The Wolf Leader and The Lady of Camellias by Alexandre Dumas pére/fils

Alphonse Mucha’s poster for a performance of the theatrical version, with Sarah Bernhardt (1896)

First thing first. It turns out there are two authors called Alexandre Dumas. Some of you might have known that, this was new information to me. Alexandre Dumas pére wrote The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask. He was more action/adventure oriented. Alexandre Dumas fils wrote more drama oriented and about half his body of work were plays. Knowing this you can easily identify The Wolf Leader as written by the father, and The Lady of Camellias as written by the son. The Wolf Leader being about a man selling his soul to the devil to get power, while The Lady of Camellias is about a man falling in love with a prostitute.

Yet, reading these two novellas back to back, I was surprised about how similar they where in themes. Both stories talk about the all-consuming desire for want; either for power and respect, or for love. The way desire can manifest into objectification of other people, even if it doesn’t start out like that. The only other story that really describes this feeling of obsession that I’ve read before is Moby Dick, yet I don’t want to compare them with Moby Dick either.

Illnesses like Armand’s have one fortunate thing about them: they either kill outright or are very soon overcome. A fortnight after the events which I have just related Armand was convalescent, and we had already become great friends. During the whole course of his illness I had hardly left his side. – The Lady of Camilles

I think I was mostly surprised because at first glance, these two stories shouldn’t be i_001_smlsimilar. The Wolf Leader is supernatural and gritty. The Lady of Camellias is flowery and reads like an opera. Which might explain why he later turned it into an opera, whit Verdi composing the music. One discusses how love is a very strong feeling when you are a 20-something man.  The other is about the concept of evil and the fall of man.

“I must have it, come what will,” he cried, “I must! and if there is a God who cares for the poor, I shall have satisfaction of this confounded Baron, who beat me as if I were a dog, but I am a man notwithstanding, and I am quite ready to prove the same to him.” And Thibault picked up his boar-spear and once more set off running. But it would appear that the good God whom he had just invoked, either had not heard him, or wished to drive him to extremities, for his third attempt had no greater success than the previous ones. – The Wolf Leader

Yet, there is something universal and transcendent in both stories. Maybe it’s because of the endings, which are quite similar and do shape the way you read the story immensely. Maybe the familiar bond between father and son that shines through. Maybe I’m reading too much into it… But, then again, where is the fun of a blog like this if I can’t read a bit too much.


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