Wow! What a book! I want to thank Shiloh for the recommendation, I really liked this book and can't wait to get it on CD so Ryan can listen to it.
We won't discuss the story itself too much since it is the classic Monomyth or "Heroic Journey". Stories such as these can be found everywhere - in popular literature, in classics, and even in scripture. (For more information on that click here) The Walking Drum follows the journey of Mathurin Kerbouchard from boyhood to manhood as he sets out to free his father from slavery and avenge the death of his mother. Louis L'Amour is an excellent scholar as he transports the reader to the dark ages. To a time when men were as rough and treacherous as the roads they traveled. However, all had different motives. Some were driven to evil by a desire for property and destruction (the Petchenegs), some by power (Andronicus), some by enmity (Mahmoud), and some were just plain mad (the traveler).
The imagery in this book is exquisite as is the detailing of true history. The attention paid to accuracy is fantastic. My only complaint with this book would be that there seem to be no ugly women in the 12th century. I felt that every female character (with the exception of Fat Claire) was a recycled description of the one previous. And for a wise man, Mathurin fell in love far too easily and quickly. I loved Mathurin's philosophical musings as well as his witty retorts. My favorite of the latter includes this exchange between Suzanne and Mathurin from page 249:
"If you come to my bed, I shall scream for help."
"Madame, if I come to your bed, I shall not need help."
There is also this gem:
"By the Gods! If it is a duel of wits you wish, you shall have it!"
"I am sorry, Bardas. I could never fight an unarmed man!" - pg. 338
Some of my favorite philosophical lines from the book include these:
"To be reckless is not to be brave, it is only to be a fool." - pg. 37
"A sword is never enough. The mind is also a weapon, but like the sword it must be honed and kept sharp." - pg. 70
"An old man's advice? Speak little, listen much." - pg. 73
"In knowledge lay not only power but freedom from fear, for generally speaking one only fears what one does not understand." - pg. 78
"...a man may be judged by who his enemies are, and their power." - pg. 83
"In impatience there is danger." - pg. 85
"...many a victory is easier won with words than a sword - and the results are better." - pg. 126 (This, to me, is Mathurin's journey to manhood. When the story begins he is already a tested seaman with the ability to defend himself with the sword. His growth comes as he becomes wiser, as he makes better decisions, as he learns when to fight with wits vs. fists. At the start of the story he threatens his enemies with violence. Toward the end, he deflects their anger with verbal barbs.)
"I have no reverence for those who accept any idea, mine included, without question." - pg. 221
"Civilization was born of curiosity, and can be kept alive in no other way." - pg. 227
"For the mind must be prepared for knowledge as one prepares a field for planting, and a discovery made too soon is no better than a discovery not made at all." - pg. 230
"Victory is not won in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later win a little more." - pg. 236
"Women are neither weaklings nor fools, and they, too, must plan for what is to come." - pg. 290
"Many things are not done simply because they are not attempted." - pg. 329
"Go prepared to die; if so, you may live." - pg. 377 (I think, in part, some of Mathurin's success can be attributed to his reconciliation with death. He is prepared to die and is not afraid of death. Yes, he has his quest to free his father, but he also has the knowledge that his mother is on the other side, he has no land, no occupation, no family to speak of, and so death does not intimidate him. Unlike some of his opponents who are described as being very fearful of death, which could be why they are so easily defeated.)
These are my thoughts, observations, and musings. Please share yours with me.