Son of Porthos, and other Musketeer books in Finland

Date: Fri, 02 Jan 1998 07:19:34 +0200


About “D’artagnan the King Maker” I have no knowledge—I racked my brain trying unsuccesfully to figure out its French name from a French list of Dumas’ complete works. However, “Son of Porthos” is undoubtedly the same 300-page book which here in Finland is currently available under the title “Viimeinen muskettisoturi”, meaning ‘the last musketeer’. All of the musketeer books were reprinted recently here, and this is the last in the series.

It seems Porthos had a brief affair with a local peasant woman when he was staying at Belle Isle, and their son, named Joel, was born after his death. The book tells of Joel’s adventures when he goes searching for his kidnapped lady-love as well as for the mysterious persons called Athos and Aramis who could tell him who exactly his father was besides just ‘Porthos’. Athos is of course long dead, but Aramis is very much alive and in France. “Dieu avait repris les âmes” all right; this Aramis is the “baddie” of the book and wants to make Joel’s sweetheart the king’s next mistress—still as scheming as ever, is Aramis, but beginning to realize there isn’t really much point in it. He’s friendless and ancient by now, and a drug-abuser, and often glumly wonders what Athos, Porthos and d’Artagnan might think about him if they could see him now when he has sunk so low. “Why oh why didn’t any of them leave a son or even a daughter to this corrupt and honorless world,” he ponders. From this point on the reader is left chewing his fingernails and screaming “when are Aramis and Joel going to figure out each other’s identities??”. Of course this doesn’t happen until the very end of the book, when the two adversaries are in the middle of a sword fight. So Aramis spares Joel’s life, but dies immediately afterwards without having the time to tell Joel anything about Porthos. For the record, Aramis’ last words (as translated from old Finnish by me) are: “I was disappointed. The elixir of long life [the drug] only has short-time effects, and I have only worn out my own life. Oh, I so much wanted to live—to rule, to have the whole world subjected under one person, and that one—me—”

Otherwise, the ending of the book is the complete opposite to that of “The Man in the Iron Mask”. Joel not only lives and becomes the count of Locmaria and the governor of the province of Locmaria, but succesfully rescues and marries his girlfriend and the reader is left to believe that they lived happily ever after and had tons of kids. Again, I have no knowledge of this book’s original French name, but at least it is a canonical musketeer book by Alexandre Dumas le père.

I don’t know if you know or care, but there has, from time to time, been other additional musketeer titles by other people. Paul Féval and M. Lassez wrote eight or so novels about the adventures of d’Artagnan with the young Cyrano de Bergerac. As “The Three Musketeers” is supposed to be based on a manuscript written by Athos, so these are grounded in the notes made by Grimaud as told by Athos. However, although some familiar supporting characters are there and even Aramis makes a brief appearance, Athos and Porthos are nowhere in sight. Although this makes sense as the stories take place during the twenty-year gap between “The Three Musketeers” and “Twenty Years After” when d’Artagnan was said to have had virtually no contact with his friends, it inevitably takes away some of the charm. Also, they aren’t exactly literary masterpieces, and indeed I have currently misplaced my copies somewhere in my storeroom and am thus unable to give their original French names.

Much better is “D’Artagnan amoureux” by Roger Nimier. It, too, occurs in the twenty-year gap, but the original three musketeers pop by anyway. It has not been too long since “The Three Musketeers”, so they are still all bosom buddies and Athos still drinks. Nimier originally planned to write more musketeer novels, but unfortunately his death in 1956 prevented him. “D’Artagnan amoureux” was his last work, and a good one, if you ask me.

And then there is my personal favorite—“Le dernier amour d’Aramis, ou les vrais Mémoires du chevalier René d’Herblay, qui devint évêque de Vannes, duc d’Alameda, Grand d’Espagne, ambassadeur de Sa Majesté Très Catholique, Préposé général des Jésuites, et fut mousquetaire du Roi de France dans la compagnie de M. de Tréville sous le nom d’Aramis.” by Jean-Pierre Dufreigne. This one has even won a literary prize, le Prix Interallié 1993. As the title says, these are the memoirs of Aramis, the most reserved, complex and intriguing (IMHO) character in the series. Find out where he got his name from, how he met Athos and Porthos, what exactly was his relationship with Fouquet, what he was actually thinking during the whole thingie… A prequel and a sequel in one package. Also goes by the name “Le dernier amour d’Aramis” for short. Seek it out if you haven’t already done so.

Oh, if you’re wondering where Athos, Porthos and Aramis really got their names, there is at least one Swedish book called “De fyra musketörena” by somebody-whose-name-I-can’t-recall-just-now that tells what little there is to know about the historical persons. So you knew that d’Artagnan was real, but did you know Athos, Porthos and Aramis were also? Their names, homes and lives were somewhat different in real life, but they did exist. Interesting reading, if you can understand Swedish.

If you like Richelieu or the kings, then “Le sphinx rouge” or whatever it’s called in French, you know, the Richelieu book, “Les Grands hommes en robe de chambre” and “La Jeunesse de Louis XIV”, all by Dumas himself, are worth a peek.

And now, the unknown ‘unknown musketeer titles…’

The list of the complete works of Alexandre Dumas le père says that in 1845, the same year he did “Twenty Years After”, he also wrote a theatrical work called “Les Mousquetaires”. My guess is that this is an adaptation of the first book to the stage. The musketeer books have so often been so badly abridged and mutated by others—how the man himself did it would be fascinating to read.

In 1894, two years after “Le Vicomte de Bragelonne”, I read the title of another theatre piece: “La Jeunesse des Mousquetaires”. Now what’s this? A prequel?? Have you got any information whatsoever concerning it?

By the way, the whole three-part kaboodle “The Man in the Iron Mask” can often be found in the antiquaries under the name “Le Vicomte de Bragelonne”, also split into two, as opposed to three, parts. Sometimes the second part, thus including the third, is called “Louise de La Valliere”. Confusing? You should see the numerous Finnish names and strange, altered translations and ‘Atos ja Portos’ and 24-part editions and… Well, all in all, heartfelt thanks for a translation that is more accurate and vivid than anything that can be seen over here.

Bye now, I hope I was of any help at all.

Onnea Hast

March 7, 2003

This is Jerry again. I’ve just heard from an “Athos Johnstone” who says that Son of Porthos was not written by Dumas:

I’ve discovered a few books were written/published under the name Alexandre Dumas that were in fact written by a lady in the early 1900’s. Among these were “Son of Porthos”, “Countess of Monte Cristo”, and “Son of Monte Cristo”. I have not read “Son of Porthos” but I have read “Countess of Monte Cristo” and although the name on the book is Dumas, the writing style is completely different.

No news yet on what those references are or what the lady’s name was.

January 31, 2017

Another comment, from “Mihai”:

Indeed, “Le fils de Porthos” / “The son of Porthos” was not written by Alexandre Dumas. The author is Paul Mahalin who also had written 2 other novels continuing the Three Musketeers: “Le filleul d’Aramis” and “D’artagnan".

Mihai also sends along a web site devoted to take-offs on Alexandre Dumas.