There is a very good reason why Robert Louis Stevenson's books are still made into movies. Take, for example, the Disney animated hit Treasure Planet, which was based on Stevenson's Treasure Island. The book is just as rousing an adventure now as it was more than a hundred years ago, and has therefore been the subject of many movie adaptations and the inspiration for countless other children's novels since then.Although somewhat lesser known, Stevenson's Kidnapped is no less timeless. Following the death of his father, David Balfour finds that he has wealthy kinsmen in a nearby town, and that his father's wish was that he would seek them out. Upon his arrival at his uncle's house, David discovers that he is unwelcome, and slowly the truth of his identity begins to unravel.
Kidnapped is more than a story about a young man's search for his true birthright, however – Stevenson knew that more than that was needed to capture a young adult's attention for the length of an entire novel. Even as David is working out the meaning of his uncle’s odd behavior, his newfound relative is plotting against him. David suddenly finds himself kidnapped and aboard a ship destined for the American colonies, where he is to be sold into servitude, presumably at his uncle's behest.
Although it is the kidnapping that starts the novel's adventures, David spends only a short time as a captive. In fact, without Alan's friendship, the story might have been quickly resolved, with David either being delivered into slavery or escaping to starve for want of money. As it is, David ends his captivity aboard ship by stumbling into new adventures, all the while with Alan at his side: he is wanted for murder, evades soldiers and scouting parties, meets dangerous Jacobite outlaws, and eventually develops a ploy to trick his uncle into giving him his inheritance.
It is hard to believe that a novel of Kidnapped's caliber – or, indeed, any of Stevenson's adventure novels – was written primarily from Stevenson's bed. Unfortunately, Stevenson suffered from lung ailments throughout his short life. As did many who could afford to in those days, Stevenson traveled extensively, always in search of a climate that could cure his condition. Stevenson was often confined to bed on these travels, leaving him to imagine and write all of the adventures he was never himself able to experience. Some of his most well known adventures – Treasure Island, The Black Arrow,Kidnapped – were written during periods of almost constant illness.