Alexandre Dumas, Les Trois Mousquetaires (1844)

During my early teens I was no big Musketeer fan. I didn’t fantasize about D’Artagnan (the young hero) or Aramis (the supposedly cute and romantic one).

Instead, I was decidedly a Pardaillan girl. The main difference is that D’Artagnan is a lot more famous than Pardaillan, but I knew who had won me over. (It helped that there was around that time a TV series about Pardaillan on public TV on Sundays afternoons)

But really D’Artagnan and Pardaillan are like twin brothers: popular French cloak and dagger novels based more or less loosely on famous French historical events and characters; a dashing young hero fighting alone with his sword against dark forces of evil conspiring against the crown for many, many episodes. Same fantasy, same sense of rhythm, lots of irony too.

Both books were first published as series in newspapers, but Dumas published it in 1844, Michel Zévaco from 1902. The main nuance is that Pardaillan is set earlier in history, during Catholic-Protestant wars during the 1570s (a very complex period with lots of fighting and plots and kings dying in dubious circumstances), while the Musketeers start in 1625 under King Louis XIII. Up to this day I only remember the correct series of kings of France during the 16th century thanks to Zevaco, because no teacher could outdo a charming young man with a sword.

Anyway, when Danielle picked the Three Musketeers, I could not resist. Thank you Danielle, what a fun romp! At first I was a bit impressed by the number of pages, but it just flew by. I’d forgotten how fun some classics really are.

I’d had a preconception that The Musketeers were mostly about fighting and protecting the Queen against evil Cardinal Mazarin’s plots, but instead I discovered that it was very much a coming-of-age novel for a very young man who comes to Paris to make it there. At first he’s mostly a hothead who doesn’t know anyone and anything, but eventually he becomes a man – and a musqueteer, no less!

Something I didn’t expect was the tongue-in-cheek way of Dumas to speak about sex. For a 1844 novel, things are quite explicit and surprisingly un-prudish! All 3+1 musketeers have one mistress (at least) and don’t mind the Queen having an affair with a foreign prince. Dumas justifies it by the distance with his own time where bad stuff like that naturally don’t happen anymore, but you can nearly hear him laugh while writing this line!

I can honestly say that I had as much fun now with D’Artagnan as many years ago with Pardaillan. The main difference is that I did look up to Pardaillan as a grown-up, whereas now I look at young D’Artagnan with tenderness and find him a little too daredevil compared to wiser and older Athos.


5 thoughts on “Alexandre Dumas, Les Trois Mousquetaires (1844)

  1. Really, Aramis was considered the cute and romantic one? And there I was thinking that I was original for preferring him! We grew up enjoying (and playing at) both the Musketeers and Pardaillan. Boys and girls, we were at each other with our pretend swords. One question has puzzled me though: why are they called musketeers, when their weapon of choice is the sword rather than the muskets?

  2. Cute indeed, but Mr. Smithereens disagrees about the word “romantic” for Aramis (he read the sequels, apparently). Nice to discover another Pardaillan fan! As for muskets, they were supposed to use some while fighting proper wars. The sword was just for fun (forbidden fun is even better, of course!)

  3. Personally, I liked the plotting and secret-keeping. But much as I tout Dumas as one of my favorite authors, it’s been eight years since I’ve read this one… and it’s probably about time for a reread!

  4. Pingback: Kindle Shelves | Smithereens

  5. Pingback: Alexandre Dumas, Twenty Years After (1845) | Smithereens

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