From the Wikipedia article on Great Illustrated Classics:

The Great Illustrated Classics series of books offers easy-to-read adaptations of well known classics, featuring large print and illustrations on every other page. The series is targeted at children, but the writing style is suitable for adult readers as well. Currently there are 66 titles.

Now I understand that they have to omit parts of the stories in order to fit them into this type of book. However, I don't see any reason why there would be a need to change things that are kept in the abridged versions. Yet in fact there are changes made in the abridged versions.

Here are three examples from The Count of Monte Cristo:

  1. In the regular version it was Abbé Faria who directly showed Edmond that it was Danglars, Fernand, and Villefort that had caused his imprisonment. Yet in the Great Illustrated Classics version it is described as follows:

    One day as Edmond and Faria rested from the hard work of tunneling, Edmond said, "Father, I have been thinking about my enemies. Your lessons on history have taught me how the minds of some men work in evil ways. I believe I was accused by two men — Danglars and Fernand.

    In the next paragraph we have the following:

    "Very good thinking," said Faria with a smile. "When you told me everything about yourself, I, too, suspected Danglars and Fernand. But I wanted you to puzzle it out."

    This seems to be a complete invention.

  2. In the original version the value of Spada's treasure is specified as 13 or 14 million Francs. In the Great Illustrated Classics version the value is given as 70 million Francs.

  3. In the original version the cannon signifying an escaped prisoner goes off well after Edmond boards the smugglers' boat. In the Great Illustrated Classics version, however, the cannon is shot before he even sees their boat.

Here are two examples from A Journey to the Center of the Earth:

  1. At the end of the book when they get shot out of a volcano and wonder where they are, Hans says that they are not in Iceland. In the original version, the narrator says that Hans is wrong:

    "Hans must be mistaken," I said, raising myself up.

    In the Great Illustrated Classics version it is the narrator's uncle who asserts that Hans is wrong:

    "You must be wrong," my uncle cried.

  2. The date that they leave Stromboli is off by a month. In the original version we have:

    After waiting forty-eight hours, on the 31st of August, a small craft took us to Messina, where a few days' rest completely removed the effect of our fatigues.

    In the Great Literary Classics version we have:

    And forty-eight hours later, on the 30th of September, a boat took us to the city of Messina on Sicily.

There are many more examples, but I don't think it is necessary to list them.

Is there a purpose to these changes? Do they somehow simplify the story for children? Or did the adapters just read the originals and then entirely rewrite the books as simply stories based on the original?

I am primarily interested in a general principle (or set of principles) that addresses the series as a whole. However, if the answer is that each individual change has its own reason, I am okay with that but would ideally like to see one or two example explanations of some of the individual cases (not necessarily limited to the ones I mentioned).

  • To accommodate the omissions, perhaps? How does the Abbe know this in the original, for example? Perhaps that part was omitted, and so they were forced to alter this part as well.
    – muru
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 5:26
  • @muru That's a theoretical possibility, but I don't think it works for these examples. At least for the second and third examples it was just simple facts that were changed. The first one is more sophisticated, but I still don't think it would have been that hard to write it in a way that was faithful to the original. (And thanks for the edit!)
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 5:33
  • 1
    Have you noticed such tampering in other books in the series, as indicated by the title of your question, or just in The Count of Monte Cristo?
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 8:20
  • 1
    Echoing @user14111's comment, is this question about the GLC series as a whole or about The Count of Monte Cristo specifically? Maybe you should edit the title or expand the question to make them match better. (Personally I'd suggest making it about the specific book, since there might be different reasons for the changes across different books ...)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 9:36
  • @Randal'Thor The question was intended to be about the series as a whole, as I think the phenomenon exists in other books as well. I gave examples from Monte Cristo because that’s the one I happened to have access to. I can edit the question to make it specific for simplicity’s sake. Although, what happens if I get access to the others. Should I ask 66 separate questions?
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


Adaptations by nature leave out incidents and nuance, as well as rearrange the order of events in the original. The only principle seems to be to make the adaptation as appealing to the target audience as possible, while staying as close to the spirit of the original as is compatible with that goal. This principle is not very different from what one sees when books are adapted to movies. When popular franchises such as the Harry Potter books or LOTR are cinematized, incidents are left out, reordered, and even invented. Characters may be presented differently from the way they are presented in the books. The final product is a balancing act between the original, the target audience of the new version, and the constraints of the new medium.

The three changes you note in the Great Illustrated Classics version of The Count of Monte Cristo demonstrate this.

The change with regard to how Dantès realizes what Danglars and Fernand have done is probably part of the cuts needed to keep the adaptation down to a manageable length. The Count of Monte Cristo is a very long work, over a thousand pages in the Penguin Classics edition. The Abbé's leading Dantès to this realization takes about six pages. It's practically a catechism:

"Was there someone who stood to gain if you did not marry Mercédès?"
"Yes, a young man who was in love with her."
"A Spanish name ... ?" [ellipses in original]
"He is a Catalan."
"Do you think him capable of writing the letter?"
"No! He would have put a knife in me, quite simply."

Dumas, Alexandre (Père). The Count of Monte Cristo. 1844–45. Trans. Robin Buss. London: Penguin, 1996. p. 142

This sort of interrogation is too elaborate to capture succinctly in a form suitable for an illustrated children's book. It's simpler to just have Dantès realize the villainy on his own.

Besides, the Abbé's saying in the children's version that he wanted Dantès to puzzle it out does represent what happens in the book as well. The Abbé does not present Dantès with the conclusion that Danglars and Fernand are at fault, but asks enough questions that Dantès figures it out himself. It's a good way to shorten their exchange while conveying some of its spirit.

With regard to the 70 million francs, the change might have been made simply to make the amount more impressive. It seems to be a random choice. The currency converter at Historical Statistics does not indicate that it's a straightforward conversion to the value 13 million francs would have in 2008, the year of the adaptation. 13 million francs in 1815 money would actually be worth considerably more than 70 million francs in 2008.

The choice of having the cannon go off before Dantès joins the smugglers is odd. On the one hand, it adds to the drama of his escape. On the other hand, it makes the search for Dantès and his capture more likely to occur before he can join them, and the smugglers might hesitate to take on board someone who is likely to be an escaped convict. On the gripping hand, the captain of the smugglers sees having an escapee among his men as an advantage:

     A second later, the sound of a distant explosion reached the tartan. The sailors looked up and exchanged glances.
     "What does that mean?" the master asked.
     "Some prisoner escaped last night," said Dantès, "and they are firing the warning gun."
     The master looked at the young man who, as he spoke the words, brought the flask to his lips. He drank the liquid with such calm and satisfaction that, if the master had felt the shadow of a doubt, it would immediately have been dispelled.
     "This rum is devilish strong," said Dantès, wiping the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his shirt.
     "In any case," the master thought, looking at him, "even if it is him, so much the better. I have gained a fine man."       (p. 183)

So there does not seem to be any good reason to have the cannon go off before Dantès is rescued by the smugglers.

From these three examples, it seems that decisions about these changes are made ad hoc. There's perhaps a specific reason for each change to the original; but those changes are hard to relate to any overall vision apart from the exigencies of the new medium and the desire to reach a new audience.

  • 1
    This explains the first change, but not really any of the others. (Could the 70 million francs thing be accounting for inflation? And the other three mentioned changes are so minor that I can't see how they could help to shorten the story.) This kind of shows how broad the question is, by the way ... there are so many different changes which might be for entirely different reasons.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 6:03
  • @Randal'Thor fair points. Revised.
    – verbose
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 7:32

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