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Captain Nemo bids the Sun to go down over Antarctica, after claiming the South Pole in his name, in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Captain Nemo also known as Prince Armitage Ranjit Dakkar is a fictional character featured in Jules Verne's novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and The Mysterious Island (1874).

Nemo, one of the most famous antiheroes in fiction, is a mysterious figure. The son of an Indian Raja, he is a scientific genius who roams the depths of the sea in his submarine, the Nautilus, which he helped build 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 castaways off the island and in the end warns them that the island will be destroyed in a volcanic eruption. Nemo dies of a mysterious illness just before the eruption and is entombed in his ship which then sinks.

Contents

Etymology

"Nemo" is Latin for "no one", and also (as νέμω) Greek for "I give what is due" (see Nemesis).

It may be that when Jules Verne visited America, he was influenced by the Scottish motto "Nemo me impune lacessit" ("No-one provokes me unpunished") reinterpreted as "Nemo provokes me unpunished." It is also interesting to note that 'Nemo' is 'Omen' in reverse. Even though Jules Verne was French, it is unlikely that he was unaware of the foreboding sense of impending doom and precognition inherent in both the word 'Omen' and the semi-mystical character of his Captain Nemo.

Life

Orchha Palace, home to the real life Rajas of Bundelkhand
Captain Nemo's death in The Mysterious Island.

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 having lost his family at some point in the past.

In The Mysterious Island, it is revealed that Captain Nemo is Prince Dakkar, son of the Hindu Raja of the Kingdom of Bundelkund in India, and also a descendant of the Muslim Sultan Fateh Ali Tipu of the Kingdom of Mysore in India. The latter famously fought a series of wars with the British, employing artillery rockets, which led to the introduction of military rocketry in the west.

He was deeply antagonistic to the British Empire, due to its conquest of India. After the bloody Indian Rebellion of 1857, one of the most devastating wars of the Victorian Era, in which he lost his family and his kingdom, he devoted himself to scientific research and developed an advanced submarine, the Nautilus.

He and a crew of his followers cruise the seas, battling injustice, especially imperialism, by preying on the shipping of the European colonial empires. They derive bullion from the various shipwrecks that dot the ocean, their most notable plundering ground being the Spanish wrecks in the Bay of Vigo.

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

Like many Indian princes of the era, Nemo has a European 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 of old age, on board the Nautilus, at Dakkar Grotto on Lincoln Island in the South Pacific. The last rites were administered by Cyrus Smith, one of the castaways on the island who had been saved by the Captain himself, and the vessel then submerged in the waters of the grotto.

Character

Captain Nemo playing the organ, at which he was a past master.

The best account of the Captain's character may be had from the observations of Professor Pierre 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!"

Captain Nemo standing over the crew of the Nautilus as they observe an underwater funeral.

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. 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.

The Grand Salon of the Nautilus.

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, 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.

An unsinkable casket does wash up on the Mysterious Island, the book that includes the details of Nemo's life. The casket contains tools, guns, scientific instruments, an atlas, books, blank paper, and even clothing. The crate is lashed to empty barrels and the contents sealed in a waterproof zinc envelope, showing careful preparation and packing. This is one example of how Nemo grants the castaway's wishes, acting as an agent of Divine Providence.

One of the castaways, the sailor Pencroft, laments that whoever packed the crate did not include tobacco, the one thing he misses from his former life. A hunting party comes across a strange plant that the young naturalist Harbert identifies indeed is tobacco. The other castaways keep the discovery secret until they can dry and cure the leaves. One evening his friends offer Pencroft some coffee. He declines, so they say 'A pipe, then?' and produce a homemade pipe stuffed full, with a coal to light it. Pencroft exclaims 'O, divine Providence; sacred Author of all things! ... I have nothing more to wish for on this island...Now I am yours, in this life and the next!' [1] This cry is very similar to what Faust says to Mephistopheles, by which the devil claims Faust's soul. By making Nemo the granter of wishes and the invisible hand, Verne may be giving him some of the character of Mephistopheles, the devil himself.

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!"

Emblem

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", "moving within the moving element", or "changing in the changes".

The Motto of the Nautilus.

Origin

In the initial draft of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Nemo was a Polish noble, a member of the 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.[citation needed] 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 is set immediately after the American Civil War, from 1865 to 1867. This would mean that Captain Nemo who appeared in The Mysterious Island dies before Captain Nemo who appeared in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea sets out on the undersea travels. Also, when Captain Nemo is finally seen 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 knew of Captain Nemo years before Arronax published his story; Nemo being trapped under Lincoln Island all during the time in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

Portrayals

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:

Images

References

External links


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