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53 votes
Accepted

Why did Alexandre Dumas use Greek names for the three musketeers?

Dumas based The Three Musketeers very loosely on the fictionalized memoirs of Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan (1611–1673), in which: Celui que j’accostai s’appelloit Portos, & étoit ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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43 votes
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Could you actually go around the world in 80 days?

Circumnavigation was nothing new. Speedy circumnavigation was new, but not unheard of, and Around the World wasn't positing anything outlandish or even vaguely sci-fi. It's a story celebrating what ...
BESW's user avatar
  • 5,012
42 votes
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Was there a reason Victor Hugo chose 24601 as the number for Jean Valjean?

Yes: it corresponds to the date of Hugo's conception. This is part of a pattern of similarities between the character of Jean Valjean and the author himself: both are of similar age, have similar ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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35 votes
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Can the Count of Monte Cristo's calculation of poison dosage be explained?

It's a mistranslation. I checked the original French text (emphasis mine): —Eh bien, reprit Monte-Cristo, supposez que ce poison soit de la brucine, par exemple, et que vous en preniez un ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
33 votes

Could you actually go around the world in 80 days?

It was possible, but not easy. The difficulty of the task accounts for the substantial amount of the bet: £20,000 in 1873 is worth about £2,000,000 or more than US $2.5 million today. William ...
verbose's user avatar
  • 28.6k
32 votes

Is Babar an African or Asian elephant?

In the original story L'histoire de Babar: le petit éléphant (translated and published as The Story of Babar), his companion's absence is communicated by a 'vieux marabout' (an old marabous [bird]). ...
Valorum's user avatar
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30 votes
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Is Babar an African or Asian elephant?

Inasmuch as Babar is from a specific continent, he's either from Europe or from Africa-as-perceived-by-Europeans-in-the-1920s. Which is not exactly Africa, but definitely not Asia. Babar's adventures ...
Gilles 'SO- stop being evil''s user avatar
30 votes
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Contrasting depictions of Asians in Tintin

Hergé apparently met an art student called Chang Chong-Chen, the same name he gives to the man who saved Tintin in Blue Lotus. Mark Tweedale at Multiversitycomics.com writes: Why the change? Well, ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
29 votes

If Phileas Fogg had a clock that showed the exact date and time, why didn't he realize that he had arrived a day early?

This is a well-known plot hole. See Wikipedia's article on the book. However, Fogg's mistake would not have been likely to occur in the real world because a de facto date line did exist. The UK, ...
Allure's user avatar
  • 555
26 votes
Accepted

Censorship of African-American characters in "Tintin in America"

The first efforts to market Tintin to an American readership happened in the early 1960s, in the ill-fated "Golden Press debacle", when, among other things, the American publisher Golden ...
Clara Diaz Sanchez's user avatar
23 votes

Why does Valentine refer to her father's second wife as her "mother-in-law"?

This is a translation error! The original French is as follows: — Oh! monsieur, dit-elle, pourquoi donc êtes vous venu si tard aujourd’hui? Savez-vous que l’on va dîner bientôt, et qu’il m’a fallu ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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21 votes
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Why all those tangents in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables?

Norman Denny has this to say in the introduction to his translation of Les Misérables: Hugo [...] had little or no regard for the discipline of novel-writing. He was wholly unrestrained and ...
muru's user avatar
  • 6,979
21 votes

Why did the alexandrine become the "natural" metre for French verse drama, whereas English renaissance drama adopted the iambic pentameter?

There are two parts to this question: why does English use iambic meter while French doesn't, and why does English have 10 syllables in each line of iambic pentameter, while French has 12 syllables ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
  • 12.7k
18 votes

Is this a typo in my copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

Yes, it is an obvious typo, be for he. The original has: Cependant, tandis qu’il haranguait, la satisfaction, l’admiration unanimement excitées par son costume, se dissipaient à ses paroles; il ...
verbose's user avatar
  • 28.6k
17 votes
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Why don't these lines rhyme in Les Miserables?

That wouldn't follow the rhyme scheme of the other verses, which follow the scheme ABCC. The next verse is: There is a lady all in white, Holds me and sings a lullaby, She's nice to see and she'...
Joshua Engel's user avatar
  • 5,108
17 votes
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How long was the Little Prince on Earth?

One Year. Near the end, the Little Prince journeys to the wall and has an encounter with a snake - the same snake, I believe, that he met when he first arrived on Earth. He wants to meet death by its ...
HDE 226868's user avatar
  • 5,972
17 votes

What does 'levee' mean in the Three Musketeers?

The definition (from the OED) is: A reception of visitors on rising from bed; a morning assembly held by a prince or person of distinction. The French is: Outre le lever du roi et celui du cardinal,...
Peter Shor's user avatar
  • 12.7k
17 votes
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Why did Dantès have to be imprisoned?

Because the letter Dantès carried from Napoleon was addressed to Villefort's father, Noirtier. Villefort can use the information in the letter to advance his own career, but only if nobody knows to ...
verbose's user avatar
  • 28.6k
16 votes
Accepted

What does Victor Hugo mean by "the red ant heaps of Toulon"?

By “the red ant heaps of Toulon”, Hugo means the Bagne de Toulon, a notorious prison where the convicts wore red jackets and red caps. This is the prison where Jean Valjean serves nineteen years for ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 57.8k
16 votes

Is Jules Verne making fun of the English in Around the World?

The interaction between Fogg and Passepartout is based on their contrasting personalities: one is rigid, the other carefree and careless. This contrasts exists regardless of any national stereotype. ...
Gilles 'SO- stop being evil''s user avatar
15 votes
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Identification of a short story about a short irrefutable self-evident proof that God exists that is kept secret

This would seem to fit the bill: A Corner of the Veil by Laurence Cossé Paris. May 24 1999, 8.32pm: Father Bertrand Beaulieu of the venerable Society of Casuists, holds in his trembling hands six ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
15 votes

Is Babar an African or Asian elephant?

I submit that Babar is an Asian elephant on the basis of the artwork. Asian elephants differ from African elephants in a few ways, most prominently in the sizes of their ears: Asian elephants have ...
Namaskaram's user avatar
15 votes

What does "men of straw" refer to in this passage from an Arsène Lupin story?

Googling, it looked to me like the current usage in French of homme de paille is essentially the same as the English straw men. So I used Google books to search for 19th century uses. It turns out ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
  • 12.7k
15 votes
Accepted

If Phileas Fogg had a clock that showed the exact date and time, why didn't he realize that he had arrived a day early?

I have come to the conclusion that this is a blatant case of the so-called "Plot Hole" trope, to which not even Jules Verne was immune. On the page devoted to "Around the World" on ...
Laura's user avatar
  • 431
14 votes

Why the smiling devils in Hergé's 'The Broken Ear'?

The last we saw of Ramón and Alonso is that they drowned each other under the mistaken belief that they were still fighting Tintin. So the panel with the devils should be understood as symbolic or ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 57.8k
14 votes
Accepted

Why the smiling devils in Hergé's 'The Broken Ear'?

I am not aware that Hergé commented on this scene specifically, but its incongruity has been widely noted. In Tintin: The Complete Companion, Michael Farr notes that: as The Broken Ear nears its ...
Clara Diaz Sanchez's user avatar
13 votes
Accepted

"The Dearest Charms in France" - French story about soldiers, a lottery, and a famous prostitute

This is "Entrance Fee" by Alexander Woollcott. That was how the Cosette Sweepstakes were started. There followed then all the anxious distraction of ways and means, with such Spartan ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
  • 2,611
13 votes
Accepted

Why is the tense wrong in the beginning of The Stranger?

I'm not sure if whole books have been written on the topic, but at least whole book chapters have been. I haven't read this book, but I'll share my first impression. One thing to note is that the ...
Gilles 'SO- stop being evil''s user avatar
13 votes
Accepted

When or where did Gustave Flaubert say that Alexander Pushkin's work was "dull"?

Thanks to CDR's answer I was able to find the original source. It is the article Воспоминанія объ И. С. Тургеневѣ (Recollections of I.S. Turgenev) by Nikolaj Vasil'evič Berg, in issue 14 of the ...
David's user avatar
  • 146

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