The story of Numbskull Tom, the treasure hunter

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Story File


Studying and reading

Main Lesson

Developing a liking for studying and learning will provide a much more interesting life full of opportunities


A pirate ship


A pirate captain and his crew

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The story of Numbskull Tom, the treasure hunter

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Cuento de piratas para animar a estudiar

You probably don’t want to know how Numbskull Tom ended up being a pirate. He hated going to school, having to study and do homework. One day, when Gluebeard, the famous pirate captain, came to town in search of young sailors who wanted to be pirates, Tom made sure he was first in line. On Gluebeard’s ship, every minute of every day was spent looking for treasure and if anyone was found reading or studying, they were locked in a room full of hungry rats.

And so Tom began his life as a treasure-hunting pirate, but it wasn’t an easy one. They had to work hard cleaning and taking care of the ship, and the maps that they found never led to big treasures. And after they had shared out the treasure, they had barely enough to buy food and clothes, so they were a lot poorer than they were rich. However, Gluebeard always cheered them up with promises of great treasures and with songs that reminded them of how there was no need to study or read on the ship.

One day, however, someone on the ship stole what little food Tom had left, and two days later he got so hungry that he went to the room full of rats to find one and eat it. No one dared to go there and Tom did so at night and secretly. But when he entered, he couldn’t find a single rat, although he did find a secret room, one that was clean, tidy, and full of... books! Suddenly he heard voices approaching and he hid away to listen...

When he left the secret room, Tom was furious. Gluebeard and his bosun were lying. They were studying and reading about amazing ancient treasures, but they went looking for them in secret and kept everything for themselves. For the crew they only left ridiculous little treasures that they themselves hid from time to time. However, this wasn’t what annoyed Tom the most. What truly made him angry was hearing Gluebeard laugh at how stupid the crew were, how easy it was to trick them, and how foolish and poor they would always be after leaving their studies behind to run off with a pirate.

Stung by his discovery, from that day onwards Tom waited every night until everyone was asleep to visit the rat-room, where he spent his time studying all sorts of books. He soon found that learning about so many things gave him better ideas, and he found ways of doing almost everything better and quicker, though he still pretended to be just another dumb sailor.

After a few years, he realised that he was capable of finding out where the treasure was hidden, even before Gluebeard, and he decided to abandon the pirate ship. Just a week later, the unthinkable happened: for the first time ever, somebody beat Gluebeard to the treasure. By the time he arrived it was all gone and in its place he found only a hollow skull with a mocking smile, perched on a large pile of books.

This soon became Numbskull Tom’s personal crest and he used the money he earned from the treasure to buy his own boat and find his own crew. Unlike Gluebeard, however, he only hired people who studied. And instead of tricking them, he encouraged them to search for treasures with him, and he shared with them what was found. With so many clever people, they found new treasures much faster. Every time the evil Gluebeard turned up, instead of a new treasure all he found were mocking skulls. Neither his catchy songs nor his wildest promises could prevent all his sailors from abandoning him to carry on their studies and seek a place as a wise pirate on Numbskull Tom’s famous ship.

Translated by Samuel Johnson, Lee Holt and James McNally, Manchester Metropolitan University

Average: 8.5 (2 votes)

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