Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

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What happens in Journey to the Center of the Earth?

Journey to the Center of the Earth tells the story of three adventurers who undertake a perilous and ill-advised expedition to the center of the earth. On the way, the men encounter prehistoric "marine monsters" and brave the volatile conditions under the earth's surface.

  • Otto Lidenbrock discovers a manuscript that reveals the location of a passage that leads to the center of the earth. He and his nephew Axel enlist the help of a guide, Jans Bjelke, who helps them explore it.

  • Otto, Axel, and Hans travel to Reykjavik, Iceland, where they enter a dormant volcano. The passage leads them to an underground sea, where they encounter prehistoric creatures.

  • The explorers don't reach the center of the earth, but are spit up quite miraculously during a volcanic eruption. Following this incident, the men rightly become famous.

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In 1863, German professor Otto Lidenbrock buys the manuscript of an old Icelandic saga. Inside it, he and his nephew, Axel, find a coded document in runes written by an Icelandic alchemist named Arne Saknussemm. Decoding it, they discover the runes are directions to the center of the earth. Saknussemm explains that he has successfully made this journey, which makes the professor believe it is possible.

Lidenbrock and Axel immediately head for Iceland, as they will have to descend through a Icelandic volcano to reach the earth's center. Their only window of opportunity for the journey is late June, which is almost upon them. Axel doesn't want to go, but Lidenbrock is unstoppable.

In Iceland, they hire a guide, Hans Bjelke, who is a duck hunter. The three travel successfully through the volcano and end up moving ever closer to the center of the earth, encountering many perils en route, such as dangerous flammable gas. At one point, they almost perish for lack of water, and Axel is also temporarily separated from the professor and Hans.

The center of the earth, however dangerous, is also a wondrous place. It is a huge cavern seemingly untouched by humans from the surface of the planet (except that they find the initials AS carved in a tree). This underground world is lit by gas, which is electrified. They encounter giant mushrooms that grow taller than they do and a huge ocean, upon which they travel on a raft. Since they are discovering that which was previously unknown, they get to name the geological features they see.

In this fantastic place, they discover evidence of species long gone extinct in the world above, such as dinosaurs and herds of mastodons. The explorers are jolted when they see what appears to be a twelve-foot human, though they cannot decide if it is more ape or more human. They don't want to be seen by this man-ape or disturb him, for fear of what he or his group might do.

Eventually, their path through to the center of the earth is blocked by a rock slide. They try to use dynamite to blast their way through, but this disturbance causes the nearby sea to rush through the hole they've created. The rushing water carries them up through a mountain, until they are ejected to the surface world. When they regain consciousness, they realize that they are, in fact, in Italy and that they have been ejected from Stromboli, a volcanic island near Sicily. When they return home, Lidenbrock is praised by his fellow academics and considered one of the greatest scientists to ever live.


(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the story of a secret expedition beneath the earth’s surface, down through geologic space and time to an imagined subterranean world. Narrated by Axel Lidenbrock, one of the three adventurers, it tells how he, Professor Otto Lidenbrock, and their guide, Hans Bjelke, descend the chimney of an extinct volcano near Reykjavik, Iceland, proceed to unknown regions, and then, miraculously, survive a volcanic eruption which shoots them to the surface again from the mouth of Mount Etna.

The novel begins in the spring of 1863. Otto accidentally discovers a...

(The entire section is 1,301 words.)