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M is for Musketeer.

My memories of The Three Musketeers go so far back that I’m not even sure when I first encountered them. Their stories are an integral part of me.

“D’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis and Porthos” Image by Maurice Leloir, 1894

The version I always think about when I reminisce about childhood television is an animated version of D’Artagnan married to the love of his life and having two children. All the characters are dogs. Except, of course, Milady de Winter. She’s a cat. And for the sake of simplicity she was just called Milady. D’Artagnan was Brakanjan (it was an Afrikaans story) and it also happened to be the name of the show. Brakanjan always wore red and when he got really angry, his nose will start glowing red almost like a flashing light.

Found this cute pic of the musketeers in Brakanjan on Google images.

In this version, D’Artagnan is the short-tempered leader, Aramis is charming, Porthos is big and strong, and Athos is not that memorable.

 

Of course, the film with Chris O’Donnel as D’Artagnan was terrific. And I won’t change my mind – it’s an opinion I formed in my tweens and I’m not likely to think differently just because I’m (supposedly) all grown up now. My favourite scene is where the Cardinal (played by Tim Curry) threatens Milady with imprisonment. She retaliates by saying: “And with a flick of my wrist, I can change your religion.” (She had a knife aimed at his groin.)

In this version, D’Artagnan is an incorrigible young man who wants to join the Musketeers, Aramis is a former student of the Cardinal and charming all the women of Paris, Porthos is known as “Porthos the Pirate” (which really drives fear into the hearts of his enemies) and he really loves his job, and Athos takes drinking and life very seriously – of course, that is all Milady’s fault. (FYI in most versions she used to be his wife and he used to be an aristocrat and somewhere along the line he figures out that she’s a murderess and all goes to hell.)

The Three Musketeers is a 1993 film version of the classic story from Walt Disney Pictures and Caravan Pictures, directed by Stephen Herek from a screenplay by David Loughery.

The film is based on the novel The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires) by Alexandre Dumas.

http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/The_Three_Musketeers ]

 

A recent favourite of mine is The Musketeers TV series by BBC. Somehow Aramis is my favourite this time around. (It may have something to do with the fact that the actor also played Lancelot in BBC’s Merlin…) Again we start with D’Artagnan not yet a Musketeer, but the story quickly progresses and we always have our favourite Musketeers around. I think what I like most about the series is that it reminds me of Brakanjan. It has all the intrigue, all the rivalry with the Red Guard, and the deep friendship that binds the four Musketeers and their Captain Tréville together. It’s what I remember most about them.

In this version, D’Aragnan is a hothead who’s great with a sword, Aramis is charming – especially to their queen, Porthos is big, strong and fearless, and Athos is the serious leader who somehow make them work as a team.

http://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/01/james-delingpole-has-his-sunday-night-viewing-sorted/

 

Many versions of the Alexandre Dumas characters abound. Some of them better than others. (And yes, it’s originally a book.)

So why are these characters so memorable? Why do they haunt us so?

I may not be the most unbiased person to answer this – as I stated at the start of this post, I grew up with them like they’re my best friends. (Yes, writers are allowed to have imaginary friends. That’s why we write – it’s the only way we can talk to them without someone deciding we need a psych-evaluation.)

I believe it’s the friendship, chivalry and loyalty of the Musketeers that make us root for them. (Being awesome with a sword doesn’t hurt.) It can even be the despicable foes they have – Cardinal Richelieu, Rochefort – who’s usually Captain of the Red Guard, and anyone else who threaten their lives or the lives of those they have to guard. And each of the Musketeers have their own personality. Each one of them has a full backstory that shapes them in ways that cannot always be predicted.

For example: what happened to the D’Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask to make him fall in love with the queen? As far as we know, his backstory up to that point had been the same as in every other version. So what changed? We aren’t told – we start the story where King Louis (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is starving the people of France for some silly war or another. We only see D’Artagnan’s great sorrow (of course, he knew already that the boy-king was his son…)

I think we can use this in our own writing. If we have proper backstories for each of our characters – no matter how minor we find them – they will be more believable and can endure the test of time. Just ask Milady: though cast as a villain, without her, Athos would not be who he is and the Musketeers just wouldn’t be the same. And Milady has a conscience; most of the time the Musketeers would fail if she hadn’t decided to help them to overcome whatever Machiavellian plot the Cardinal had come up with to take over France. She’s a strong female character with quite a few admirable qualities (especially in light of the period she lives in).

Yes – I wrote “lives in”. These characters are alive. And they’ll stay alive as long as at least one person remembers them. So they’ll likely outlive us all.

Writing characters like that… Wow – now that is something to aspire to.

 

“All for one. And one for all.” – Musketeer motto.

 

Any fond memories of the Musketeers you’d like to share? I think they’ve found their way into my Camp NaNoWriMo project… And maybe I used Milady for my username on social media? Oh, boy.

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