Remember that list of classics that I am going to try and read this year (or some variation thereof anyway)? I am now reading Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers as promised. I've been looking forward to this ever since I shared a little about Dumas's life last month. As part of the challenge, Katherine at November's Autumn is giving readers a monthly prompt to get a little discussion going. This month's prompt is to write about the characters in your book. So I thought I would introduce you to the three musketeers and our young hero, D'Artagnan.
I think D'Artagnan is going to steal the show, so let's start with him. He's a headstrong young man from Gascony who is making his way to Paris to become a musketeer, one of the King's men. Wherever he goes he tends to create something of a stir. From the first he is compared with Don Quixote.
"...let us draw his portrait with a single stroke of the pen: picture to yourself Don Quixote at eighteen, Don Quixote husked, without hauberk and greaves, Don Quixote dressed in a woolen doublet whose blue color has been transformed into an elusive nuance of wine lees and celestial azure. A long, brown face; prominent cheekbones, a token of shrewdness; enormously developed jaw muscles, an infallible sign by which to recognize a Gascon, even without a beret, and our young man was wearing a beret, decorated with a sort of feather; eyes open and intelligent; nose hooked but finely drawn; too tall for an adolescent, too small for a grown man, and whom an inexperienced eye would have taken for a farmer's son on a journey, were it not for his long sword, hung from a leather baldric, which slapped against its owner's calves when he was on foot, and against the bristling hide of his mount when he was on horseback."
If he is like Don Quixote his horse is like Rosinante, a nag of more than a dozen years with a yellow coat which walks with its head lower than its knees. Almost immediately upon arrival in Paris D'Artagnan, who is quarrelsome by nature, manages to offend not one, not two, but three different musketeers. He promises to meet each man in turn to fight a duel, and thus begins his adventures.
I think you'll probably easily guess who he is going to duel? Duelling must have been a great and entertaining pastime for men, as such a small infraction as bumping into someone or a slight error in judgement is enough to demand satisfaction. And understanding the codes that guide the men, D'Artagnan is nothing but a gentleman who may argue himself into a corner but is willing to pay the price even if it may well result in his death. But as he has nothing but respect for the musketeers, and as it is his wish to be one of them, he'll do his duty.
And the musketeers? First Porthos. Tall and haughty of appearance and of a peculiarity of dress, which on this occasion is "a magnificent baldric, embroidered in gold, which glittered like the sparkles that scatter over the water in bright sunlight." And over that, because he is suffering from a head cold, a long cloak of crimson velvet. Quite fashionable it would seem. Now Aramis is a perfect contrast.
"...he was a young man of twenty-two or twenty-three at most, with a naive and sweet expression, dark and gentle eyes, and cheeks as pink and downy as an autumn peach; his thin moustache traced a perfectly straight line on his upper lip; his hands seemed to fear being lowered, lest their veins swell, and from time to time he pinched the tips of his ears to maintain their tender and transparent rosiness. By habit he spoke little and slowly, bowed frequently, laughed noiselessly, showing his teeth, which were fine and of which, like the rest of his person, seemed to take the greatest care."
That leaves Athos, who has been wounded in the shoulder, which is the cause of the first duel since in (impolite) haste to catch someone D'Artagnan bumped into him. Despite D'Artagnan's tender age, the duel will proceed, but Athos will draw with his left hand. It won't be much of a handicap, though, since Athos fights equally well with his left hand as with his right.
Well, the tables are turned when guardsmen of the Cardinal, who is the arch enemy of the King, come upon the duellers. D'Artagnan makes his choice and sides with the musketeers, and so begins his apprenticeship.
So far this has been a fun story, full of adventure, probably a bit of romance and even a little humor. It's my goal to finish it by the end of the month, all 600+ pages. It's very easy reading, though, and how can you not like a story with swordplay.