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5 reasons to read (and watch) Tartarin of Tarascon

Updated on December 31, 2012

Tartarin vs. Don Quixote

For the French writer Alphonse Daudet, Tarascon was only a pseudonym picked on the road between Paris and Marseille. In fact, the country of Tartarin and caps hunters is a few miles away. In the universal literature, Tarascon is the hometown of a French Don Quixote, more sedentary than the famous Spanish knight and (I must admit this) more boastful. Moreover, Tartarin is younger than Don Quixote (about three centuries), hence the difference in popularity between them (it is impossible to be more popular than Don Quixote when you are born few centuries after him).

Tarascon is famous because of Tartarin. In Tarascon Daudet saw one little baobab in a pot of roses, in Tarascon each family has its own romance, sung with enormous pride during nocturnal meetings, and from Tarascon, in a November day, Tartarin, armed to the teeth and dressed up in Turkish clothes (with a red fez with blue tassel) went to hunt lions in Algeria. In fact, off the record, because people from Tarascon don’t have a hero, they use their intelligence and inspiration to invent one, in agreement with their humour: a fearless Tartarin who killed a peaceful donkey hoping that the poor creature was a lion, who shot a blind lion (bravely), who returned back to Tarascon acclaimed by the other residents of the city and followed by his faithful camel whom he had tried in vain to escape.

Why you should meet Barbarin-Tartarin!

There are five reasons why all adults should know Tartarin. It is true, when I started yesterday to read once again this trilogy, I had not in my mind any of them. I just wanted to spend few hours in the company of a character I met in my childhood, through a wonderful illustrated book.

  1. At the very beginning, Tartarin was baptized as Barbarin, and published as such, but the failure was absolute. Subsequently, Barbarin was renamed Tartarin and this change of a single letter was miraculous in this case, the literary success was important, even in the presence of Don Quixote.
  2. Tartarin does not come alone, he is a complex character in which coexist two completely different characters, on the one hand Tartarin-Quixote and on the other hand Tartarin-Pancho. The first is brave, eager, capable of great deeds. The second is fearful, sedentary and not very fond of heroic deeds. However, they complete one another perfectly. Cervantes would be proud of such a literary tribute paid by a French colleague as Daudet. On the other hand, Tartarin is unique, very proud, childish, a great lover of adventure books. He built his own image of the Orient, he makes efforts to see this image with his own eyes, and because this does not happen he creates it tries and it eventually builds itself. Tarasconezii will still be proud of Tartarin.
  3. This trilogy is considered mainly a humorous opera and it is recommended to teenagers. However, I do not exaggerate if I say that adults should read it too, because of the dramas of life and the game of the masks so well realized by the French writer.
  4. Lion hunting is not a simple hunting, the lion is a symbol, an ideal, and Tartarin pays an important tribute to achieve it. However, the story has an happy ending, the lion fur is sent home as a proof of courage (or his ingenuity). After all, it really does not matter that the shot lion was blind and old or Tartarin had more trouble with two big persons of color than with the king of the jungle.
  5. Like other legendary heroes, Tartarin is immortal and Tarascon is an interesting realm. It worths visiting it!

Raimu, as Tartarin de Tarascon (1934)

The French novelist, playwright and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol (the first filmmaker elected to the Académie Française) was responsible for the film adaptation of Alphonse Daudet's novel Tartarin. Raimu played the main character. For the purposes of this film, Raimu adopted a Southern French dialect, which some of his fans didn’t like very much.

Another adaptation of Tartarin was remade by director Francis Blanche, in 1962.

Enjoy the novel or the films! Don't forget to tell me your impressions.

Tartarin, 1934

cartoon movie, 2011


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