[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/The-Scarlet-Pimpernel_8669.jpg]]

-->''We seek him here, we seek him there,\\
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.\\
Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?\\
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.''

''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' is a classic action-adventure story written by Baroness Emmuska Orczy and turned into a play in 1903-05. This wildly popular tale is set during TheFrenchRevolution, an era when [[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation screaming, toothless peasant mobs rose up against the poor sympathetic aristocracy and began slaughtering them wholesale]]. (Madame la Guillotine was a very busy woman at this time.) It seemed there would be no hope for the French Nobs, until a dashing hero arrived on the scene to snatch those destined for death from the hands of the bloodthirsty and fanatical Revolutionary government. This hero was a mysterious masked figure known only as ''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' (note: a ''pimpernel'' is a small flower with five petals), and together with his small band of followers, he managed to spirit many a doomed aristocrat safely to England.

But who ''is'' this "Scarlet Pimpernel"?

The beautiful expatriate French actress, Marguerite Blakeney, doesn't know, but she's recently discovered that her brother, Armand, is one of his band of followers. Unfortunately, Armand's been revealed to the Revolutionaries, and if Marguerite doesn't help Citizen Chauvelin, the slimy agent of the French Republic, discover the Pimpernel's true identity, Armand will be executed.

To whom can Marguerite turn for help? Certainly not her [[RichIdiotWithNoDayjob foppish, empty-headed dandy of a husband, Percy. He barely has the brain cells to choose what outrageous outfit he'll wear to their next social function.]] He surely couldn't be of any use in finding out who the Pimpernel really is.

Then one day Sir Percy leaves for France, and Marguerite makes a discovery that will turn her world upside down...

''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' is a notable work of Western literature, which would go on to influence popular culture throughout the generations. It's an early precursor to the SpyDrama genre of fiction, and the Pimpernel himself can be counted as a ProtoSuperhero. It arguably created the modern concept of the SecretIdentity. Like Franchise/{{Batman}} (or that other early "superhero", Franchise/{{Zorro}}), he's a [[RichIdiotWithNoDayJob wealthy personage who hides behind a foppish face by day]] and performs dashing and heroic deeds under the cover of darkness. Like Comicbook/{{Superman}}, he hides his intellect and intentions behind a mask of clueless ignorance. He also uses an iconic symbol (the Pimpernel flower) to denote his identity. Truly, modern-day movies and comic books owe a lot to this character. Even {{Anime}} seems to have been influenced a bit by him, judging by the number of series (like ''Manga/{{Trigun}}'' and ''LightNovel/TrinityBlood'') which feature seemingly dorky -- yet secretly competent -- heroes... who often wear red.

''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' would go on to spawn a series of sequel books, operettas, musicals, movies and TV adaptations. The ''PinkCarnation'' book series by Lauren Willig features characters who took up where Sir Percy left off (''i.e.'' the Carnation, and prior to that, the Purple Gentian). In 1941 it was even updated and remade as ''PimpernelSmith'' to be about rescuing Jews from [[ThoseWackyNazis Nazi Germany]].

[[folder:Novels and collections by Baroness Emuska Orczy]]
Listed by publication order. The chronological order of the series is a bit more complex.
* ''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' (1905)
* ''I Will Repay'' (1906)
* ''The Elusive Pimpernel '' (1908)
* ''Eldorado '' (1913)
* ''The Laughing Cavalier '' (1913). Set in the 17th century, it covers the adventures of Percy Blake, the Laughing Cavalier. He is an ancestor to the Pimpernel.
* ''Lord Tony's Wife '' (1917)
* ''The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel '' (1919)
* ''The First Sir Percy '' (1920). A direct sequel to the Laughing Cavalier.
* ''The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel '' (1922).
* ''Pimpernel and Rosemary '' (1924). Set in the 1920s, it follows the adventures of Peter Blakeney, a descendant of the Pimpernel.
* ''Sir Percy Hits Back'' (1927)
* ''Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel'' (1929)
* ''A Child of the Revolution'' (1932)
* ''The Scarlet Pimpernel Looks at the World'' (1933). The Pimpernel offers his views on the world of the [[TheThirties 1930s]].
* ''The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel'' (1933)
* ''Sir Percy Leads the Band'' (1936)
* ''Mam'zelle Guillotine'' (1940)
[[/folder]]


!!This story has also been the subject of many a parody:
* The Daffy Duck cartoon ''[[WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes The Scarlet Pumpernickel]]''
* A memorably funny episode of ''{{Blackadder}} the Third'' in which [[IAmSpartacus no less than ''three'' people claim]] to be the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Blackadder and Baldrick kill two of them. The third was Blackadder (though just to receive a large amount of money). (Technically, he ''[[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial denies]]'' he's the Scarlet Pimpernel, but just to [[SarcasticConfession convince George he is]].)
* ''Film/DontLoseYourHead'' had the "Black Fingernail", played by Sid James, with Kenneth Williams playing Chauvelin's {{Expy}}, Citizen Camembert.
* ''Series/WayneAndShuster'': "Close Encounters of the Brown Pumpernickel Kind"
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!!The original novel provides examples of:

* AgentPeacock: Sir Percy, in this and just about every adaptation ever made except [[Series/TheScarletPimpernel the A&E miniseries]]. Special note is taken of his hands, which are lily white and slender enough to pass as a woman's hands (on multiple occasions), and which the ladies at court fawn over.
* AlmostKiss: Sir Percy desperately wants to kiss Marguerite after she asks him to save her brother, but [[DatingCatwoman he doesn't trust her]], so he stops himself.
* ArchEnemy: Chauvelin
* AscendedFangirl: Marguerite is in love with the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel and bored with life in England. BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor...
* TheAtoner: Marguerite
* AtTheOperaTonight: Chapter 10
* AuthorCatchphrase: Read the unabridged version and count how many times Chauvelin's "fox-like face" is mentioned. Or Marguerite Blakeney's "tiny" feet and hands.
* BatmanGambit: The Scarlet Pimpernel is fond of these. No, seriously. The entire final rescue of the first book hinges on [[spoiler:the French's hatred of the Jews]].
* BetaCouple: Suzanne and Sir Andrew.
* BigBad: Robespierre
* BigGood: The Scarlet Pimpernel
* {{Blackmail}}
* BlackmailIsSuchAnUglyWord: When Chauvelin blackmails Marguerite into spying on her peers to learn the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel:
-->"Well!--and you would now force me to do some spying work for you in exchange for my brother Armand's safety?--Is that it?"\\
"Fie! two very ugly words, fair lady," protested Chauvelin, urbanely. "There can be no question of force, and the service which I would ask of you, in the name of France, could never be called by the shocking name of spying."
* BlueBlood
* BoundAndGagged: Well, Percy gets bound, and Marguerite gets gagged in the climax.
* BurnBabyBurn: One of the Pimpernel's associates tries to burn his instructions to prevent Marguerite reading them. It doesn't work.
* CampStraight: Percy is effiminate even by the standards of the time, but he's also got a reputation as a rake. Many aristocratic male characters also qualify, but Percy stands out the most.
* ChekhovsGun: Chauvelin's snuff habit.
* ClarkKenting
* ColorCharacter [[CharacterTitle Title]]
* ColorCodedForYourConvenience: Unless he's disguised, Chauvelin ''always'' wears black ("sable"), even in the sequels.
* CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass: Percy
* DatingCatwoman: Sir Percy, leader of the aristocrats' proverbial Secret Service, marries a French republican. He distances himself from his wife when she confesses her (unwitting) contribution to the execution of the Marquis de St. Cyr.
* DeadpanSnarker
* {{Determinator}}: Marguerite
* DressingAsTheEnemy: A ruse often used by the Pimpernel and his associates.
* EvilGloating: Chauvelin indulges a lot in the last act of the first book... and he pays for it.
* EvilLaugh: Bibot and Chauvelin love indulging in these; the phrase "evil laugh" is even used once.
* TheFrenchRevolution
* GoneHorriblyRight: Marguerite denounces the Marquis de St Cyr as revenge for attacking her brother; as a result, the Marquis and his entire family are sent to the guillotine, to Marguerite's horror.
* GratuitousFrench: Just to remind the reader that the scene is laid in France, Orczy sprinkles the dialogue with phrases like ''ci-devant'', ''citoyen'', and ''Sacres aristos!'' even when [[PoirotSpeak the rest of a given Frenchman's speech is translated]].
* GrandeDame: The Comtesse de Tournay is a stiffly dignified old lady, implacably opposed to Marguerite -- but forced by the Prince Regent to acknowledge her nonetheless.
* TheGuardsMustBeCrazy: Chauvelin has his men so scared to disobey him, they ignore CommonSense in favor of following his orders to the letter.
* HeelRealization: Marguerite and her brother, just prior to the start of the novel.
* HeroesWantRedHeads: Marguerite is a redhead.
* HeroSecretService: The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
* TheHerosJourney: For Marguerite, complete with "Night Sea Voyage."
* HiddenDepths: Both Marguerite and her husband, which they both wish they'd discovered long ago.
* {{Historical Domain Character}}s: Robespierre; Lord Grenville; the Prince of Wales; the Dauphin...
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade: Chauvelin is loosely based on a real French politician of the time.
* IDidntMeanToKillHim: Marguerite with the Marquis de St. Cyr, in her BackStory.
* IHaveYouNowMyPretty: Chauvelin's treatment of Marguerite at the Opera and when he captures her on the beach.
* IHaveYourWife: The French have Marguerite's brother. She frequently finds herself on the other end of this trope in the sequels, being taken hostage by Chauvelin to force Sir Percy's hand.
* IWantThemAlive: Which, naturally, proves to be Chauvelin's undoing. NiceJobFixingItVillain!
* InnocentInnuendo: Chauvelin claims he has the remedy to Marguerite's boredom and disappointment in her marriage... helping him track down the Scarlet Pimpernel.
* InspectorJavert: Chauvelin -- must be a French thing.
* ItsAllMyFault: Marguerite and her husband while reconciling, natch.
* ItsPersonal: Chauvelin
* LadyOfAdventure: Marguerite
* LovesMyAlterEgo: Marguerite swoons over the Pimpernel while unhappy in her marriage with Percy. Most of England falls in this trope, too, loving the daring and romance of the mysterious Pimpernel.
* MachiavelliWasWrong: The Pimpernel's men follow him out of devotion, Chauvelin's out of fear.
* ManipulativeBastard: Chauvelin, even moreso in the sequels.
* MasterOfDisguise: The Pimpernel himself. [[spoiler:Even his own wife can't recognise him when he's dressed up. His wife?! Not even Chauvelin recognises him, more than once!]]
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Marguerite
* NoAccountingForTaste: The world can't understand why the intellectual Marguerite St. Just fell for the ditzy Sir Percy.
* NoHoldsBarredBeatdown: Ordered by Chauvelin on their Jewish prisoner after the Scarlet Pimpernel escapes their surveillance. [[spoiler:Sir Percy had to let them do it so they would leave him behind with his wife afterwards.]]
* NotWhatItLooksLike: When Marguerite and Sir Andrew show up in disguise at the Fishermen's Rest inn, Mr. Jellyband and his daughter naturally assume they're running away together.
* NumberTwo: Sir Andrew
* ObfuscatingStupidity
* OppositesAttract: Pondered by Armand -- the graceful, witty Marguerite and her husband, the ditzy dandy. Of course, [[spoiler:his ditzyness is all just an act]], turning this into [[spoiler:BirdsOfAFeather]].
* PaperThinDisguise
* PepperSneeze: During a confrontation with Chauvelin, the Pimpernel sneaks some pepper into his snuff box; the consequent sneezing fit gives the Pimpernel an opportunity to escape.
* PlayAlongPrisoner: The Pimpernel, at one point, to be in position to aid another prisoner.
* ProtoSuperhero
* PseudoCrisis: It seems many times that the Pimpernel or the people he's rescuing are on the verge of capture, but many of these "crises" were actually built into his rescue plans.
* RedemptionQuest: For Marguerite.
* RefugeInAudacity: Most of the plans that aren't {{Batman Gambit}}s.
** Percy wins at the end of the original novel by... [[spoiler:dressing up as a Jew and relying on the French's rampant anti-Semitism to make them overlook him.]] It comes as quite a surprise to modern students who have to read the book for English class...
* RichIdiotWithNoDayJob: The ur-example.
* RightInFrontOfMe
* SadisticChoice: Chauvelin gives one to Marguerite -- ''either'' your brother ''or'' your husband. He specializes in his "either -- or" tactic.
* SecondaryCharacterTitle: Adaptations would do well to remember that ''Marguerite'' is the protagonist here.
* SecretKeeper: The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, as well as Percy's butler Frank, all know his SecretIdentity.
* SexlessMarriage: Marguerite and her husband have apartments as far apart in their mansion as possible.
* ShutUpAndSaveMe: Yeah, Margot, honey, I'm glad to see you, too, but how about we talk after you untie me?
* TheSummation: Percy explains exactly what he did to save everyone as he sits on the beach with Marguerite after it's all over.
* StarCrossedLovers: In his BackStory, Armand St. Just fell in love with the aristocrat Angèle de St. Cyr. He ended up [[NoHoldsBarredBeatdown beaten within an inch of his life]] as punishment for sending her a love letter.
* StayInTheKitchen: Blink and you'll miss it -- Sir Andrew tries to dissuade Marguerite from chasing after her husband because "this is man's work." And that one sentence is the first and last time he tries.
* SternChase
* TheStoic: Sir Percy's mask of choice for when alone with his wife.
* SuperHero: The Ur-example
* {{Swashbuckler}}: Hovers near the edge of this genre. The Pimpernel tends to use his wits rather than weaponry.
* TermsOfEndangerment: Chauvelin towards Marguerite; adaptations have run with this and [[PromotedToLoveInterest promoted him to a past love interest]].
* ThisIsReality: Chauvelin tells himself this at one point, when he catches himself speculating that the Pimpernel's ability to evade capture may have some supernatural source.
* TogetherInDeath: Marguerite constantly steels herself for this fate. [[spoiler:Fortunately, they both EarnYourHappyEnding.]]
* TwoAliasesOneCharacter: The Scarlet Pimpernel and his everyday identity are treated as two separate characters until Marguerite realises who the latter is, a considerable distance into the novel.
* [[ViolentlyProtectiveGirlfriend Violently Protective Wife]]: Marguerite.
* WellExcuseMePrincess: Lady Marguerite "smartest-woman-in-Europe" Blakeney
* WhatDoesSheSeeInHim: Everyone wonders, what did the smartest woman in Europe see in the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney?
* YouDontWantToCatchThis: Done with smallpox.
* YouGotSpunk: Both Chauvelin and Percy realize this about Marguerite.
* YourApprovalFillsMeWithShame: The revolutionists hail Marguerite as a heroine for turning in the Marquis de St. Cyr.
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!!Orczy's sequels provide examples of:

* AesopAmnesia: Chauvelin repeatedly continues to underestimate his ArchEnemy and to use the IHaveGotYourWife SadisticChoice no matter how many times it backfires on him.
* AlwaysSaveTheGirl: Armand for Jeanne Lange in ''Eldorado''. Tragedy ensues.
* AnyoneCanDie: [[spoiler: Bertrand Moncrif]] in ''The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel''.
* BaddieFlattery: Chauvelin towards Marguerite, particularly in ''Eldorado''.
-->'''Chauvelin:''' Just now you taunted me with my failure in Calais, and again at Boulogne, with a proud toss of the head, which I own is excessively becoming...
* BerserkButton: Threatening Sir Percy's wife is '''''not''''' [[GoneHorriblyRight a good idea]], Chauvelin...
* CasualDangerDialogue: Apparently an English thing that the French Armand at first finds unnerving in ''Eldorado''.
* ColdBloodedTorture: 17 days of sleep deprivation in ''Eldorado''.
* CoveredInKisses[=/=]AnywhereButTheirLips: Marguerite and Sir Percy, ''repeatedly''.
* CruelMercy: Percy's revenge on Chauvelin in ''Sir Percy Hits Back'' is sparing his life, which Chauvelin considers a FateWorseThanDeath.
* DeathByChildbirth: Fleurette's mother
* DistressedDamsel: Chauvelin switches tactics from giving Marguerite the SadisticChoice to making her the hostage in her husband's {{Sadistic Choice}}s.
* EtTuBrute: ''Eldorado''
* EveryoneLooksSexierIfFrench: English gentlemen seem to have a thing for Parisian beauties and are very eager to marry them. Poor English gals, they are doomed to die old spinsters at that rate.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: Chauvelin is repeatedly guilty of this. Prime examples are ''Eldorado'', where he believes his current SadisticChoice plot has been foiled because he doesn't in the least expect the Scarlet Pimpernel to consider giving his life or honor for the "friend" who betrayed him, and ''Sir Percy Hits Back'', where he thoroughly believes his daughter is doomed because surely the Scarlet Pimpernel wouldn't lift a finger to save his ArchEnemy's daughter.
* FateWorseThanDeath: Planned by Chauvelin in ''The Elusive Pimpernel'', to Collot d'Herbois' chagrin.
* GoodPeopleHaveGoodSex: Just short of stated outright for the Blakeneys, whenever Sir Percy can take a break from his heroics, that is. (They have a year of lost time to make up for, after all...)
* HappilyMarried: The Blakeneys and the Ffoulkeses.
* HeroicBSOD: Armand in ''Eldorado''
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade: Robespierre, though he didn't need too much alteration to make him into a larger-than-life EvilOverlord.
* HoneyTrap: ''The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel'' -- the GenreSavvy Theresias first asks her would-be employers if they're not worried about her BecomingTheMask.
* TheIngenue: Fleurette.
* ItsAllMyFault: Percy's guilt over what Marguerite suffers as the Scarlet Pimpernel's wife features prominently in ''Eldorado''.
* LegacyCharacter: The Pimpernel is the descendent of a hero of TheCavalierYears, as shown in ''The Laughing Cavalier'' and ''The First Sir Percy''. His own IdenticalGrandson appears in ''Pimpernel and Rosemary''.
* LoveAtFirstNote: Armand for Jeanne in ''Eldorado''
* LovedINotHonorMore: Comes up in just about every one but is discussed most prominently in ''Eldorado''.
* LoveMakesYouEvil: An in-universe [[EpilepticTrees Epileptic Tree]] -- the residents of Laragne attribute "citizen Armand's" sudden [[FaceHeelTurn change in personality]] to the death of his wife in childbirth. This is most likely not true, given that the narrator calls his daughter the only person he's ever loved.
* MaliciousMisnaming: Sir Percy constantly deliberately mispronounces Chauvelin's name as things like "Chaubertin" and "Chambertin."
* MasterActor/ MasterOfDisguise: The Pimpernel impersonates several known French people, authority figures, civil servants and grimy tramps alike. At one point, he reflects that he plays the part of Rateau (a coal-heaver he often impersonates) more convincingly than Rateau himself.
* MissingMom: ''Sir Percy Hits Back'' states that Fleurette's mother is dead. No more information about her whatsoever is shared, not even her name.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Armand in ''Eldorado''.
* PapaWolf: Chauvelin in ''Sir Percy Hits Back''.
* PerspectiveFlip: Several novels focus more on the rescuees than on the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
* PluckyGirl: Josette Gravier in ''The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel''.
* PromotionToParent: After being hinted in ''The Scarlet Pimpernel'', established in ''Eldorado'', which reveals that Armand's name for Marguerite is "little Mother."
* RescueRomance: Armand and Jeanne both decide they're in love (less than 24 hours after they first met) after Jeanne saves him from Héron.
* SaveTheVillain's Daughter: ''Sir Percy Hits Back''
* StatingTheSimpleSolution: Chauvelin's HypercompetentSidekick Collot d'Herbois wonders why they don't just shoot the Pimpernel in ''The Elusive Pimpernel''.
* VictoriasSecretCompartment:
** In ''Eldorado'', Marguerite smuggles letters from the Scarlet Pimpernel to his League out of prison in her kerchief... or, as her husband puts it, "... on your exquisite bosom where I so love to pillow my head."
** In ''Sir Percy Hits Back'', the Scarlet Pimpernel sends a secret message to Fleurette, his latest rescuee, by slipping it into ''her'' Victoria's Secret Compartment... while disguised as her prison warden, which freaked the poor girl out.
* VillainEpisode: ''Sir Percy Hits Back''
* VillainousBSOD: Chauvelin in ''Sir Percy Hits Back''
* WhatIsThisThingYouCallLove?: Explored in ''Eldorado''.
* WhatTheHellHero: Two in ''Eldorado''. First, Armand accuses Percy of not understanding what it means to love; Percy thoroughly agrees with him (Marguerite, however, doesn't) and spends a good subsequent portion of the novel condemning himself for what he puts his wife through. Later, Percy sends Armand a letter to this effect after his brother-in-law [[EtTuBrute betrays him]].
* YouHaveFailedMe: Robespierre gives Chauvelin this ultimatum in ''The Elusive Pimpernel''.
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