Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Three Musketeers - by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers is an 1844 novel  by Alexandre Dumas.  (US Edition)  (UK Edition)  

Only today I explained to a first-grader armed with a Lego rapier, who claimed to be “Puss in Boots” (of Shrek movie fame), that there were also three soldiers with swords called “The Three Musketeers.”  I was trying to inspire group play, not recommend reading material.  He was not impressed.  You have to know your audience and I was just his substitute teacher.

For this group, I do suggest the book that I enjoyed as a child, but now want to return to as an adult. If you have not read the book, you may think d'Artagnan was one of the three Musketeers of the title.  He was not, but makes his way to Paris to join them.  (They are like the Coldstream Guards.)

It was, then, into the midst of this tumult and disorder that our young man advanced with a beating heat, ranging his long rapier up his lanky leg, and keeping one hand on the edge of his cap, with that half-smile of the embarrassed a provincial who wishes to put on a good face. When he had passed one group he began to breathe more freely; but he could not help observing that they turned round to look at him, and for the first time in his life d'Artagnan, who had till that day entertained a very good opinion of himself, felt ridiculous. 

Arrived at the staircase, it was still worse. There were four Musketeers on the bottom steps, amusing themselves with the following exercise, while ten or twelve of their comrades waited upon the landing place to take their turn in the sport.
One of them, stationed upon the top stair, naked sword in hand, prevented, or at least endeavored to prevent, the three others from ascending. These three others fenced against him with their agile swords. 

D'Artagnan at first took these weapons for foils, and believed them to be buttoned; but he soon perceived by certain scratches that every weapon was pointed and sharpened, and that at each of these scratches not only the spectators, but even the actors themselves, laughed like so many madmen.

Alas, you have to be en garde against the free version of this classic.  I am unable to download the UK version, but as you can see from this short passage from the US version – it looks to be a great tale marred by editing errors and a poor translation.

I suggest instead The Three Musketeers (Annotated) (Page & Screen) Dana Hand (Editor)  ($0.99 US Edition)  (£0.86 UK Edition) The name may be unwieldy, but an Amazon reviewer (who may not be impartial) gives it high marks for editing.

"There are too many sloppy editions of e-books on Amazon, but this is definitely the best available: everything works, the layout is clear and handsome, and the easy-to-use study-discussion guide and various extras are by Princeton profs who obviously enjoy literature and movies both, and share that enthusiasm in a non condescending way. At first I could not believe I was getting all this for 99 cents, but then noticed that sales go to benefit America's libraries and literacy programs, a huge plus to my way of thinking."

"all for one, one for all!"

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