Phileas Fogg: Bursting the Balloon Myth

Phileas Fogg is famous for travelling around the world in a hot air balloon. So the story goes, anyway – doesn’t it? Well, no! In Jules Verne’s 1872 novel,...
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Phileas Fogg is famous for travelling around the world in a hot air balloon. So the story goes, anyway – doesn’t it? Well, no! In Jules Verne’s 1872 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. Phileas Fogg attempts to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. But does he do so in a hot air balloon? That’s what many people feel is a defining feature of the story. So, it’s time to look at what actually happens . . .

 

The Belief

 

 

Phileas Fogg takes to the skies in a huge, hot air balloon. Consequently, many people who tuned into watch the recent adaptation of Jule’s Verne’s famous book might have been a little confused. There seems to be a firm belief and expectation that Phileas Fogg travels mostly by hot air balloon. As our reviews of the series’ episodes prove, there are in fact many methods of transportation. It turns out that in that series, a hot air balloon barely features at all. So, what actually happens in the book then? Read on and we’ll reveal all . . .

 

The Truth

There is no hot air balloon in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Phileas Fogg simply never travels in one, at all, at any point in the book. There isn’t even mention of one! Furthermore, all his adventures are either land-based, or take place at sea. But stories seem to find ways of making us sure of things that aren’t actually true. Of course, you have to read the original story to find out the truth. These days people generally watch more than they read. But the reasons we come to believe certain things aren’t always simple.

The Root of It

Jules Verne’s first novel was Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863). In that Doctor Ferguson jaunts across the continent of Africa. So, a Jules Verne adventurer does indeed have an adventure in a big balloon, but not Phileas Fogg! Perhaps that explains things, at least to a degree. But really what’s likely to be responsible is a combination of things. Around the World in Eighty Days seemed to strike a chord, and has always stayed popular. Travel is a fairly universal and relatable theme. That eventually led to adaptations. That’s where things get confused. Adaptations are well known to be loosely based on books. In this case other source material was also likely used, too.

Legacy

The idea of Phileas Fogg travelling around the world in a hot air balloon has become almost mythical, in nature. As stated, various screen adaptations are likely the reason. But what matters is that Phileas Fogg has become synonymous with an idea . . . Stories are, after all, ideas, and permutations of them. The new adaptation has casually referenced other Jules Verne stories. Also, who knows, people might believe things about Passepartout, too, that don’t happen in the book, in the future. Our recent feature suggests a Passepartout series. Ultimately, whilst Phileas Fogg didn’t travel mostly in a big balloon, the idea itself isn’t just a lot of hot air . . .

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