WARNING:This is a complete story summary intended for parents or others who wish to know the contents of Treasure Island. It will contain spoilers. To see a spoiler-free summary and other details about the book please visit the review page.
A disreputable old Sea Dog – Billy Bones, known as The Captain — arrives at a quiet inland tavern near Bristol owned by the Hawkins family. He outstays his welcome and his rough manner and fierce temper are the terror of the district but he himself keeps a fearful look out for a man with a wooden leg. He’s visited one day by the sinister Blind Pew who leaves him with the mark of the Black Spot indicating his impending execution. Soon after, The Captain dies of apoplexy and young Jim Hawkins and his mother only just manage to escape before their inn is ransacked by pirates. Among the items they retrieve from The Captain’s chest is a map which purports to show the location of the treasure ransacked over the years by the fearsome pirate Flint.
Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey, a local magistrate, are enthusastic about their chances of finding this treasure on the secret island shown on the chart. They fit out The Hispaniola in Bristol and engage Captain Smollett and a crew, including a cook with only one leg, the affable John Silver. Soon after setting sail, it becomes clear that the majority of the crew are little better than pirates, attracted by the news of treasure which the indiscreet Squire has noised about. Crouching in the apple barrel for a last apple, Jim Hawkins hears one of the few honest crewmembers being turned to mutiny and rushes to tell the Captain and the Squire.
When the ship reaches the island the crew are in a state of rebellion, barely contained by the cunning Long John Silver. Captain Smollett lets them all ashore and quietly makes preparations to defend the ship with the Squire’s men and the remaining crew. Jim slips ashore secretly and is horrified to witness Long John Silver murdering a non-mutineer. He chances upon Ben Gunn, marooned years before by Captain Flint and half-crazed. Meanwhile the Captain and his party come ashore with as many provisions as they can manage and set up camp inside a wooden fort which offers a defensive position. The mutineers, lacking the treasure map and unable to navigate the ship, camp nearby in the marshes.
There are a few exchanges with casualties on both sides. Jim slips out one night and, taking a coracle built by Ben Gunn, makes his way back to the Hispaniola moored offshore. Of the two pirates on board, one kills the other in a drunken brawl and is then shot by Jim from the rigging in self-defence. Jim sets the ship adrift and makes his way back to the island where he discovers the mutineers in possession of the fort and of the map and Captain Smollett the Squire and the others nowhere to be seen.
Silver’s hold on the remaining mutineers is growing more tenuous but with the map he leads them and Jim to the site of the treasure only to find an empty pit. They are ambushed by the Doctor, allied with Ben Gunn who had found the treasure years before and moved it all to a different location. After a race to the shore the mutineers are bested and John Silver throws in his lot with the Captain to escape from the pirates who blame him for their loss.
The few remaining mutineers are left marooned on the island and the Hispaniola returns to Bristol. Long John Silver disappears along with a cask of silver when they stop to take on provisions and a new crew and is not seen again.