My first introduction to The Three Musketeers was the 1993 Disney film version, which I would watch over and over, rewinding the fencing scenes to watch them again. (There's something so irresistibly romantic about sword fights.) I've always wanted to read the Dumas original, but thinking that I basically already knew the plot line, I never picked it up. Of course, that's the sort of clever-but-not-clever-enough thinking that gets kids in trouble on book reports and literature exams!
The movie and the novel might as well have been two different stories that happen to share a setting and several character names. Oh, and an amusing, ridiculous rivalry between the Cardinal's guards and the King's Musketeers.
Set in 17th century France, The Three Musketeers follows the adventures of D'Artagnan, a young Gascon who dreams of joining the King's Musketeers, and his three friends, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
I expected sword fights, romance, intrigue and adventure, but was pleasantly surprised to find a large helping of humor as well:
“This is the gentleman I am going to fight with,” said Athos, pointing to D’Artagnan with his hand and saluting him with the same gesture.I actually listened to most of this story in the car. The entire book is on Librivox, and the fact that the story was read by amateur voice talent only increased the humor quotient (some of the readers were very good, others less so).
“Why, it is with him I am also going to fight,” said Porthos.
“But not before one o’clock,” replied D’Artagnan.
“And I also am to fight with this gentleman,” said Aramis, coming in his turn onto the place.
“But not until two o’clock,” said D’Artagnan, with the same calmness.
“But what are you going to fight about, Athos?” asked Aramis.
“Faith! I don’t very well know. He hurt my shoulder. And you, Porthos?”
“Faith! I am going to fight--because I am going to fight,” answered Porthos, reddening.
Athos, whose keen eye lost nothing, perceived a faintly sly smile pass over the lips of the young Gascon as he replied, “We had a short discussion upon dress.”
What makes this book a classic in my mind, however, are the dark moments. D'Artagnan is the main character, but in reality one of the least interesting. The real poignancy in the book comes from the portrayal of wise, yet haunted, Athos and the ruthlessly ambitious Milady. Whispered at in the movie but fleshed out in the book, these beautiful characters will stay with you long after you finish reading the final page.
Buy The Three Musketeers at amazon.com