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Richard Parker

Some true stories seem fake because we don’t believe reality can be so strange…. But sometimes, imagination can anticipate reality, like in the case of Richard Parker.

Richard Parker as an imaginary character

“The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (1838) is the only complete novel written by American writer Edgar Allan Poe.

Following Poe’s style, the story starts as an usual sea travellers novel, to which progressive elements of horror and mystery are added, making it difficult to classify…. At a certain point, after several adventures on sea, four men, including Arthur Gordon Pym and Richard Parker, are starving and thirsty after a shipwreck. After enduring this situate for a while, Richard Parker proposes that one of them gets killed to feed the other three. They drew straws and Richard Parker lost the bet.

So far, this is just a novel: not the happiest one but still a fruit of fantasy.

The true story

On July 5th 1884, about 46 years after Poe’s novel was written, the English yacht Mignonette sank in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately in front of the coast of Namibia, because of a strong wave damaging it. Its four passengers managed to lower the lifeboat and save themselves. But there hadn’t been the opportunity to load the lifeboat with enough food and water, so they ended up starving and thirsty. They resisted and eventually got rescued by a German boat, the Montezuma; only three of them, because they fed themselves out of the fourth one: his name was Richard Parker.

These facts led to an English criminal case, which established a precedent throughout the Common Law world.

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