Monthly Archives: April 2017

Horatio Hornblower, the TV Series

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Generally, when I find a film based on a book, I try to read the book as well as watch the film.  This is what I did when I learned that Howl’s Moving Castle began life as a novel; I read the book.

Sometimes I enjoy the book and film equally, while at other times I enjoy the book more than the film.  This is the case with the Hunger Games trilogy.  The cinematographers for the films did not do the books true justice on a number of levels – and there was no need to make Mockingjay into two films.  No need at all.

There are times, however, when I prefer what I see to what can be read.  In the case of the Horatio Hornblower television series, this is what happened.  Though I may someday read the books, I think that I will probably always enjoy the TV series over the novels.

I first saw the Hornblower series when it aired on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater.  I do not remember how old I was.  I know I was young enough not to understand some of what was said or implied in certain cases.  There is nothing wrong with that, of course; I enjoyed the adventure and got the gist of the important dialogue.  For a child, it is enough.

The novels starring Horatio Hornblower were written by C. S. Forester in the 1930s and possibly into perhaps the 1950s.  They star the fictional hero Horatio Hornblower, a young captain in His Majesty’s navy.  Forester eventually worked back from Hornblower’s position as captain to show how he rose through the ranks, and this is where the television series starts.

In the late 1700s, after America has won her independence from Great Britain, Horatio Hornblower becomes a midshipman aboard His Majesty’s ship, the Justinian, in order to pay a debt that his father owes.  The captain of the Justinian is a friend of Dr. Hornblower, and so he accepts Horatio as a midshipman with facility.

The day he gets aboard the Justinian is a wet, grey day.  Having never been aboard a ship before, Horatio has a little trouble holding down his dinner and throws up when he is introduced to the other midshipmen aboard the vessel.  Two of these – an older man named Clayton and a man about his own age, Midshipman Archie Kennedy (Jamie Bamber) – soon become fast friends with the seventeen year old Hornblower.

Aside from this incident, Hornblower finds the world of the navy to be pretty decent.  At least until the most senior midshipman, a bully named Jack Simpson, returns to the Justinian.  Simpson is about thirty and still a midshipman; at the time, a midshipman could start out as young as eleven.  The senior officers tutored the midshipmen in the arts of seamanship, tactics, and navigation until they could earn the rank of lieutenant.  Unfortunately, Simpson is as dumb as a stump when it comes to mathematics.  He could not navigate a bathtub, let alone the oceans.  Worse, he is a bully and a coward, and he takes out his frustration at being forever a midshipman on the other, younger midshipmen, who are all terrified of him.

All except for the new midshipman.  Hornblower is not afraid to stand up to Simpson, which is bad enough.  But when he also proves to be far and away the best at mathematics aboard the Justinian, Simpson turns up the heat on him.  Life aboard ship becomes almost intolerable, and when Simpson insults Hornblower during a card game, the young midshipman decides to try and rid both the ship and the navy of this scourge by challenging him to a duel.

His challenge shames Clayton who, knowing Hornblower will lose the match, knocks him out and takes his place.  Though he wings Simpson, Clayton himself is badly injured and dies of his wounds not long after.  The day he dies is also the day King Louis XVI is beheaded in France, leading England into war with the French Republic.

This leads Hornblower, Archie, and the other Midshipmen to be transferred to His Majesty’s ship, Indefatigable.  The Indefatigable was a real ship, commanded by the real Sir Edmund Pellew, the captain of the frigate within the film series and the books (played by Robert Lindsey to perfection in the TV series).  Pellew tells Hornblower in no uncertain terms that he does not think much of a man who lets others fight his battles for him, before ordering him to take part in no more duels while he is aboard the Indefatigable, or “the Indy,” as the crew calls her.

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In the meantime Hornblower is given command of Simpson’s division from the Justinian.  This division crew consists of Styles (Sean Gilder), a brawler who tends to leap into fights at the first opportunity; Matthews (Paul Copley), an experienced seaman and the senior member of the group; Finch, a small man who is at least as old and seasoned as Matthews, and young Oldroyd.

Hornblower finds the crew chasing down rats in the hold and betting on Styles’ ability to kill them.  Styles doesn’t do this with his hands but with his teeth; his hands are tied behind him and he has to catch and kill the rats with his mouth.

This sort of sport is not allowed aboard ship, of course, and Hornblower makes it clear that while he commands their division, Matthews, Styles, and the rest will not play these games anymore.  Not long after this the Indy captures her first French prize, but Hornblower is not above deck for the engagement because a member of his division is injured in the fight and he helps take the man down to sickbay.  He later distinguishes himself in battle, after a fashion, earning Pellew’s interest.  But Hornblower’s happiness aboard the Indy is dimmed when, coming to the rescue of a sinking British ship, he himself ends up helping a bedraggled Simpson to safety.

The episode reaches its climax in another duel between Hornblower and Simpson, which Simpson does not walk away from.  For this reason, in the U.S. the first episode of the Hornblower series is called “The Duel.”  In England it is known as “The Even Chance.”

There are eight episodes in the Hornblower series.  Starring Ioan Gruffudd as Horatio Hornblower, this was my first introduction to the actor.  Later, when he was tapped to play Mr. Fantastic in the Fantastic Four films, the first words out of my mouth on seeing him were, “That’s Hornblower!”  And so it has remained.  Whether he appears in 102 Dalmatians or the latest remake of The Jungle Book, the first words I say on seeing him are, “There’s Hornblower!”  It is lucky for me that he loves the character so much!

I enjoy the first four episodes of the Hornblower series more than the last four.  There is a joi de vive they have which the following four lack.  For this reason I prefer them to the sequels.  Still, whichever half of the set you enjoy more, you ought to try the series if you have never seen it before.  It is well worth your time and, no matter the cost, it is a great investment if you purchase it. 😉

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Star Wars Rebels Season Four Trailer – The Final Season

Here’s the final trailer for Star Wars Rebels, readers.  Season four will be the series last, and while we may yet see our heroes again in a following series, I admit that I was not expecting Rebels to end right when it seemed to be picking up steam.  But I guess that, after Thrawn’s death, there is really nothing more for Rebels to say and whatever follows will have to answer any lingering questions we still have.

When Rebels was first advertised in 2014, I was not pleased with it.  I thought it would be nothing but a sequel to The Clone Wars television series, which I had never enjoyed.  It was something of a surprise when I found I liked the show, even as others complained it did not do much in its first two seasons.  Hearing that season four was the end, I was shocked and saddened.  I hope the ending is good, that our heroes make it out. I have my fingers crossed that they will, and that we will see them in whatever series follows Rebels.  It’s a faint hope, but so was the Rebellion.  😉

Please enjoy the trailer readers.  And remember –

The Force will be with you, always.

Assorted Tunes – From Enya to Skillet

This post has an odd assortment of songs included.  Below you will find Enya songs rubbing elbows with Skillet tunes and one song by Hillary Scott.  Despite the strangeness of this collection, I hope you enjoy at least a couple of the songs.  If you do, then my work here is done.

‘Til next time!

The Mithril Guardian

The Humming by Enya

 

Echoes In Rain by Enya

 

So I Could Find My Way by Enya

 

Dark Sky Island by Enya

 

Aniron by Enya

(The theme for Aragorn and Arwen, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring.)

 

May It Be by Enya

 

Thy Will Be Done by Hillary Scott

 

Lions by Skillet

 

Stars by Skillet

Book Review: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Long, long ago, when I was just a child, one of my favorite television shows was a series called Wishbone. Wishbone was the name of a terrier owned by Joe Talbot, a youth whose father died when he was a boy. Wishbone was his loyal pet who also had a nose for classic books. Throughout the series Wishbone would picture himself in the leading role of some classic. He would be Romeo in Romeo and Juliet; he would be Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; he would be Odysseus in The Odyssey, and so on and so forth.

I loved the show, both for Wishbone’s sense of humor and the exposure I had to all these different classics. It was a good way to introduce children to classic stories, in my opinion. The series only ran for two seasons, but it made quite the impression on yours truly while it lasted – obviously.

One of the episodes I liked best was Cyranose, based on – you guessed it – Edmond Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac. The story of a musketeer with a long nose and a sharp wit caught my attention. I loved Cyrano’s ability, as demonstrated by the witty Wishbone, to lambast people with a great quip. When I got a little older and learned which book was the basis for the episode, I knew I wanted to read it someday. It was not until several years later, though, that I was to get my hands on a copy of Cyrano de Bergerac.

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Written as a play in 1898, Cyrano de Bergerac stars a French musketeer with a great big nose and a brain twice that size. The epitome of chivalry, Cyrano de Bergerac has never known the love of a woman because of his unsightly appearance. The nose is just too much for the ladies.

But Cyrano is, in fact, in love; he is in love with his cousin, Roxann, the most beautiful woman in France. At least, as far as he is concerned she is the most beautiful woman in France. Not many people are wont to disagree with him on that opinion, so it seems to be the consensus. Roxann is as beautiful as they come.

However, Roxann has never shown the slightest interest in her cousin, romantically speaking. She loves him, but only as her cousin and childhood friend. She also loves him as an intellectual equal. Roxann is one of the smartest women in France, as Cyrano is one of the smartest men.

But even the smartest of us are not always the brightest. Roxann has developed feelings for the newest member of Cyrano’s musketeer company, a man named Christian de Neuvillette. Christian has the looks Cyrano lacks but no real ability with words. Every time he tries to talk to a woman, he either says nothing great or becomes too forward.

Roxann is determined that no harm should come to him, though, and she therefore asks Cyrano to watch out for Christian. Cyrano takes up the post out of love for Roxann and finds that Christian is smitten with her, too. But he also learns the boy has no prayer of gaining her love on his own because he cannot form coherent sentences when speaking to a woman.

So Cyrano comes up with a plan. He will use his ability with words to make Roxann truly fall in love with Christian. The plan works a little too flawlessly; but Roxann is happy, and so Cyrano does not begrudge Christian his victory. The victory ends in tragedy, however, and Cyrano is left with the dilemma of letting Roxann believe a lie…or will he tell her the truth?

Fast paced and witty, Cyrano de Bergerac is actually a far more easily read story than some might suppose. Though one may have to look up some of his words in a dictionary, one does not need to parse most of the dialogue in the story into modern language, as we are forced to do today with Shakespeare. Since Rostand was closer to our own time than the Bard, this is probably the reason for the facility with which Cyrano de Bergerac may be read. If you can find the story at some point, readers, and take it up, it will give you no end of entertainment. After all, what’s in a nose? 😉

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Cold Iron by Rudyard Kipling

Cold Iron

by Rudyard Kipling

“Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —

Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”

“Good!’ said the Baron, sitting in his hall,

“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

So he made rebellion ‘gainst the King his liege,

Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.

“Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,

“But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”

Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,

When the cruel cannon-balls laid ’em all along;

He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,

And Iron — Cold Iron — was master of it all!

Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)

“What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?”

“Nay!” said the Baron, “mock not at my fall,

For Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all.”

“Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown —

Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.”

“As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,

For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

Yet his King made answer  (few such Kings there be!)

“Here is Bread and here is Wine — sit and sup with me.

Eat and drink in Mary’s Name, the whiles I do recall

How Iron — Cold Iron — can be master of men all!”

He took the Wine and blessed it.  He blessed and brake the Bread.

With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:

“See!  These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,

Show Iron — Cold Iron — to be master of men all.”

“Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.

Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.

I forgive thy treason — I redeem thy fall —

For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

“Crowns are for the valiant — scepters for the bold!

Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold!”

“Nay!” said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,

“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all!

Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!”

Sky After Rainstorm (3)

Happy Easter, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Reference(s):

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/cold_iron.html

Book Review: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

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A few years ago, I was in a very bad emotional rut. It was horrible, and not much I did lightened the mood very often. Sooner rather than later, I was in the pits again. It was not a nice time.

It was in the middle of this awful time that I read The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas. The book was uplifting for me and helped me right my attitude. I skim read the entire novel in an evening; I reread it more thoroughly several times over the following days. It was, I think, something of a lifesaver for me at the time.

The Robe takes place in Ancient Rome, during the waning days of the reign of Emperor Tiberius. Hidden away on the island of Capri, Tiberius has slowly gone insane and paranoid. This is due in no small part to his harpy of a wife, Julia, the ambitious and evil Empress. Tiberius never loved her but was forced to marry her for political reasons. His debauched state on Capri is the result.

Meanwhile, in Rome, his stepson, Gaius, is holding a party with the Tribunes. One of these Tribunes, Marcellus Lucan Gallio, ends up insulting the prince after the other passes out from too much drink. In retribution, Gaius has Marcellus sent to Minoa to take command of the Legion there, in order to punish him for the insult.

Minoa is in Palestine, and it is a mess. Marcellus soon has it all cleaned up and squared away, but not long after this, the Legion is called on to keep order during a Jewish celebration. It’s the Passover – and not just any Passover. It is the Passover where Jesus eats the Last Supper with His disciples.

Marcellus ends up not only present for the trial, but ordered to carry out the crucifixion. Because the spectacle is so unpleasant, Marcellus’ second-in-command gets him stone drunk in order to help him get through it. This is something Marcellus’ faithful Greek servant, Demetrius, is unaware of – although he knows the Tribune would never get drunk on an occasion such as this on his own.

This is bad enough, but it gets worse. That night, at the banquet thrown in the Insula by Pontius Pilate, the soldiers begin mocking the deceased Jesus. In an effort to put down the ruckus, a more sober Marcellus puts on the Robe, which he won in a dice game at the foot of the cross.

Instead of fixing the mess, the decision makes everything worse. Marcellus is left in a sick, depressed state by the act. Only Demetrius’ watchful care ensures he does not kill himself. Trying to help him, Demetrius takes him back to Rome and his family. That, however, does not help matters. No one recognizes Marcellus and he barely talks to his family. So Demetrius changes tactics and takes Marcellus to Athens, watching him carefully to make sure he does not try to drown himself or some such thing.

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All the while, Demetrius carries the Robe that Jesus wore to the cross with him, finding there is some inexplicable power in or attached to it. In order to repair the rents in the garment, he locates a Jewish tailor in Athens and keeps him in mind as he tries to cheer up Marcellus. When his efforts do not work, he resorts to bringing out the Robe.

Marcellus’ reaction to the very sight of the Robe is to threaten to sell Demetrius at the earliest opportunity. Because he is holding the Robe, Demetrius does not take offense at Marcellus’ harsh words. Whatever power clings to the Robe has a calming effect on him, which helps him to see that Marcellus does not really mean what he says. He is just so distressed and unhappy that he is lashing out at the bearer of the Robe: Demetrius. With his last attempt a failure, Demetrius puts the Robe back and goes out to find some kind of solace in the city.

Meanwhile, Marcellus decides he must end this ignominious existence. It is putting too much strain on him, his family, and poor Demetrius. He decides to commit suicide.

However, Demetrius took precautions against this idea, stealing both the daggers that Marcellus owned, the first and only items that he ever stole from his master since he was given to him. Marcellus goes to get one of the daggers out of his loyal slave’s pack – and finds the Robe set atop the bag.

Deciding he will “have it out with this Thing!”, Marcellus snatches a handful of the Robe…

And immediately, his mind is healed. He is no longer a sick, wasted, unhappy man. How it happened he cannot tell, but he somehow senses that he has been forgiven.

The Robe is a VERY good story, and I would definitely recommend it for Easter reading. It is good for the mind and the soul, as I can say from experience. The Robe helped me at a low point in my life, and for that reason I have a special respect for the book.

Here’s hoping it can do the same for you, readers, at some point. Though I hope you are not in Marcellus’ situation – or mine – I think that The Robe is one of those books you are better off having, at least as a just-in-case. And besides, it is a good story. If you cannot fill your home library with good stories, then do not bother building a home library!

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