Saturday, August 14, 2010

One of Our Favorite Heroes: Rocambole


Rocambole (rok-uhm-bohl) is introduced in the series as a highly resourceful adolescent, an orphan adopted by the wily crone, Maman Fipart. He first assists the evil Andrea de Felipone, a.k.a. Sir Williams, in his fight against Andrea's half-brother, the Comte de Kergaz. A major protagonist in the battle is a courtesan with a heart of gold and a fearless temper, Louise Charmet, a.k.a. Baccarat.

In the third novel of the series, Rocambole takes over and kills Sir Williams. But his evil schemes are again thwarted by Baccarat, and he ends up imprisoned in the hard labor camp of Toulon (the same where Jean Valjean was imprisoned in Les Misérables.)

In the fourth novel, an older and wiser Rocambole, who has been pardoned, has become a do-gooder; however, the feuilleton was not popular with the readers, and Ponson du Terrail rewrote a new version in which Rocambole escapes from Toulon, redeems himself and becomes a full-fledged hero.

The latter novels portray Rocambole as a fearless hero fighting a variety of dastardly villains such as the Thuggee, etc. He has become a veritable mastermind who has been to India and has gathered around him a coterie of equally talented assistants.

Rocambole anticipates characters such as A.J. Raffles, Arsène Lupin, Fantômas, The Saint, Doc Savage, Judex and The Shadow.

In a final chapter to the sixth volume, Ponson du Terrail revealed that Rocambole really existed and was narrating his own exploits through him, making Rocambole perhaps the first metafictional hero of his kind.

No comments: