The Time Traveller (character)

The Time Traveller (character)

The Time Traveller is the fictional protagonist in H. G. Wells's "The Time Machine", a novel published in 1895. It tells the story of an amateur inventor and scientist known only as "The Time Traveller".

In "The Chronic Argonauts"

"The Chronic Argonauts" is an early story by H. G. Wells which later evolved into "The Time Machine". The story is wildly different from the book, but one aspect is the same: an eccentric scientist builds a machine capable of travelling through time.

In this story the scientist is named Dr. Moses Nebogipfel and is very different from the Time Traveller. Dr. Nebogipfel is portrayed as a mysterious recluse, obsessed with his work and only leaving his house when he needs to get supplies. The townsfolk in the story eventually become afraid of him and mob the old farmhouse in which he is living, shortly before he travels into the future.

It is debatable whether Dr. Nebogipfel can be considered as an earlier version or precursor of the same character as the Time Traveller or simply an entirely different character who Wells later replaced in the story.

In "The Time Machine"

"The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) ..."

The Time Traveller is an inventor and scientist who has created a time machine in late Victorian London. His story is told through the unnamed friend of the Time Traveler's. We first meet him while he is explaining to his dinner guests about time being a fourth dimension. He attempts to demonstrate his idea with a small model, and explains that a full size version, capable of carrying a man, is almost complete. His guests leave, unconvinced.

The following Thursday, those same guests have returned for a dinner party. The Time Traveller enters the room looking a wreck, and explains how he got the machine to work. He has tested it and travelled to the year 802,701 A.D. and beyond, before returning to his own time. In the future, humanity has evolved into two separate species - the happy and simple Eloi who live above ground, and the ugly, subterranean Morlocks. The Time Traveller develops a very close friendship with a female Eloi by the name of Weena.

He explores the world around him and notices no sign of any work or hardship - a veritable Paradise. However, he finds that although the Eloi appear to have no wants or difficulties, they are a degenerated and weak people. There is no sign of any culture except for the ruined dome-shaped buildings where the Eloi sleep, eat and live. They are also very afraid of the dark, although the Time Traveller eventually convinces Weena to sleep outside with him on one occasion.

There is a reason that the Eloi are afraid of the dark. There are several wells scattered about the land that lead underground. The Time Traveller descends into one of these wells and discovers the Morlocks. The Morlocks, it seems, are the remnants of the working classes, forced underground long ago to maintain the machinery of civilization, just as the Eloi appear to be descended from the upper classes. Having long ago exhausted their food supply, the Morlocks eventually turned to the Eloi for food. Due to their subterranean nature, they are completely intolerant of light and only depart their lair during the darkest nights to hunt the Eloi for food. These creatures also steal his time machine and hide it inside the pedestal of a large, abandoned Sphinx statue.

While camping in the woods with Weena one night, the Time Traveler and Weena are attacked by the Morlocks. The Time Traveller scares them off by starting a forest fire and only later finds that Weena has disappeared. Meanwhile, the Morlocks have deduced that the Time Machine belongs to the Traveller and have opened the Sphinx to lure him inside and capture him. Fighting them off, the Traveller regains his machine and escapes further into the future before returning to his own time.

After hearing this incredible story, his guests depart once more, unsure of whether to believe him or not. The narrator returns the next day to find the Traveller about to embark on another journey, this time equipped with a camera and a satchel of supplies. Cheerfully explaining that he will be back before lunch with proof, the traveller departs for an unspecified destination. He is never seen again.

Film version

There have been two film interpretations of the novel. "The Time Machine" (1960), by George Pál, takes the basic premise of the original book and adds several key points to the plot - the Time Traveller is depicted as being much more of an action hero, the Eloi are given a greater level of humanity and the Morlocks are made more threatening. A romance between the Traveller and Weena is also included, probably to counter the original character's rather distant, purely scientific, motivations. Finally, when the traveller embarks on his second journey, it is with the understanding that he is attempting to rebuild the Eloi civilization alongside Weena.The film was hailed at the time for its pioneering use of stop-motion photography to depict the accelerated passage of time.

"The Time Machine" (2002), directed by Wells' great-grandson, Simon Wells, starred Guy Pearce and Jeremy Irons. This film can be thought of as a reworking of the 1960 film rather than an adaptation of the original book. The Traveller's motivation for building the machine, rather than pure scientific research, is now to travel back in time to save his fiancée from being killed. The idea of a temporal paradox is then explored at length and forms a major plot point. Major changes included a shift of setting from London to New York, the portrayal of the Eloi as almost identical to modern humans (Simon Wells commentated that this was to make the Eloi "worth saving") and the division of the Morlocks into castes, led by a super-intelligent Uber-Morlock. In a departure from both the book and the 1960 film, the Traveller sacrifices his machine to save the Eloi and never returns to his own time.Although not initially well received at the box office, the film has since been praised for its special effects and, in particular, the steampunk depiction of the Time Machine itself.

There was also a late-1970s Made-for-TV remake that ran on NBC, and appears to have been intended as a Pilot episode for an ongoing series.

Notable characteristics

The Time Traveller is often portrayed as a fairly eccentric inventor/scientist, who devotes himself to the construction of his time machine despite the improbability of success from such a project, as well as the criticism and ridicule from friends and colleagues.

Nevertheless, when in the future world of the Eloi and Morlocks, he becomes more of an explorer/hero; he takes long walks, exploring his new landscape and piecing together clues about the nature of the future world, and attempts to fight off hordes of Morlocks to protect the Eloi in the book. In the George Pál movie, he manages to teach the Eloi how to fight the Morlocks. In the Simon Wells' remake, he battles the Über-Morlock (Jeremy Irons) to the death aboard the Time Machine and destroys the Morlock habitat.

In Stephen Baxter's authorized sequel to "The Time Machine", "The Time Ships", the Time Traveller's character is further delved into. He realizes that he may have held some undue prejudices against the Morlocks, as they remind him unconsciously of a childhood fear. He befriends a Morlock, however, and learns to take a more pacifistic approach to them, saying "Perhaps I shouldn't see them as monsters, but as potential Nebogipfels." Nebogipfel is also the name of the Morlock he befriends, presumably named after the main character in the Chronic Agronauts.

Character name

The Time Traveller's name is something of a mystery, as he is only referred to as 'The Time Traveller' throughout the original book. However, certain other sources have named him.

One popular theory, encouraged by movies like "Time After Time" and certain episodes of the hit show "", is that the Time Traveller is meant to be none other than H. G. Wells himself. Indeed, in the George Pál movie adaptation of "The Time Machine," his name is given as George (also H. G. Wells' middle name). Due to the clarity of the DVD image, 'H.G. Wells' can be seen on the control panel of the device, making it obvious that the film's Time Traveller is H.G. Wells.

In Simon Wells' 2002 remake, the Time Traveller is named Alexander Hartdegen.

In "The Time Ships", Stephen Baxter's sequel to "The Time Machine", the Time Traveller encounters his younger self via time travel, who he nicknames 'Moses'. His younger self reacts with embarrassment to this, which implies that it may be a first name that he changed. This is a reference to H.G. Wells' story "The Chronic Argonauts", the story which grew into "The Time Machine", in which the inventor of the Time Machine is named Dr. Moses Nebogipfel. (The surname of Wells' first inventor graces another character in Baxter's book, as explained above.)

"The Hartford Manuscript", another sequel to "The Time Machine", gives the Time Traveller's name as Robert James Pensley.

"" by Philip José Farmer gives the Time Traveller's name as Bruce Clarke Wildman.

"The Rook" comic book series gives the Time Traveller's name as Adam Dane.

In the "Doctor Who" comic strip story "The Eternal Present", the character of Theophilus Tolliver is implied to be the Time Traveller of Wells' novel.

The Time Traveller in sequels and other fiction

The Time Traveller's adventures have been continued in sequels to the book by many authors since the book was first written. In addition, the Time Traveller has made appearances in some books which aren't sequels to The Time Machine. Among those appearances are:

;"The Hartford Manuscript" - by Richard Cowper:The Time Traveller travels back to the time of the Black Plague.;"Morlock Night" - by K. W. Jeter:Morlocks copy the Time Machine and return to Victorian London. The Time Traveller is only mentioned in this story.;"The Space Machine" - by Christopher Priest:The Time Machine takes the Time Traveller on a voyage through space, to Mars.;"The Time Ships" - by Stephen Baxter (an authorized sequel to "The Time Machine"):The Time Traveller attempts to return to the world of the Eloi and the Morlocks but finds a vastly different Morlock society. He then travels back to his own era, only to get kidnapped by World War I era Germans who had also traveled through time; he winds up going back to prehistoric times and then forward to an abandoned Earth.;"The Man Who Loved Morlocks" - by David Lake:The Time Traveller travels farther into the future than he had gone before, and falls in love with a Morlock woman there.;"The Trouble With Weena" - by David Lake:The Time Traveller returns to the future to be reunited with Weena, but finds that the future has changed (and so, consequently, has Weena).;"Allan and the Sundered Veil" - a back up story to the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore:The Time Traveller brings together the heroes, John Carter of Mars, Randolph Carter and Allan Quatermain to combat Lovecraftian monsters.;"The Dancers at the End of Time" series - by Michael Moorcock.

Philip José Farmer has said that the Time Traveller is a member of the Wold Newton family. This is a family of humans that were genetically altered by passing a meteorite. He is said to be the great uncle of Doc Savage.

External sources

* [ A full e-text of "The Chronic Argonauts"]
* [ An alternate e-text of "The Chronic Argonauts"]
* Complete text of at WikiSource.
* [ The Time Machine (1960)] at Internet Movie Database
* [ The Time Machine (2002)] at Internet Movie Database

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