Posts Tagged ‘Warrior Spirit’

The prototype action-adventure story

June 22, 2018

THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas (1844) is probably the first modern action-adventure story and the prototype of action-adventure novels and movies to come.

I’ve seen at least three movies versions during my life and I dimly remember reading the original a number of years ago.  I recently finished re-reading it, with great pleasure, as part of a reading group hosted by my friend Linda White.

What sets The Three Musketeers apart from earlier stories of heroes and derring-do is its wit, its good humor and its quirky and amusing characters.

They aren’t solemn and serious, like, say, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.  They’re having a good time.  I enjoy their repartee and byplay as much as their adventures, which they seem to be enjoying as much as the reader.

There really was a KIng’s Musketeer corps, personal troops of King Louis XIII, who spent a lot of time loafing around Paris, drinking, gambling, womanizing and getting into fights with members of Cardinal Richelieu’s rival corps of musketeers.

This is an ideal life for a certain type of young man, and D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis are all young.  D’Artagnan is 20 years old when the novel begins, and Athos, who is old enough to have a tragic and secret past, is only 25.

They are classic examples of the aristocratic warrior ethic.  They are fearless.  They are unconditionally loyal to their king, their patron and each other.  And they never back away from any challenge, danger or fight.  They remind me of the pilots described by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff.

On the other hand, they are not much for sobriety, self-restraint, deferred gratification, long-range planning, big-picture thinking or respect for the sanctity of private property or the virtue of women.

Each of them has a lackey, a totally loyal personal servant who attends to their every need, which also makes their lives more pleasant.

As the novel develops, it seems that the ruthless and devious Cardinal Richelieu and his evil secret agent, Milady de Winter, are acting more in the interest of France than the shallow and self-indulgent King Louis III and the faithless Queen Anne.  No matter!  Our heroes have chosen their side as, as men of honor, they stick to it, no matter what.

We had three men and four women in our reading group.  I would have thought that some of the women would have been bothered by the musketeers’ cavalier attitude toward women.  Cavalier!  There’s an interesting adjective.  It is probably based on the behavior of the actual Cavaliers, who is real life were warrior aristocrats with more of a sense of honor than a sense of virtue.

One thing that bothered me about the musketeers’ story is that they didn’t spend any time drilling with muskets.  A musket is a complicated weapon to load and fire, especially under battlefield conditions, and that is why troops were given musket drills so that behavior become automatic.

But not Athos, Porthos and Aramis.  They spent all their time in swordplay.  The same is true of D’Artagnan, who is only a would-be musketeer until the end of the novel.

The time comes when they are called upon to fight with muskets, and they do so, expertly.  Their lackeys load muskets for them, and they are all deadly marksmen, even though they have not spent any time practicing and the musket is not a particularly accurate weapon.

When I read the novel, I was swept along by the action and didn’t stop to think about such things until after I put it down.  I enjoyed it.  If you like swashbuckling adventure stories, you might enjoy it, too.

Michael Meade and the warrior spirit

November 12, 2012

Michael Meade is a scholar and storyteller who was active in the men’s movement of the 1980s and 1990s, which used ancient myths and stories to illuminate the needs and struggles of men today.  He did this in his 1993 book, Men and the Water of Life, while telling his own story.  He grew up in a tough Irish neighborhood in New York City and was a member of a street gang.

He opposed the Vietnam War, but did not claim conscientious objector status because he wasn’t a pacifist.  He was inducted into the Army and, in basic training, decided he would not obey orders that didn’t make sense to him.   He was put in solitary confinement in a brig in Panama City, where he went on a hunger strike.  His weight fell from 150 to 87 pounds.  At this point he was flown back to the United States.

I found the next part very interesting.

Everyone on the plane was military, some on leave from duty in Panama, most returning from Vietnam.  I was handcuffed between two armed guards.  They were Green Beret sergeants returning from their second tour of duty in Vietnam.  Their job was to escort me back to the States and turn me over to authorities there.  They were curious about my emaciated condition, so I told them them some of my story. interpretation surprised me.  They both felt that I was fighting my war while they were fighting theirs.  They were the only people I had spoken to in almost a year who understood my position.

Theirs was a minority opinion.  Many of those on the plane knew who I was and the nature of my protest.  A sergeant from my company announced to the entire plane that I was a traitor escaping from real punishment.  Many of those on board took turns coming over and cursing me.

But the two who were guarding me announced that anyone who had anything to say to me would have to deal with them first.  If anybody wanted to fight, they were ready.  The plane quieted down.

Then my guards told me about their experiences in battle, about firefights and the danger of being blown out like a flame.  I told them of my feeling that I had been standing in a fire.

We talked in images of fire most of the way back to the United States.  They helped me to see that from their point of view there was very little difference between their fire and mine. This helped to contain my fire, it protected me like a salve.  From these two men I learned something about the role of “older brothers” in initiations by fire.

Meade was eventually discharged.   There are different ways to be a warrior.  Friedrich Nietzsche served in the Franco-Prussian War as a medic.  He spent three days and nights in a boxcar, without relief, ministering to six severely wounded Prussian soldiers who suffered from dysentary and diptheria.  He caught both diseases himself, and had to be hospitalized.  His health was bad for the rest of his life.

Michael Meade is still around.  Click on Michael Meade D.H.L. for some of his current writings.  Click on Mosaic Voices Cultural Foundation for his publisher.