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The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by…

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

by Anthony Hope

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1,413405,318 (3.77)138
Title:The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson)
Authors:Anthony Hope
Info:Grosset & Dunlap, New York
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 19th century, adventure, Britain, collectible

Work details

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (1894)

  1. 20
    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (LKAYC)
  2. 20
    Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser (AlexBr)
    AlexBr: Harry Flashman believes Anthony Hope got the idea for 'The Prisoner of Zenda' from him.
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    Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair by David Stuart Davies (simon_carr)
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    The Mad King by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Michael.Rimmer)
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    Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: Both are stories of a young man thrown into a foreign culture and forced to survive on his wits. And the love stories both don't have the typical happy ending.
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    Westmark by Lloyd Alexander (panbiot)
    panbiot: L'argomento ha dei punti in commune. Secondo me c'è una filiazione come genere di romanzo.
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» See also 138 mentions

English (36)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
“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 |
This is a little gem of a book, full of mistaken identity, double dealing, derring do, romance and duty. A son of English family with links (on the wrong side of the blanket) to the Ruritanian royal house takes it into his head to visit the country to see the new King crowned. He meets the king and finds that they share a striking resemblance - and a name. Due to treachery by the king's half brother, the king is unable to be crowned, so Rudolf takes his place.the remainder of the book concerns the slightly hairbrained schemes that take place to extricate the rightful king and put him back on his throne. Along the way Rudolf meets the King's intended, cousin Flavia and they fall in love. It all ends as you might expect, but it is a bittersweet ending.
It was a fast paced, quite engaging read, with lots of action and intrigue and a complete set of engaging characters. ( )
  Helenliz | Jan 26, 2014 |
One of my very favorite books. ( )
  Athenable | Jan 10, 2014 |
This swashbuckling classic is still remarkably fresh and vivacious, considering it was written in 1894. It follows the adventures of a young Englishman, Rudolf Rassendyll, who has decided to indulge himself with one last jolly before he embarks on a career in the diplomatic service. He finds himself drawn to Ruritania, a small Central European kingdom ruled by a family who have a scandalous connection to Rudolf's own ancestors - a connection proven by Rudolf's own red hair and long nose. A chance meeting with Ruritania's young king, on the day before his coronation, cements the likeness: he and Rudolf could be twins. And so, when the king's wicked half-brother Michael drugs him on the eve of the coronation, Rudolf is persuaded to step into the breach - to play the role of the king to prevent Michael from seizing the vacant throne. With the king held prisoner in the notorious Castle of Zenda, and time running out, Rudolf and his friends must develop a plan to thwart Michael's plans and restore Ruritania's true monarch to his throne.

This is a deeply enjoyable matinee adventure of a novel, full of breakneck rides through woods, swooning, sword-fights and much derring-do. It does have a slightly old-fashioned feel, but this only adds to its charm and it's certainly a must-read for anyone with a fondness for Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks or the like. I loved it, and can't wait to read the sequel.

For a full review, please see my blog:
http://theidlewoman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/the-prisoner-of-zenda-anthony-hope.ht... ( )
  Leander2010 | Nov 26, 2013 |
Following a 'normal' opening chapter, featuring the hero - Rudolph - chatting with his brother and sister-in-law at their English home, the tale moves quickly from a realist setting to dangerous adventure in the fictitious country of Ruriritania.

I enjoyed this novel on the whole but at times I found it slightly irritating owing to long explanations of what the protagonists were 'going to do'. As predicted, whenever these explanations occur they seldom go ahead as planned, leading to a different outcome. This change in outcome, of course, leads to a long explanation of why things went wrong.

On the plus side, Rudolph's first person narrative is essentially upbeat. Mr Hope has created some fine characters and his plotting skills are admirable. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Nov 7, 2013 |
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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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First words
'I wonder when in the world you're going to do anything, Rudolf?' said my brother's wife.
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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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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