I admire brains almost more than I admire any other attribute, I think that's the reason I enjoy Tasha and her blog, Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books, so much. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but I'm almost convinced that Tasha is one of the smartest bloggers I've come across. She has a way of analyzing a book/movie/artwork that never fails to impress and instill a bit of envy in me. The fact that those brains reside in someone who is so likable, is even better. So if you don't know her, or her blog, please stop on by and say hi.
|Rebecca and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert by Léon Cogniet, Metropolitan Museum of Art|
Although Walter Scott's famous historical novel Ivanhoe is titled after a noble Saxon knight and has several famous characters--including Richard the Lionhearted, Robin Hood, and Prince John--the real star of the book is the dark Templar knight, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert. Sir Brian is dark not only in his countenance, but in his heart:
They say he is valiant as the bravest of his order; but stained with their usual vices, pride, arrogance, cruelty, and voluptuousness; a hard-hearted man, who knows neither fear of earth, nor awe of heaven.
Sir Brian sets the wheel of fate turning when he decides he wants the Jewess Rebecca for himself. Conspiring with Maurice de Bracy, they decide to kidnap the Lady Rowenna and Rebecca for themselves. Not heroic behavior, admittedly. But read Bois-Guilbert's declaration to Rebecca after he's absconded with her:
These pearls are orient, but they yield in whiteness to your teeth; the diamonds are brilliant, but they cannot match your eyes; and ever since I have taken up this wild trade, I have made a vow to prefer beauty to wealth.
Sigh! So romantic! I think, too, what Sir Brian isn't saying is that he admires Rebecca's selflessness and goodness. Sir Brian doesn't believe he is a good person, but there's a part of him that wants to be, and that part is attracted to Rebecca. A flawed and tortured hero! Who can resist? Too bad that Rebecca just isn't that into him. Because she's an IDIOT.
|Ciaran Hinds as Bois-Guilbert|
Sir Brian's past is mysterious; we never know much about him before his journey to the Holy Land, where he committed many sins in the name of Christendom. Yet the real question surrounding Bois-Guilbert is what separates him from the other Templar knights. They're ALL bad guys who throw their weight around and violate the rules of their order on a regular basis, yet Sir Brian is undoubtedly better than his Templar cohorts. What makes him so special?
For one, even though he admits to violating every precept of his order, he still respects the code of chivalry. Other than the initial kidnapping, which was more de Bracy's idea than his own, he never forces Rebecca into anything. For another, he's more upfront than the other knights. His friend, Albert Malvoisin, might pretend to follow Templar orders while doing whatever he wants, but Bois-Guilbert makes no secret of the fact that he's going to do what he do, and anyone who thinks they can stop him are welcome to try. He's not a hypocrite!
Sir Brian is also egalitarian: he doesn't discriminate against Rebecca because she's a Jewess, and his own personal guard consists of warriors of many different faiths from the Holy Land.
Finally, Bois-Guilbert is willing to sacrifice everything he values--his place within the Knights Templar and his honor--to save Rebecca. Unfortunately for him, he chose to love the wrong person; Rebecca rejects his offer and he comes to an ignominious end. Still, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert remains the best and most memorable character in the large cast of Ivanhoe.