Alexandre Dumas – The Three Musketeers

With this post I reach a small milestone. It’s my 100th. Not bad for three quarters of a year. Such a special post cannot be without a fitting topic, which can only be a review. This one will be my 70th.

One of the most famous historical novels is The Three Musketeers (1844) by Alexandre Dumas with countless regular and animated adaptations. It had been a while since I had seen any of those, so I thought it safe to read the actual book, as my memory of those movies wasn’t that clear anymore. With over 700 pages The Three Musketeers is clearly not that easy to adapt. Parts have to be cut. So I was eager to find out, or rather discover, what was in the story that I didn’t know about.

A first comment I have to make is that The Three Musketeers, like many of Dumas’ novels, were originally serials. What the book actually is, is a series of connected events. Why is this important to mention, you may ask. Well, it is because each event is somewhat different in style and setup. There are comedy events, adventurous events, romantic events and suspense events, just to name a few. Those different events make it that the reader is moved in changing ways. On the one side this is positive because the reader can’t get bored by repeating elements, but on the other side the change can be a bit annoying if one has gotten into a good reading mood. I had actually both feeling. I didn’t mind the change, but not all changes were all to my liking. This was partially caused by the fact that certain events are quite extensive with little progress, while other move quickly and dash forward. Such is of course not uncommon in a story, but because they are also a (minor) change of style.

The Three Musketeers is mostly a combination of comedy and adventure with small elements of drama. There is some darkness glooming in the horizon at times, but it is usually not noticeable. It is then that the story gets the feeling of The Count Of Monte-Cristo, which I read about a year ago, which is a quite dark novel. As The Three Musketeers is more famous than that book, the latter is a more solid and whole read as a complete novel. The Three Musketeers is a fun read but contains some weak parts. Funnily enough I expect readers will have different opinions on which parts are supposedly weaker. As they are so different it is really a matter of taste.

The Three Musketeers is very much character driven. Dumas presents a score of very different characters and takes his time to present them clearly. As a number of them are based on actual historic persons he can use the existing knowledge as a frame and make them into iconic figures. The same he manages to do with his original characters. It is this that makes the book stand out. One will remember each of them vividly. People who will have read the serial would be talking about them continuously like one would do with popular TV-shows.

What somewhat surprised me is that some characters are depicted in extremer or less extremer ways than the adapted movies. From a neutral point of view the good guys are actually quite nasty compared to the bad guys, who are are acting in the right interests. That is an impressing feat by Dumas, letting the reader believe that the ones doing what is wrong to be the good guys. Of course this is not true all the way. Both sides do good and bad things, but overall the balance should be in favor of the bad guys.

The Three Musketeers is certainly a classic of literature with so many iconic characters. The story itself has stronger and weaker parts, allowing adaptations to focus on those stronger parts. This does not mean that only the strong parts are well known. Some parts require knowledge of the historic setting or are too cruel or dark to show for a big audience. In that sense one will discover many new things that you will never have seen in a movie adaptation. Dumas tells us not just a story, but also a history, while he twists the motives of the characters as the historic events remain true. That it is highly recommended is no more than normal.

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