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The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by…
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The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson) (original 1894; edition 1898)

by Anthony Hope

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1,470445,076 (3.77)169
Member:aluvalibri
Title:The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson)
Authors:Anthony Hope
Info:Grosset & Dunlap, New York
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:fiction, 19th century, adventure, Britain, collectible

Work details

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (1894)

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» See also 169 mentions

English (40)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
The prisoner of Zenda is a tale of intrigue and adventure set in the late nineteenth century. Rudolf of Rassendyll is a prince who is kind of like a playboy, who goes through life with no real purpose doing things that interest him. He is drawn to the kingdom of Ruriritania, a fictional land located in Europe (most likely near Germany). His cousin is about to be crowned as the king when he is taken prisoner by his brother Black Michael, who would like to be the king. Since Rudolf looks exactly like the king, they use him to stand in the king’s place as they try to rescue him from Black Michael.

This was an enjoyable piece of adventure fiction. The writing had a nice flow to it. There was a lot going on underneath the surface, which wasn’t really noticeable while I was reading it because it was easy to get caught up in the story. The character of Rudolf had a certain charm to him that made him very likeable. Although Black Michael is ostensibly the antagonist, the more intriguing antagonistic character is Rupert of Henzau, who served as a good foil to Rudolf. The story was filled with intrigue. I also enjoyed the brevity of the novel. It moved quickly and there were few wasted words. There was a lot to like about this novel and not very much as far as drawbacks except for perhaps some of the language in spots. There is action, adventure, good characters, romance, enough for any reader of fiction to like.

Carl Alves – author of Two For Eternity ( )
  Carl_Alves | Sep 27, 2014 |
This story just didn't do it for me. The supporting characters were wooden and lifeless. I just didn't care. ( )
  AliceAnna | Aug 17, 2014 |
I enjoyed this classic adventure story tremendously! The book gives a bit more background to Rudolf Rassendale and has an extended wrap up, but otherwise the Ronald Coleman movie was very true to the book, so I didn't have many surprises. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Andy Minter does an excellent job narrating this adventure classic. Unfortunately I was unable to get the voices of the movie actors out of my head (Ronald Colman, C. Aubrey Smith, etc.), which didn't always match up with Minter's narration. However, if you don't have that particular problem, then I would recommend this Librivox recording! ( )
  leslie.98 | Jul 15, 2014 |
“I wonder when in the world you’re going to do anything, Rudolf?” said my brother’s wife. “You are nine-and-twenty,” she observed, “and you’ve done nothing but–”
“Knock about? It is true. Our family doesn’t need to do things.”


The behaviour of Rudolf Rassendyll, younger brother of Robert Lord Burlesdon, appears to live up to his family motto, which is Nil quae feci (roughly translated as ‘I’ve done nothing’). But by the end of The Prisoner of Zenda Rudolf’s actions have belied that motto — at least according to this account supposedly penned by the young man himself.

Anthony Hope’s 1894 novel is based on the notion of the doppelgänger, a plot device familiar from A Tale of Two Cities and many other novels and films. The bearded Englishman, found resting in a Ruritanian forest, is observed to be a lookalike of the dissolute heir to the throne, also called Rudolf – small wonder because they share a common ancestor in the 18th-century King of Ruritania Rudolf III as well as the tell-tale shock of dark red hair. It’s been suggested that Hope was inspired by the visual similarity of royal cousins Czar Nicholas II and King George V, but whatever the truth of the matter the result is a singularly exciting tale of derring-do. Despite its slow opening, the setting up of the coincidences at the beginning is essential, and Victorian readers were as avid for royal gossip, even of the fictional kind, as their modern counterparts.

And Ruritania, where is that? To go on internal clues, it appears to share the same geographical space as Bohemia in the northwest of the modern Czech Republic but because of its nearness to Germany (the railway from Paris passes through Dresden) Rassendyll’s command of German stands him in good stead when he is called upon to stand in for the indisposed king at his coronation. Unfortunately matters are complicated by the enmity of Prince Michael, the King’s half-brother, and the chemistry between the King’s cousin Princess Flavia and Rassendyll. Ultimately the King ends up Michael’s prisoner in the castle of Zenda from which the ‘do-nothing’ Rassendyll, now the complete action hero, has to rescue him — all in secret of course to avoid destabilising the country.

Is Rassendyll an unreliable narrator? He appears to be a leader of men, the compleat ideas man, handsome enough to attract the opposite sex, rugged enough to elicit admiration among men, modest enough to admit to a few minor faults such as being tempted — is he for real? He appears to be the ideal British hero (like Haggard’s Quatermain amongst superstitious Africans) taking suavity and civilisation to some slightly benighted Middle Europeans — they’re Catholics, for heaven’s sake! And Hope the son of an Anglican vicar!

And yet there are indications that Hope has his tongue lodged in his cheek for much of the time. For example, he is aware of sexist attitudes (his sister-in-law has “a want of logic” that must have been peculiar to herself “since we are no longer allowed to lay it to the charge of her sex”) and yet he later casually includes the outrageous statement that “Women are careless, forgetful creatures” — is this Rassendyll or the author speaking? In the guise of the king Rassendyll is the ultimate in tact, able to use dissembling language when required but agonising over lying to those he holds in high regard; on the other hand he has a poor opinion of the intelligence-gathering of diplomats, whom he suggests are “somewhat expensive luxuries” — is this representative of the well-educated barrister’s beliefs? He stood as a Liberal candidate, though never elected, and it’s possible his description of this fictional despotic European country was his way of criticising right-wing attitudes in his own country. He seems aware enough of European politics to sense that social conflict was always rumbling below the surface, and may have had the Bohemian castle of Konopiště in mind for Zenda, a castle owned by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand whose assassination was to precipitate the Great War twenty years after this novel was published.

Finally, the word ‘Ruritania’ has come to indicate a small, almost ridiculous European country. Hope may have intended an etymology based on the term ‘rural’, indicating not just something to do with the countryside but also something backward and conservative. I also wondered at the hero’s family name, Rassendyll, which looks vaguely German (rassen means ‘racial’) though ‘dyll’ foxes me: I can only find the Albanian word dyll, meaning ’wax’ — something malleable, perhaps?. But, in view of his russet hair I wondered if the first element was more related to Latin russus, ‘reddish’.

But here I am getting a bit serious about something which is meant to be a bit of escapist fun — a game that I’ll leave to more serious game-players.

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-zenda ( )
  ed.pendragon | Feb 21, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (43 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Hopeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gibson, Charles DanaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaig, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minter, AndyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, S. C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watkins, TonyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilby, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'I wonder when in the world you're going to do anything, Rudolf?' said my brother's wife.
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Look where I would, I saw nothing that made life sweet to me, and I took my life in my hand and carried it carelessly as a man dangles an old glove.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is the main work for The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140621318, Paperback)

Rudolph Rassendyll's life is interrupted by his unexpected and personal involvement in the affairs of Ruritania whilst travelling through the town of Zenda. He is shortly on the way to Streslau, the capital, where he finds himself engaged in plans to rescue the imprisoned king.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:04 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Rudolph Rassendyll's life is interrupted by his unexpected and personal involvement in the affairs of Ruritania whilst travelling through the town of Zenda. He is shortly on the way to Streslau, the capital, where he finds himself engaged in plans to rescue the imprisoned king.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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