Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain, Summary

Early Book Cover

Tom Sawyer Seeks New Adventures:

Tom Sawyer Abroad is one of Mark Twain's lesser known books about Tom and Huck. In the pursuit of new adventures to make a name for himself, Tom Sawyer gets himself, Huckleberry Finn, and Jim kidnapped by a maddened inventor determined to fly a new kind of experimental airship around the world. The Professor, as he is called, is determined to prove the value of his invention to the unbelieving world, and then sink it and all aboard into the ocean so the world can never learn its secrets.

After being kidnapped, Tom, Huck, Jim, and the mad Professor went up high enough to see that the Earth was round. It was just as the Widow Douglas had told Huck, even though he hadn't ever believed in her superstitions before, because every time he had looked, the Earth had looked flat to him. They got in an argument about whether or not they had left Illinois. Huck insisted that they couldn't have because the land was still green and not pink like the map said Indiana was. This led to talk about time zones. Jim got worried about the idea of there being different times in different places, because if it can be one day in one part of the world and a different day in another, and if it was Tuesday and the day when the dead were called back to life in America, but it wasn't Tuesday yet in England, they would miss it and wouldn't be called back to life.

The Professor kept his prisoners subdued with the threat of a pepperbox pistol. After one night of fear, little sleep, and a lot of arguing, they left the land behind and headed out over the ocean! They begged the professor to take them back, but he refused. That evening a violent storm blew up. The professor got drunk and said that they could all get off now. In his struggle to catch Tom, the professor fell over the side of the balloon and into the ocean to his death.

The three prisoners felt sorry for the professor since it wasn't his fault he was a genius, but they decided to keep going to London and then take a ship back home, just to say they had done it. They went to sleep, and when they awoke the next day they found they had drifted well off course. They now divided the day into equal portions for them to stand watch over their direction and set the balloon back toward the East.

An Unexpected Destination:

Next morning, they found themselves already over land with England nowhere in sight. There was sand everywhere, and the closer to the ground they went, the hotter it got. Tom figured out that they were in Africa, over the Great Sahara Desert. In their excitement Tom and Huck got out of the balloon to explore, but almost got themselves eaten by lions for their efforts.

Tom saw something in the desert that looked like a long black line. Huck figured it was one of the meridians of longitude on the map and that they could find out for sure where they were by landing on it and looking at its number, but the line turned out to be a caravan. They flew in close above the caravan, but scared them so much that the caravan broke up with people and camels scattering everywhere. Some of the men even began shooting at the balloon. They pulled off about a mile away and watched the caravan regroup. Next they saw it attacked by a group of bandits who killed many before giving up and running away. One of the bandits stole a child, so they used the balloon to knock him off his camel and return the child to its mother.

The next day they found the remains of a long-lost caravan where everyone was dead and mummified. They took some swords and guns which they figured the caravan had no more use for. They also took a decorative box. Later when they opened the box they found that it was filled with gems and jewels. They wondered if they should take it back to the dead people, but Tom thought about it and decided they shouldn't because the land was full of robbers who would come along and steal it, and then the sin would be on them for putting temptation in their way. But Huck wished that they had taken all that the people had so there wouldn't be any temptation left at all.

Ghosts In The Desert:

Soon they found they needed fresh water. They chased after a lake twice and found it only to be a mirage each time. Then Jim got scared and said it was a ghost. He said the lake must have died, and now its ghost was haunting the desert. Jim begged Tom not to follow the lake anymore, but when Tom spotted some birds and chased after them, he found a real lake in an oasis. Jim dropped to the floor, insisting that it was the same ghost lake and now they were going to die because they saw it three times. After convincing Jim the lake was real, they drank and swam for a while, until they were threatened by lions again. They stayed at the oasis for a few days, being careful of the lions while they swam, fished, and spent time on a little island in the middle of the lake. When they finally took off and left it behind, Huck thought it was like "saying goodbye to a friend that you a'int never going to see anymore".

After saying goodbye to this oasis, they talked about the size of the desert and what it could have been made for. Jim said that the Sahara was all the "Truck en rubbish lef' over" when the rest of the world was made. Tom disagreed and wondered why there wasn't anything left over in a big pile when all the stars were made. Jim said, what did Tom think the Milky Way was. Huck thought that was a "sockdologer" of an argument, and Tom soon gave up and changed the subject. While talking about something else, Tom got very excited, took up the field glasses, and said he had found the very treasure hill that was told about in the Arabian Nights. This impressed Huck, since it looked exactly the same as all the other hills around them. They spent some time at the hill, but after trying for a while, they had to give it up and leave since they couldn't find the way in.

New Friends And Bad Ideas:

They followed a new caravan, being careful to stay farther away so they wouldn't scare it this time. They traveled with them for a few days until they felt like they knew the people and were on a "first name basis" with them. They even got to watch a wedding and a funeral. But before long a giant sandstorm blew in. When it was over, the basket of the balloon was full of sand "up to their necks". They realized that the caravan on the ground was all buried and "smothered dead" by then. They were sad and felt sorrier for this caravan than they had for the last one because they felt as if they had "knowed" this one.

They cheered up when they came up with a plan to get rich selling the sand from the Sahara back in America. But then Tom realized that they would have to pay duties whenever they entered a country. Huck said if they had a duty to do, they might as well do it and get it over with. Tom explained that it wasn't that kind of duty, but that when you entered another country it was the duty of the government officers to bust you and make you pay as much tax as they can. He said that going through the New York customs house would be the worst one of all, and because of this he realized that they wouldn't be able to make any money off their plan. This made them so sick that they threw all of the sand overboard, but not before allowing Jim to trick himself into doing most of the work.

When they arrived in Egypt, they saw the pyramids and got excited about being in a land where so much history had occurred. A fog rose up, forcing them to creep slowly and carefully along. Jim was keeping lookout and yelled for Tom to stop and back away because one of the monsters from the Arabian Nights was coming after them. When it turned out to be the Sphinx, they put Jim out on its head with an American flag to protect him. Then they sailed around it getting different views of the scene until they were too far away to see Jim any more. When they finally took up the field glasses to see Jim, they found that he was under attack by a large group of men who were shooting at him and using ladders to try to get to him.

Early Book Cover

Final Misadventures:

They went to Cairo after saving Jim, then Tom and Huck went down and hired a tour guide. Huck forgot to bow when the Sultan went by, until a man with a stick helped him to remember. They visited a church, and Tom said it was full of Moslems. When Huck asked what a Moslem was, Tom said someone "that wasn't a Presbyterian". So Huck figured that there were lots of Moslems in Missouri and he hadn't even known it.

They traveled along until Tom was able to find the very granary that Joseph stored the grain in in the Bible. Tom also found the last remaining brick from the home of another character in the Arabian Nights. This special ability to recognize something specific when it looked like everything else around them, and to be able to identify it precisely, amazed Huck. He couldn't figure out how Tom could do these things, and he wondered if it were "knowledge or instink?" Unfortunately, right in the middle of their adventures, Tom's corncob pipe broke, and no other pipe would do but another corncob one. Tom sent Jim and the tour guide home in the balloon to get his spare while he and Huck waited in a cave they had found on Mount Sinai. When Jim and the guide returned, Jim said he had been caught by Tom's Aunt Polly who was waiting for them on the porch and wouldn't budge. At this news, they had no choice but to go home and didn't feel very happy about it either.

Discussion:

An enjoyable, little known, short book by Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer Abroad, includes some sharp political commentary over New York railroad investors as well as the New York customs house. It is filled with adventure and what I call "Huck-isms" and "Jim-flams." Huckleberry Finn's style of narrating a story is one of my favorite parts of this book and Mark Twain's other lesser known Tom Sawyer book, Tom Sawyer Detective. I talk about Tom Sawyer Detective in another hub. Although I wrote this hub as basically a strict summary of events, including the ending, I hope you will still read the book. Any Tom Sawyer book by Mark Twain, is well worth the read.

Elijah Wood as Huck Finn, Fight Scene!

What is your favorite Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn book?

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Tom Sawyer Abroad
  • Tom Sawyer Detective
See results without voting

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Comments 7 comments

nilaeslit profile image

nilaeslit 4 years ago from Philippines

I've always loved the works of Mark Twain. But "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" is the one closest to my heart since I was a child.


Eric Calderwood profile image

Eric Calderwood 4 years ago from USA Author

I agree nilaeslit, it's a wonderful book. I reread both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn often. I enjoy them just the same no matter how many times I read them.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

I never knew such a book existed - Tom Sawyer Abroad. Will read it. I enjoyed the others though


Eric Calderwood profile image

Eric Calderwood 4 years ago from USA Author

Many people are surprised to hear about Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer Detective. They are fun little books. Thanks for your comment!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

i loved to read this book, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. i loved their adventures, always on the run.

Great summary, vote up!


Eric Calderwood profile image

Eric Calderwood 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, unknown spy! It's kind of sad that kids can't have these types of adventures today. Just walking home from a friend's house can be deadly now. But at least they can enjoy great adventures by reading them.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 13 months ago from Oklahoma

Wonderful overview.

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