Literature: Arn: The Knight Templar
Arn: The Knight Templar
is a series of books by Swedish author Jan Guillou, also known as The Crusades Trilogy, and a film (or two, in Scandinavia; it was condensed to one international release) telling the story of a young man who finds himself as one of The Knights Templar
as penance after falling in love with and bedding Cecilia, and conceiving a child out of wedlock. From his beginnings as a child monk being trained in the sword
to befriending Saladin, we get a snapshot of his entire life. While much of the film takes place during The Crusades
, it also takes much time out to elaborate on Arn's past and Cecilia's current penance as well as the sociopolitical climate in the kingdom that one day will be Sweden
The book series consists of the following:
- The Road to Jerusalem
- The Templar Knight
- Birth of the Kingdom
There was also a sequel, The Heritage After Arn
, about a fictionalized version of real historical person Birger Jarl, which has not yet been translated.
The books were a huge success with Swedish audiences, spawning walking tours of historical sites as well as television documentaries and a renewed interest in medieval history.
This film has received a mixed reception, earning a 6.4 on IMDB at the time of writing.
The books contain examples of:
- Arranged Marriage: Due to the setting, there's a whole slew of these; Arn and Cecilia's betrothal is a variation, although they're actually in love and are punished for becoming impatient and sleeping together before their wedding. There is also the later issue of Arn, once having returned home from Palestine, almost being married off to Sverker maiden Ingrid Ylva, when he'd rather marry Cecilia like he was supposed to all along. In the end, it's arranged for their son Magnus to marry Ingrid Ylva instead, and he has no objection.
- Another: Knut and Blanka, who are quite content with their arrangement.
- Combat by Champion: Arn defeats Sverker champion Emund Ulvbane this way.
- Combat Pragmatist: Arn himself.
- Cool Horse: All the Arabian horses compared to the Nordic coldbloods, but especially Kamsiin.
- Cool Old Guy: Brother Guilbert. His personal Crowning Moment of Awesome occurs at Arn's bachelor party. Stag nights in this period involved a contest of arms, with seven events. In spite of never having practiced two of the events (throwing spears and throwing axes) and going up against men a third of his age, he still manages to place second.
- Cool Sword: Arn's sword was given to him by Brother Guilbert who was never defeated while wielding it. He is told never to raise it in anger or use it for personal benefit.
- Death by Childbirth: Narrowly averted; Mother Rikissa starves the pregnant Cecilia Rosa and has her working in the fields throughout her pregnancy until her labor starts.
- Finish Him!: Young Arn is told to end the duel with Emund Ulvbane in this manner. He refuses to kill an already defeated enemy.
- Friendly Enemy: Arn and Saladin; they've saved each others' lives, like and respect each other, and have many opinions about the future of Palestine in common. However, they're also determined to defeat the other on the battlefield because it is God's Will.
- High Priest: The Church is a major power both among the Templars and in Sweden, so there are multiple examples of this trope, including several Archbishops and Popes.
- Horse Archer: Arn is one, leading to his reputation among the Saracens. Also, obviously, the Turcopoles.
- I Am X, Son of Y.: Ubiquitous due to the setting, but becomes significant in one case, namely that of Bengt Elinsson. Bengt was born Bengt Svantesson, but his father was an abusive drunk, who even killed Bengt's mother Elin in a drunken rage. After Elin's death is avenged by her clansmen (including Arn), Bengt sheds his father's clan colors and name and chooses to identify himself as his mother's son.
- The Knights Templar, obviously.
- Master Swordsman: Most of the Knights Templar, but Arn and Brother Guilbert (and later Arn's students) are the ones most remarked upon by other characters.
- One Steve Limit: Averted and played with; Cecilia Algotsdotter and Cecilia Ulfsdotter are lay sisters as the same time, and are told apart by nicknaming them after their hair colors; red-haired Cecilia Rosa and blonde Cecilia Blanka. They keep these nicknames for the rest of their lives.
- Also a few instances of combinations of aversion of it and and Dead Guy Junior; Arn and Cecilia Rosa's son is named Magnus, although Old Sir Magnus is not yet dead when he's born, and there's the case of a number of kings named Knut and Erik.
- The Patriarch: Birger Brosa
- Rated M for Manly: As it so often is with Guillou's works.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Arn and Eskil, as adults. Arn is a devoted warrior and a man of God, Eskil is a cunning merchant with a fondness for swearing, food and beer. Despite this, they get along very well.
- There is a Not So Different moment involved: Arn explains that, as castellan of Gaza, he had to be as much Merchant Prince, judge, politician and diplomat as a soldier.
- Also, to a certain extent, Cecilia Rosa and Katarina; Cecilia is romantic, devoted and faithful, while Katarina is opportunistic, conniving and hedonistic.
- Sword Fight
- Shout-Out: At one point, Arn is made to joust against an inexperienced young knight of Richard Lionheart's called Wilfred of Ivanhoe
- True Companions: Cecilia Rosa and Cecilia Blanka
The film also contains examples of:
- Action Prologue
- Arranged Marriage: Cecilia violates her arranged marriage to a Sverker warrior with Arn, driving her into penance as a lay sister and causing Arn to become a Templar.
- Audible Sharpness
- Diagonal Cut as a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Do Not Go Gentle
- Finish Him!: Arn quickly establishes himself as a hero by refusing.
- God Before Dogma: Arn lives by this.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Cecilia's sister, Katarina. When she learns that Arn fell in love with and slept with Cecilia after having rejected her, Katarina outs them to Mother Rikissa and lies about sleeping with Arn herself.
- Improbable Use of a Weapon: Arn doesn't have a dominant hand, so he regularly switches between right-handedness and left-handedness to throw his adversaries off guard.
- Master Swordsman: Arn and his teacher.
- One-Hit Kill: Arn is quite good at them.
- Politically Correct History: The Swedes are multicultural, allowing people of different race and religion living in their country in the 13th century. No one complains or raises a question.
- The books work with this a bit more, but basically it boils down to this: As far as most people in Scandinavia at this time are concerned, all Muslims have horns and tails, live on a diet consisting of Christian babies and nothing else, and their religion consists of human sacrifice and sodomy. Arn figures that to most people, one Funny Foreigner is much like any other, and some funny foreigners have funny customs like refusing to eat pork (There are no pigs in their homeland, so they probably prefer lamb...)and pray five times a day. By the time someone actually figures out that the brown-skinned guys who don't eat pork are Muslims, they know them so well they'll be willing to judge them on their own merits (Brother Guilbert calls this gambit dangerous, but goes along with it). It also helps that most of the Scandinavians they interact with are either Arn's thralls and students, who worship the ground Arn walks on and are willing to run with his ideas, or political power players who see that Arn is using his foreign employees to build up a technological and economic powerbase for the war with the Sverkers and Denmark everyone knows will come sooner or later, and are willing to indulge his and his skilled workers' whimsies.
- It's also worth noting that the Swedes, like the Danes and the Norwegians, had a large amount of interaction with Muslim cultures, both through trade missions as well as mercenary contracts, and that some had even converted to Islam. The presence of a multicultural Sweden is slightly anachronistic, the presence of people of color is not.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Arn and Saladin have shades of this whenever they hang out.
- Redshirt Army: The Knights Templar
- Small Role, Big Impact: Cecilia's jealous sister only have a few appearances, but is the cause of Cecilia and Arn being separated for 20 years, Cecilia having to serve in a convent while Arn is forced into service in the Holy Land.
- Single-Stroke Battle
- Sword Plant