Literature / First Blood

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A thriller novel by David Morrell, published in 1972.

A disturbed vagrant named Rambo walks into the town of Madison, Kentucky, and is soon driven off by Sheriff Teasle, who wants keep the place clean from potential troublemakers. But Rambo keeps coming back, and Teasle has him arrested. Rambo manages to escape from him, killing one of his deputies in the process. This sets off a manhunt, where Teasle learns that he isn't up against any normal fugitive, but a PTSD-afflicted Green Beret and Vietnam War veteran who thrives in survival and killing the enemy.

A film adaptation starring Sylvester Stallone was released in 1982, and its more sympathetic portrayal of Rambo paved the way for a popular action movie franchise.

This novel has examples of:

  • Abandoned Mine: Just as Rambo is about to finish off Sheriff Teasle in the woods, he becomes too weak due to his broken ribs and loses consciousness. When he wakes up, he finds himself in an old mine, and uses it as hideout while the National Guard searches for him.
  • Abusive Parents: Rambo's father drank heavily and beat his son, going so far one night as to try to kill him.
  • Accidental Murder: Sheriff Teasle's father died during a hunting trip, where a newbie mistook him for a deer and shot him.
  • Anti-Hero: Teasle in the the book may have some downplayed traits of being a Rabid Cop at the beginning of the book, but eventually proves himself to be much nobler then the Ax-Crazy Rambo.
  • Big Bad: Subverted. Teasle starts off as both this and a Supporting Protagonist. However, by the end of the novel, it is made clear that Rambo has switched roles with Teasle.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: One of Teasle's deputies is so frightened from a sudden ambush from Rambo that he soils his pants.
  • Cop Killer: Rambo becomes one over the course of the novel.
  • Fallen Hero: Rambo, as he is reduced from being a war hero in Vietnam to a psychotic Cop Killer.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Rambo escapes from the jail, steals a motorbike and heads towards the woods all while being naked.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Teasle is vindictively jealous of Rambo for being a Vietnam veteran who places Korean War vets like Teasle in his shadow. Teasle however is more jealous of WWII vets for doing the same thing towards Korean War vets.
  • Gutted Like a Fish: Before he's going to put Rambo into a cell, Sheriff Teasle tries to have his long hair cut and beard shaved with a razor. This freaks Rambo out and he wrenches the blade from Teasle's hands, and slices open Deputy Galt's stomach when he goes for his gun, spilling his guts out.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: Rambo comes across a father and son duo in the woods, and guesses correctly that they have a still hidden in the area. He convinces them give him clothes and a rifle so that he'll move on and lead his pursuers away from them.
  • It's Personal: At first Sheriff Teasle chases Rambo in the name of duty for killing one of his men. Once Rambo severely wounds Orval, who was Teasle's foster father after he was orphaned, Teasle wants to hunt Rambo down for vengeance. His personal hunt is then cut short when Rambo kills all his men, and he has to crawl his way back to civilization, where he has to remain in the sidelines because of his injuries.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Teasle in the novel may not be the nicest officer around, but is none the less a sympathetic character.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Invoked, but ultimately averted when Rambo, who's resting and spying on his pursuers standing on a cliff, aims his rifle at Sherif Teasle and humours himself with a thought about shooting him through his throat just as he's in a middle of a sentence. He then decides against it, wanting to give him hell before finishing him off.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The book suddenly gets quite surreal towards the end as both Rambo and Teasle get close to death and appear to have some kind of psychic connection, to a point Teasle admits Rambo to be a Worthy Opponent for him.
  • Mercy Kill: After Orval notices that Rambo gutshot one of his dogs, he finishes the suffering thing off by shooting it, since the search party is thirty miles away from any help.
  • Moe Greene Special: Rambo shoots Deputy Shingleton in the head, and when he still lives, finishes him off by shooting him in the eye.
  • Properly Paranoid: Teasle turns out to be correct to distrust Rambo's presence in the first place, especially after we learned Rambo is really a homicidal maniac then some drifter vagrant.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Teasle wanted Rambo out of Madison, but he did gave him several chances to leave peacefully and even allow him to order a meal as long he made it a take-out. It is only when Rambo deliberately returns when he no longer need to be after eating his lunch that he was after initially, Teasle finally loses his patience and arrest him.
  • Run for the Border: Running from the law, Rambo initially decides to head toward the warm beaches of Mexico. But his anger gets better of him, and he tries to finish off Teasle and his men.
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Rambo's time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam left him greatly disturbed, and a danger to anyone whom he thinks pushes him too far.
  • Slashed Throat: Sheriff Teasle leaves two of his remaining deputies for a while to go look for Rambo by himself. When he returns to them, one of the men is missing and the other lies in the mud with his throat cut.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: In contrast to the film's Teasle's Inspector Javert, the novel's Teasle is considered to be this towards Rambo.
  • Tragic Bigot: Teasle in the book is a Jerkass Woobie as he is divorced from his wife Anna, lost his father in a hunting trip and he himself is a Korean War vet whose service is forgotten and buried by the presence of Vietnam vets, which Teasle bares Irrational Hatred against in return right next to WWII vets for the same thing.
  • Villain Protagonist: Unlike the film, where the deputies were abusive, Dirty Cops, Rambo violently and ruthlessly kills them for doing their jobs. By the end of the book, Rambo has become the story's Big Bad.
  • Worthy Opponent: Rambo considers Teasle to be one for him after finding out about his Korean War service. Teasle also feels Rambo to be one when they are dying from their wounds, finally returning this gesture while he was close to death.


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