Patterns in televised fiction – Recreating a destroyed document from memory

ArchetypeSpeaking of recurring patterns in fiction!

Tonight’s episode (I’m writing this near midnight on Saturday the 8th) of the Starz series Black Sails features an 18th century literary character destroying a document to keep its information from falling into the wrong hands, only to recreate it later from memory. This is intriguing because the last episode of the Fox series Sleepy Hollow also features an 18th century literary character destroying a document to keep its information from falling into the wrong hands, only to recreate it later from memory.

In Sleepy Hollow, the character was Ichabod Crane from Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” who (in the series) is a soldier from the American Revolution transported to modern-day New York state. The document he recreated from memory was a map to purgatory, which he destroyed so the demon Moloch couldn’t use it.

In Black Sails, the character was John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, who (in the series) is a young cook on board Captain Flint’s vessel Walrus. The document he recreated from memory was the schedule of the treasure ship Urca de Lima, which he destroyed so Captain Flint wouldn’t be able to kill him for stealing it.

Notably, while Crane’s television story is shifted considerably forward in time from the source material, Silver’s is shifted backward.

Quite curious.

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