Deeper Into Jeopardy! XX: Pin the Tale on the Donkey – $1000

Jeopardy! category: PIN THE TALE ON THE DONKEY (28-05-2014)

$1000 clue: In 1879 this young Scot documented his adventures in France in “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes”

Correct response

The gist: Modestine, the author’s pack donkey, was in many ways the quintessential traveling companion – stubborn, moody, and easily annoyed, but nonetheless helpful and strangely comforting when needed. 

Robert Louis Stevenson‘s pioneering work of outdoor literature follows a trip the Scot took in his late 20s through 120 miles in the Cévennes mountains of southern France. The Cévennes had been the site of a Protestant rebellion against the French monarchy in the early 18th century, by a group of Huguenots known as the Camisards who had fled to the rugged region when the Edict of Nantes, a proclamation granting French Protestants substantial rights despite the monarchy’s official Catholicism, was retracted in 1685 after 87 years of standing. Stevenson was interested in history and had a particular fascination with rebelliousness; his earliest published work was an account of the covenanters’ rebellion, another uprising of Protestants against Catholics, this time in his native Scotland. During his travels he showed particular interest in the Protestant and Catholic communities of the region, which he described as being amiable to one another but nonetheless strictly split along religious lines, with transgressors suffering severe social penalties like ostracizing.

The work is also notable for being an early description of the activity we now call “camping.” Stevenson commissioned (on his parents’ dime) one of the earliest recorded sleeping bags, a large waterproof cloth sack lined on the inside with fleece, for him to sleep in on nights spent out of doors. His approach to traveling the rugged terrain as a form of recreation was probably not new, but he was certainly among the first to write about it. And the adventures he himself undertook on the trip would certainly have figured into his later adventure novels like Kidnapped and Treasure Island.

One cover of the book, showing the author in his sleeping bag with the donkey Modestine behind him

The clue: The time and the nationality are hints, but not really enough to narrow it down to one (for example, Arthur Conan Doyle was also a young Scottish man at the time). Contestant Maggie ventured forth with Robert Burns for this one, usually a good guess for a Scottish writer but not this time – Burns died in 1796). Probably not a good idea to guess on a high-value clue like this, so it’s not hugely surprising that it went as a triple stumper.

In Jeopardy!: Mr. Stevenson is quite a favourite among the Jeopardy writers – he shows up in nearly 100 regular clues and two FJ! clues, and has a full four namesake categories. In 15 his Scottishness is mentioned. As for his literary accomplishments, Treasure Island shows up 20 times, while Kidnapped clocks in at 13. The mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll (8) just beats out his evil alter-ego Mr. Hyde (7) by one. His Samoan life (including his death and burial) comes up 16 times. With nearly a hundred appearances, though, Stevenson is clearly an author to know, both in terms of his life history and his literature. Give him a read.

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