilus under Lincoln Island in "Mysterious Island" on October 15 1868. So while the date of his death in the latter novel does not precede his adventures in the former novel, some chronological inconsistencies still exist: Cyrus and Gideon knowing of Captain Nemo years before Arronax published his story; Nemo being trapped under Lincoln Island all during the time of his adventures in "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea".


* Allen Holubar played Captain Nemo in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1916).
* Lionel Barrymore played 'Count Andre Dakkar' in "Mysterious Island" (1929).
* Leonard Penn played Captain Nemo in the Columbia movie serial "Mysterious Island" (1951).
* James Mason played Captain Nemo in the Walt Disney film "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954). His is the most famous portrayal.
* Herbert Lom played Captain Nemo in "Mysterious Island" (1961).
*Robert Ryan played Captain Nemo in "Captain Nemo and the Underwater City" (1969).
* Omar Sharif played Captain Nemo in "La Isla misteriosa y el capitán Nemo" (1973).
* Len Carlson played Captain Nemo in the very loosely connected animated series "The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo" in the mid-1970s.
* José Ferrer played Captain Nemo in the TV movie and short lived TV-series "The Return of Captain Nemo" (1978).
* John Bach played Captain Nemo in the TV series "Mysterious Island" (1995).
* Michael Caine played Captain Nemo in the ABC-TV miniseries "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1997).
* Ben Cross played Captain Nemo in the NBC-TV movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1997).
* Naseeruddin Shah played Captain Nemo in the film adaptation of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (2003).
* Patrick Stewart played Captain Nemo in the TV movie "Mysterious Island" (2005).
* Nightwish a Finnish metal band composed the song "Nemo" (2004).
* Sean Lawlor played Captain Nemo in the film "30,000 Leagues Under The Sea" (2007).

Captain Nemo in popular culture

Besides his original appearance in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and "The Mysterious Island", Captain Nemo also appears in numerous other works though none written by Jules Verne, and all works were created decades after the original books:

* The comic book "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (and its film adaptation), which suggests that Nemo actually faked his death in 1867.
* The Japanese anime series "", by Gainax. Though his appearance is not until after the first few episodes, Nemo is portrayed as one of the major characters in the series' main plot.
* In episode 1 in season 2 of "The Simpsons" Bart has to do a book report on "Treasure Island", which he hasn't read. When his teacher Ms. Krabappel asks the name of the pirate on the cover, one of the names he thinks of before he answers is 'Nemo'.
* The villain in the "Mighty Max" episode "Around the World in Eighty Arms".
* In the Philip José Farmer novel "The Other Log of Phileas Fogg", Nemo is depicted as being rather more sinister and self-serving. In addition, he is said to be an agent of the Capellans, one of two extraterrestrial factions (and, in the context of the novel, the less ethical) vying for control of the Earth and of all surviving examples of offworld technology. (As suggested by the title, Phileas Fogg is an agent of the other faction, the Eridaneans.) As well, there was allegedly more than one Captain Nemo, one of whom was James Moriarty, the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.
* The novel "" by K.J. Anderson.
* The novel "Valhalla Rising" by Clive Cussler.
* The graphic novel trilogy "Robur" (based on Verne's "Robur the Conqueror") by Jean-Marc Lofficier.
* The series "Der Hexer von Salem" by German author Wolfgang Hohlbein, which is based on H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.
* The manga "Captain Nemo" by Jason DeAngeles and Aldin Viray.
* Ace of Base's song in "Flowers", "Captain Nemo".
* The Dive (Swedish band) song (later covered by Sarah Brightman), "Captain Nemo".
* The book by James A. Owen, "Here, There Be Dragons".
* Finnish rock band Nightwish released the song "Nemo" on their 2004 release "Once". The song contains many references to Nemo.


External links

* [ "The Mysterious Island": The Secret of the Island: Chapter XVI] . A summary of his life.
* [ Literary analysis of the novels of Jules Verne (In French)]
* [ The origin of Captain Nemo: at Captnemo's Home]


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