Literacy week, month, whatever — Book 1

I don’t follow a lot of what goes on, so when I got tagged for a Literacy Month challenge, I thought nothing of it, rolled up my make-believe sleeves, and responded to the challenge. Except, Literacy Month is November.

. . . you can’t trust anyone these days . . .

So I’m supposed to “. . . post seven books I love; one book per day, no exceptions, no reviews – just covers . . .” which I’m doing on Facebook.

But, the first three books are all in Italian. So, I figure I should expand a bit on them here, on the blog.

And, speaking of literacy, how about reading and voting on the three “C” stories recently published on this blog? You can vote for them HERE as well as find links to them so that — you know — you can read them before you vote.

Anyway, the first of the three books is one I read — as best as I can figure out from the edition I own — in the early 60s. That’s a photo of a copy I own and that edition is from 1965. The thing is, I remember (sort-of) reading about Sandokan earlier than that. For reference, in 1966 is when we came to the US.

A quick plot summary lifted from Wikipedia:

Plot introduction

Would you be the greatest pirate in the South China Sea or would you hang up your sword to be with the woman you love? Malaysia, 1849. The Tigers of Mompracem are a band of rebel pirates fighting against the colonial power of the Dutch and British empires. They are led by Sandokan, the indomitable Tiger of Malaysia, and his loyal friend Yanez De Gomera, a Portuguese wanderer and adventurer. After twelve years of spilling blood and spreading terror throughout Malaysia, Sandokan has reached the height of his power, but when the pirate learns of the extraordinary “Pearl of Labuan”, his fortunes begin to change.

So, there are a bunch of links about Sandokan (books and movies — this one with Reeves, but Kabir Bedi was the best known Sandokan in the TV Series), and what I think happened is this (notice the publication dates):

The Sandokan Series

  • The Mystery of the Black Jungle (I Misteri della Jungla Nera, 1895)
  • The Tigers of Mompracem (Le tigri di Mompracem, 1900)
  • The Pirates of Malaysia (I pirati della Malesia, 1896)
  • The Two Tigers (Le due Tigri, 1904)
  • The King of the Sea (Il re del mare, 1906)
  • Quest for a Throne (Alla conquista di un impero, 1907)
  • The Reckoning (Sandokan alla riscossa, 1907)
  • Return to Mompracem (La riconquista di Mompracem, 1908)
  • The Brahman (Il Bramino dell’Assam, 1911)
  • An Empire Crumbles (La caduta di un impero, 1911)
  • Yanez’ Revenge (La rivincita di Yanez, 1913)

(The last three tiles were published posthumously.)

I think I might have read The Pirates of Malaysia before reading The Tigers of Mompracem. I also remember reading The Two Tigers or think I do because the title is familiar.

Whatever the sequence and timing, they are the first books I remember reading (I’m told I read a lot, but these I remember).

I also remember using a hobby saw to cut scimitars from plywood and going on swashbuckling adventures in the fields and woods behind where we lived. There’s also a type of tree or shrub whose name I don’t remember but that had straight branches easily cut, sharpened, and with a type of bark that could be cut and peeled in strips so as to have ornate swords and lances (yes, as a kid, I had a knife . . . just like now).

Side Note: I should also mention Jacovitti‘s Cocco Bill (also here) and Tex Willer. I used to draw cowboy guns on plywood and then cut them out with the hobby saw. My early six-shooters were pretty flat, I tell you what. Also, so much for “American Gun Culture”; I lived in Italy at the time.

For them wanting a taste of the writing style (fun but somewhat over the top when it came to descriptions) HERE are the first four chapters of the Tigri di Mompracem. Effusive descriptions include formidable, bold, and other descriptors to build up the image of Sandokan as larger than life.

Frankly, the Italian version is better as part of the tone is lost in the translation. It could be it’s just better because it’s the original language it was written in . . . or, because I’m biased.

But, no . . . there are words and saying in both Italian and English that lose some of their power and meaning when translated from one to the other. I suppose that’s the case in any language. It’s just that the English translation can sometimes sound corny whereas it flows naturally in Italian. Maybe that’s just me.

The book was written by Emilio Salgari, and there’s some question as to the familiarity he claimed about what he wrote (I’ll write more about him in the next post, covering I Robinson Italiani).

Nevertheless, I learned about scimitars, the poisoned serpentine daggers with the twist-off handle (identified as a Kriss) which I also made from plywood, although, if you read the description, it doesn’t quite match the actual weapon. I suppose it could have been a variant as there are knives that have serpentine blades that are not tied to the actual weapon mentioned in the Wikipedia article but are still called by the name Kriss. 

It could also be the idea for a twist-off handle (leaving the poisoned blade in the victim) could have originated from their propensity to break.

I also learned the best way to defend against charging animals like rhinoceroses was to side-step them (much like a matador) and use your scimitar to cut the tendons of their rear legs as they went by. I learned a few other things that have yet to serve me well in everyday life.

By the way, some might remember that’s how Eowyn brings down the Oliphaunt in The Return of the King; she rides under it and slices the back of the beast’s knees . . . she probably also learned from Sandokan. 

Most books I read affect me one way or another, and these books certainly hit me at an age when I was hungry to (vicariously) experience more than was in my life at the time.

I’m certain they expanded my views and helped form aspects of my character. By the way, this book was written in the year 1900 and it’s enjoyed a few periods of renewed interest and new fans as recently as the 90s and the  2004.

Mostly, not here. Meaning, I don’t think Sandokan is well-known on this side of the Atlantic.

Too bad that. The books are labeled as “young adult fiction” so if you have a young adult in your orbit, maybe you should gift them the book or the entire series.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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