Alien: Space Jockey's origins in
"Swiss Family Robinson"?

leading from

a) The whale skeleton
In the "Swiss Family Robinson" novel, written by Johann David Wyss, published in 1812, the family of the story had earlier discovered a beached whale and proceeded to cut it up, and much later they return to the island. In one version of the book, we discover a scene where the skeleton of a whale is found, and because the person who discovers it doesn't realise it is a whale expecting a whale's skeleton to be like that of a fish, decides that it must be an unknown mammoth creature. In our timeline, this becomes significant when Ib Melchior attempts to turn Swiss Family Robinson into a science fiction film.

Swiss Family Robinson: chapter 26. Jack discovers a skeleton

Presently jack came back, shouting loudly, “Father! Mother! Do come and look. There’s an enormous skeleton lying here; the skeleton of some fearful great beast - a mammoth, I should think.

Why jack! returned I laughing,have you forgot our old acquaintance, the whale? What else could it be?

Oh no father, it is not the whale? This thing has not fishbones, but real, good, honest, huge beast bones. I don’t know what can have become of the whale - floated out to sea, most likely. This mammoth is ever so much bigger. Come and see!

We hurried to inspect Jack’s mammoth skeleton, which, of course proved to be neither more nor less than that of the whale. I convinced him of the fact by pointing out the marks of our feet on the ground and the broke jaws where we hack out the whale bone

Ernest put it into my head father. He said there seemed to be the skeleton of an antediluvian monster there, so I ran to look closer, and I never thought of the whale, when I saw no fishbones. I suppose Ernest was joking.

picture of the dead whale's half eaten remains

b)  Triptych of Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
In the 1844, the Japanese illustrater named Utagawa Kuniyoshi drew the "Triptych of Takiyashi the witch and the skeleton spectre" in which a princess recites a spell written on a handscroll, summoning a giant skeleton. It rears out of a black void, crashing its way through the tattered palace blinds with its bony fingers to menace Mitsukuni and his companion.  The giant skeleton here is part of the Japanese folklore about the Gashadokuro who are giant skeletons made from the bones of people who have died and this illustration goes back to a legend a thousand years old. (see: )

c) Skeletons of giants in America
For western society, stories about giants go back in history for thousands of years, such as the story of David and Goliath, Goliath being a giant who David kills with a slingshot. One could also take the idea of a skeleton of a giant with a reports of very large humanoid skeletons considered giant, being discovered in the nineteenth century back in the 19th century and begin to think about the idea of these reports were entering the collective mind to suggest that there was something real to be discovered. It was also thought that Abraham Lincoln had an interest in these giants skeleton but may have been referring to mammoth or mastodon tusks that supposedly must have been found in the burial mounds

In the newspapers  later in 1897, a 30 acre burial ground thought at the time be from the quarternary period with a hundred thousand skeletons of humans of various sizes, ranging from dwarf to giant, with their heads smashed in indicating that a battle had been fought in the grounds of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, discovered by the construction gang for the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railway was being built through that wild country,. The investigation was being led by archaeologist and geologist Professor Edwin Walters. Whatever the evidence would conclude, the stories caught the imagination at the time.

See also : Skeletons of giants in the news.

image from Chapbook for Jack the Giant Killer
(Idea for using this illustration comes from

d) At the Mountains of Madness
At the Mountains of Madness, written as a novella by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in February/March 1931 . Years later it would be serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories.  The story featured a disastrous expedition to the Antarctic continent in September 1930, and what was found there by a group of explorers led by the narrator, Dr. William Dyer of Miskatonic University. Throughout the story, Dyer details a series of previously untold events in the hope of deterring another group of explorers who wish to return to the continent.It appeared that an ancient city built by ancient extra-terrestrials known as the Elder Things was discovered, who slaughtered members of the human explorers out of curiosity but their slaves, polymorphous creatures known as Shoggoths has rebelled and slaughtered their masters.

e) Who goes there?
August 1938John W. Campbell's novel was published. The story involves group of scientific researchers in Antarctica who discover an alien spaceship buried in the ice, where it had crashed twenty million years earlier. They recover the pilot buried in the ice nearby and when it's thawed out, it comes back to life and becomes a polymorphous monster that kills and imitates its victims, in this case the inhabitants of the antarctic based. It appeared to be very much inspired by Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness but nothing was precisely said about this by the author himself.

f) The Thing From Another World 
April 1951,  The Thing from another world was released, featuring an crashed spaceship in the antarctic and the pilot's body is discovered nearby in encased in ice, and then they extract the pilot from the ice encased in ice, but soon it's thawed out and the entity is suddenly revivd, a tall humanoid alien is on the loose killing humans in the Antarctic based (the creature is played by an actor 6' 7" in height)

g) Giant robot in the story "Farewell to the master" (1940) filmed as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)
"The Day The Earth Stood Still" was released in September 18, 1951, featuring the space pilot Klaatu and his robot Gort, an eight foot tall robot who travel to Earth in a flying saucer with a message of peace. Based upon the science fiction story "Farewell to the Master"  written by Harry Bates published in the October 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction where the robot is named Gnut instead and is made from green metal.

h)  Jack Kirby's comic book story "The Great Stone Face" (1957)
Curiously Jack Kirby drew the comic book story "The Giant Stone Face" which featured the discovery if a giant stone head in central Africa, and then it's discovered that beneath the ground is the rest of the body sitting at a set of controls in a control room and the local tribe worship it as a god, but this being is actually still alive, in suspended animation with his heart beating once every thousand years.

See also Jack Kirby's comic book story "The Great Stone Face" (1957)

i) Giant from the Unknown (1958)
"Wayne Brooks accidentally reveal and prove the theory of suspended animation when he found a frozen lizard in a mountain rock which come back to live. Dr. Cleveland has a passion of writing a book about Spanish Conquistadors who came to the region. The book targets the history of a legendary giant Conquistador named Vargas whose remains the Dr.Cleveland, his daughter, Janet, and Brooks search for in an archaeological dig containing ancient armour and weapons. Later that night, a lightning strike revives the body of the 500-year-old Vargas, who stalks the three searchers and eventually kills a young woman. Sheriff Parker, the town Sheriff accuses and arrests Wayne for the murder of the young woman because a medallion from the search was found in the girl's hand. But later, it is revealed that Vargas is roaming around the forest causing another brutal death. The local town men, with the help of the three searchers and the sheriff go out to find and kill the giant, which causes more damage and deaths. Wayne finally kills the giant by causing him to fall off a bridge and into a waterfall."(

i) Giant pilot of giant spacecraft in Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman
Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, was released in May 19, 1958 a giant alien humanoid visits planet Earth in a spherical ship and exposure to the giant humanoid causes a woman to grow into a fifty foot tall giantess

j) Saucerman from  "Race To The Moon" #3
In `#3 of the comic book "Race To The Moon", published November, 1958, drawn by Jack Kirby is a story called Saucerman, in which a flying saucer crashes and they recover the giant alien Saucer Jockey's unconscious body encapsulated in a red suit.  ( see "Saucer Jockey" in The Saucer Man comic book story "Race for the Moon" #3, 1959, drawn by Jack Kirby)


k) Starshipwrecked giant in Space Family Robinson comic book #5 in 1963
However in 1963, #5 of the comic book Space Family Robinson came out which had been running since 1962.

In the story The Mist of Delusion, the Space Family Robinson are lured to a planet's surface believing its their home world because it disguises itself as the planet Earth and crash their ship on the ground.

The real landscape reveals itself when they land, and it is littered with wrecked spacecrafts, and populated by a civilisation that appear to be based on plant life.

They befriend a green giant who survived a ship crash and is fighting the inhabitants who are labeled as Troggs.

It comes to a scene where the green giant feigns injury lying on the ground to gain the attention of the  troglodytes on an alien planet while they work out how to get him to their feeding pool so that he can be absorbed, while the character Tim goes inside the Trog's cave and finds to one side a pile of assorted advanced, and ancient scientific gear that they took from wrecked ships of perhaps their previous victims, and Tim discovers an antigravity gun that enables him to defeat the Troggs.

For the complete comic book story see:

Space Family Robinson £5
Space Family Robinson £5

l) Ib Melchior's Swiss Family Robinson in Space"
Ib Melchior did a screenplay for a "Swiss Family Robinson In Space" and perhaps it be loosely inspired by the Space Family Robinson comic book series.

He developed the idea of the discovery of a humanoid skeleton in a cave filled with high technology and alien artifacts.

The writer of "Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination", claims that in the script the skeleton is said to be giant, while the story as shown in the book "Lost In Space The True Story" shows, the skeleton found lying half buried in the ground is five foot tall with spindly limbs, with a large ribcage and huge gaping eye sockets, perhaps only existing as petrified remains

It is easy to imagine from the report of the skeleton being giant that to be like a cross between Swiss Family Robinson's whale skeleton and the scenes from Space family Robinson story The Mist of Delusion along with other ideas.

Still as a five foot skeleton, it displays some aspects of giganticism although specifically saying that it must be a giant becomes.

He pitched the treatment in 1964 but the series was never made.
  1. The scene involves the family taking shelter in a valley of stone pillars demonically carved by erosion, on Titan one of the moons of Saturn. One night from their treehouse, they see a light and the boys sojourn to discover the source of light which culminates in discovery of a cave, before which lies a giant alien skeleton. The cave itself is full of alien artifacts including a technological archive, strange glass tubes which revive a fearsome creature, a vat that gives birth to a monstrosity and a machine that causes the youngest boy of the family to disappear. ( "Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination", p21)
  2. It is a skeleton! but the skeleton of a creature only to be guessed at. Humanoid, but with an enormous dome and spindly limbs; a great ribcage and huge gaping eye sockets; perhaps five feet tall, the skeleton is bleached, weathered - maybe even petrified... obviously the remains of an alien being.   (Lost in Space The True Story )
Ib Melchior

m) First men in the moon
In 1964, First Men On The Moon was released, based on the HG Wells novel.

The script was written by Nigel Kneale who has written the Quatermass And The Pit TV series.

Here human explorers travel to the moon and discover a civilisation of intelligent insects known as the Selenites.

It also features curiosities such as a giant caterpillar like creature that is soon killed, and the insectoid people picking its flesh off reduce it to a giant skeleton

First Men In The Moon (1964)
Giant caterpillar skeleton also known as a Moon Cow from First Men In The Moon (1964)
The Selenite leader from First Men In The Moon (1964)
n) Ib Melchior wrote the film script "Planet of the Vampires"
Ib Melchior wrote the film script "Planet Of The Vampires".

He includes the idea of skeletons of giants and in this case the remains of skeleton giants are discovered around a derelict spaceship.

This managed to turn up in the final film made by Mario Bava which was released in 1965
  1. Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination p212
"Planet of the Vampires" poster
p) Dan O'Bannon steals a giant skeleton
The scene in "Planet Of The Vampires" featuring the discovery of the alien giant skeletons is noted by the scriptwriter Dan O'Bannon, and he stated in an essay that he used the idea in his script for the movie Alien, featuring the remains of a giant pilot skeleton fused to it's seat in a giant derelict space craft, or perhaps he was generalising, it was partially right for him to say this and it wouldn't  matter to the general public if it wasn't the whole story.

John Landis wrote a statement in his 2011 book Monsters In Movies saying that Alien along with Planet of the Vampires was a seminal piece but he saw the similarity between Planet of the Vampires and as far as he was concerned, Dan O'Bannon and Ridley Scott had denied seeing it, although in his essay for the Alien Quadrilogy Boxed Set some years in 2003 before Landis wrote his statement, O'Bannon briefly admitted stealing the skeleton from that film.

However in the 2012 book by David Konow, Dan O'Bannon admitted that he had seen parts of Planet of the Vampires but he did not think that he saw it completely. One might ask if Dan was familiar with the other uses of giant skeletons and giant aliens in derelict ships as well that would have been well within his means to know about.
  1. Dan O'Bannon:  I stole the giant skeleton from Planet of the Vampires. (Something Perfectly Disgusting by Dan O'Bannon, Alien Quadrilogy DVD disc 2) 
  2. Dan O'Bannon: I was aware of Planet of the Vampires, I don't think I had seen it all the way through. I had seen clips from it and it struck me as evocative. It had this curious mixture that you can get in these Italian films of spectacularly good production design with an aggressively low budget mentality. (Reel Terror, p297)
  3. John Landis: Alien Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon and director Scott say they have never seen it, but it's hard to avoid the film's influence on Alien. With little budget and, literally, smoke and mirrors. Bava created a marvelous other-worldly quality to the planet's exteriors. When the astronauts explore the ruins of another ship containing the skeletal remains of its giant alien pilot. It's hard to accept Dan and Ridley's denials. Regardless, Alien and Planet of the Vampires are seminal sci-fi films. (Monsters in Movies (2011), Jon Landis)
"Planet of the Vampires"' giant skeleton

o) Lost In Space, Season 1,  Episode 4, "There Were Giants in the Earth"
The TV series "Lost In Space" that continued to develop the Swiss Family Robinson in Space story.  Episode 4, "There Were Giants in the Earth"was broadcast on October 6, 1965, the explorers encounter a giant cyclops that attacks their vehicle and then come upon a large cave complex with a temple like interior with mysterious pictures on the walls and behind that, a chamber with the dried up remains of a member of a lost civilisation which suddenly begins to collapse when they are stuck inside.

It appeared that the series borrowed heavily from Ib Melchior's "Swiss Family Robinson In Space" script without giving him credit.

q) Dead giant alien pilots in a crashed spaceship: The Trigan Empire comic book series (1965)
The Trigan Empire comic book series first published in the month when Planet of the Vampires was released, featured in its opening scenes, dead giant alien humans in a spaceship crashing to planet Earth  (See: Dead giant alien pilots in a crashed spaceship: The Trigan Empire comic book series(1965))
Opening panels from The Trigan Empire

r) Star Trek: Beyond the Farthest Star
September 1973,  the animated series episode of Star Trek was aired, featuring a transmission leading to a derelict ship left behind by an alien civilisation that was orbiting a moon. They had been invaded many millions of years earlier and had crippled their own ship to stop the alien presence on board getting across the galaxy. Perhaps element of the design of the ship's interior were inspired by the movie First Men In The Moon. Alan Dean Foster would write the novelisation released the following year. Perhaps the warning transmission given by the long dead alien crew member might have inspired elements of O'Bannon's scenario and the head of Ron Cobb's derelict ship pilot.

See: Derelict spaceship scenario from 1973 Star Trek's Beyond The Farthest Star

large screen recording of long deceased extra-terrestrial pilot with warning message

s) Bone sofa in Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The enigmatic bone sofa in the movie directed in 1974 by Tobe Hooper. One might half dream what sort of semi human creature this was supposed to be  although they represented furniture made up from human and cowbones. The film inspired Dan O'Bannon who made sure that Ridley Scott got to watch it before he got down to making Alien.

See also Evolution of the space jockey via texas Chainsaw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre's bone sofa created by art director Bob Burns

t) Jack Kirby and the comic book panel from The Eternals
In 1976, Jack Kirby, a well known comic book illustrator released a comic series called "The Eternals" that reveals in the first part of the story, a group of adventurers journey beneath the high planes of the Andes to a secret place the discovery of a giant statue of an ancient spacegod piloting a vehicle carved in stone. And around the chamber they discover other artifacts , outer space technology translated in terms of mythology., including a three passenger descent vehicle, three giant suits armed with with weapons attached by supports to a disc shaped craft. It appears Pakal Votan tomb lid as seen in Erich Von Daniken's  1968 book "Chariots of the gods" and early knowledge of Giger's painting Necronom III

(see Jack Kirby's Pakal Votan inspired space vehicle with the giant pilot statue references Giger's Necronom I & III? )

Comic book panel from The Eternals #1

u) Now read: Development of the Space Jockey


  1. Space Jockey by Moebius? Where can I find a nice big image of this?

  2. Here's the URL:

    The image on my page here should click onto the URL here but mysteriously it does not wish to do so.

    Jean-Marc Lofficier doubted that it was by Moebius, but Prevue magazine credited it to Moebius and it has Moebius drawings of the astronauts although the head is inspired by Foss' drawing. This picture comes from American Cinematographer. I've presently missplaced my Prevue magazine, it's in a folder somewhere. It was a newspaper type magazine at the time

  3. Now the picture on there is s1600 version made smaller in the page but the "href" still doesn't work

  4. You can also, I believe, see the cicular hatch entrance that Moebius designed for the derelict in there. Thanks for the image!

  5. I'll say it's circular but I don't know what it is

  6. When you add a caption to an image it won't let you click it to enlarge it etc, which is a little daft :(

  7. Yes, this has been rather traumatic but now you've told me it's about adding the captions that causes the change. That's useful to know. I've been trying to make as many of images as possible open up to a large version of the image when you click on "view image"

  8. Nice detective work! I found this while investigating the Planet of Vampires connection, a very impressive creative inspiration trail you've etched out.

    All in all though, working with the ever second-guessing Scott seems like it would be rather maddening. That said, he picked the right horse in the end, though it never occurred to me the alien Giger designed was done long before the film, and the head meant to be a kind of interconnected pipe shaft.

  9. Another thing for me to add in the road of the space jockey's development would be the skeleton turned into a parts of a chair in Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw massacre featured in the bone room

  10. Sunday 10th July 2016
    Updated "Space Jockey's origins in Swiss Family Robinson" with information about the Saucerman referred to briefly as the Saucer Jockey. Oddly it was done the same year as Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman came out and that featured a giant alien humanoid pilot who travels to earth in a giant sphere, but Kirby's giant alien pilot is encased in a space suit that might make one think of a metal giant in the manner of the robot Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still.