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Literature / The Wounded Name

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"None but the guilty can be long and completely miserable."

Originally published in 1922 by British novelist D.K. Broster, The Wounded Name tells the story of Laurent de Courtomer, whose noble family left France for England as a result of the French Revolution. After Napoleon abdicates the French throne in 1813, Laurent prepares to return to France with his family, but not before meeting a legendary hero of the French forces — Aymar de la Rocheterie, also known as L'Oiseleur. Aymar's exploits in the army, both real and mythological, have spread far and wide among the Royalist populace. He and Laurent become fast friends, and Laurent in particular finds himself infatuated and lost in hero-worship.

When he finally does move to France, Laurent joins the Royalist Army. He intends to meet with Aymar again during his tour of duty, but is captured by Imperialist forces along the way. However, he soon discovers that Aymar himself is not only a fellow prisoner, he is severely wounded and disgraced — the Imperialists found him tied to a tree after Aymar's own men apparently tried to execute him. He is an outcast, now; the Royalists consider him a traitor and the Imperialists consider him an enemy prisoner. But Laurent is not swayed. As the only friend Aymar has left, Laurent is determined to help his hero heal both physically and mentally as he tries to deduce the truth behind the charge of treason and the botched execution.

Essentially a book about The Power of Friendship and The Power of Love, The Wounded Name details the development of the two heroes' deep affection for one another, as well as the heroic Undying Loyalty which comes to define Laurent's character.

As this is not one of Broster's most famous works, it has been out of print for quite a while. Most copies available today are more than 80 years old. It can be read online and downloaded for free here (the archive misspells the title as "The Wounding Name").

Tropes seen in this work:

  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Aymar and Laurent do share multiple kisses, but none on the lips.
  • Berserk Button: Never trash talk Aymar if Laurent is within earshot. One soldier learns this the hard way after getting run through with Laurent's sword (though the wound is non-fatal).
  • Broken Bird: Guess who! And it's up to Laurent to make him better.
  • Broken Pedestal: Played with and ultimately subverted. Aymar's disgraced may have left him physically wounded and traumatized, and very prickly as a result, but Laurent doesn't stop believing in him or caring for him. He has his doubts at certain points (see below) but gets over them soon enough, even after he learns the truth about why Aymar's men mutinied.
    Aymar, he was sure, must have noticed the constraint in his manner — he who felt that the Aymar he had known and believed in and loved existed no longer — never had existed. It was that thought which made the blackness of his misery.
  • The Champion: The book explicitly names Laurent as Aymar's champion early on. At one point Aymar even calls him "my poor Knight Errant".
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Aymar and his cousin, Avoye.
  • Holding Hands: And a whole lot of it between the two main characters.
  • Heroic BSoD: Aymar spends a lot of time being traumatized as a result of his failed execution, severe wounds, imprisonment, and the resulting humiliation. Not to mention the guilt of unintentionally sacrificing the soldiers under his command for nothing. Poor Laurent often gets the brunt of his foul moods.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Harshly subverted. Laurent remains convinced that Aymar let himself be branded a traitor in order to protect someone else, right up until the moment Aymar tells him otherwise. The man was trying to protect his cousin, but not by sacrificing himself or anyone else. Unfortunately, his plan is enacted too late and fails spectacularly, and soon after he finds out that it was all for nothing.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Played straight.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: And how. Just look at the tropes on this page (especially the quote under Berserk Button)! To the point that it's actually a spoiler that no, Laurent and Aymar don't get together. In fact, romantic friendships between male leads is something Broster's works are actually famous for (see The Flight of the Heron).
    • Lampshaded once: when Laurent is at home in Paris with his family, he becomes very anxious for a visit from the postman. His relatives already know of his friendship with Aymar, but Laurent's desperation to hear from the man actually makes them think that he's has fallen deeply in love with a mystery woman.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Plenty of male to female examples, as this is 19th Century France. But a special emphasis is placed on a rare male to male example. After apologizing for lashing out at him, Aymar kisses Laurent's hand to thank him for his care.
  • Kissing Cousins: Aymar and Avoye, who were both orphaned as children and raised as siblings. In the end, they marry.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Aymar and his cousin, Avoye their relationship is part this and part Kissing Cousins.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Laurent for Aymar, who descend into irreversible depression if the former weren't around.
  • Living Legend: The Royalist populace even has a myth about how Aymar received a woven arm band, a jartier, from a witch. It is said that the band makes him invincible.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Laurent and Aymar for each other.
  • Love Redeems: Aymar finds himself disgraced, wounded, imprisoned, tortured, ill, and it was all because he enacted a highly risky plan to save his lover/cousin, who was never in danger in the first place! And when said kinsman/lover learns the full truth (after he tried hiding it to avoid breaking her tender heart), she blows up at him just before Aymar has to leave and defend himself before a court of inquiry that could very well convict him of treason. It's no wonder he's so depressed (and, at some points, suicidal). Thank goodness Laurent and his Undying Loyalty refuse to give up on him!
  • Poor Communication Kills: Avoye is heartbroken and furious when she finds out that Aymar hasn't been entirely truthful to her about his failed execution and capture for he neglected to tell her that he only enacted his failed plan because he thought she was in danger (which turned out to be completely untrue). She doesn't know what to believe anymore and breaks up with him.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Aymar sold out his company of soldiers to the enemy as part of a plan to not only lure the Imperialists into a (failed) trap, but to mainly save his cousin and lover, Avoye, from being shot while in Imperialist custody. As it turns out, she was in the hands of the Imperialists, but they were only holding her while the company was on the move. They never intended to do her any harm. In the end, Aymar is not able to enact the full plan in time (the company that was supposed to band with his to trap and overcome the Imperialists had already moved on), as his decision to go through with it was too late. His group of about 500 soldiers are utterly massacred, and he ends up tied to a tree and shot for treason.
  • Sleep Cute: At one point, Aymar is sitting in a chair while Laurent sits against the leg of the chair. He eventually falls asleep with his head on Aymar's knee.
  • Smooch of Victory: Laurent really wants to kiss Aymar on his head after the court of enquiry declares Aymar not guilty of treason, but he holds himself back.
  • Spiritual Successor: Broster's later novel The Flight of the Heron is very much like The Wounded Name in that it contains similar themes of friendship, loyalty, hurt/comfort and deep affection between the two male main characters. Though the romantic friendship is definitely not as pronounced in Heron, that book went on to become Broster's most famous and critically acclaimed work for its stronger storyline, better pacing, more polished writing, and stronger heterosexual romantic plot between one of the heroes and his wife-to-be.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: With a good heaping of Melodrama.
  • Undying Loyalty: Laurent, and how. His extreme faithfulness to Aymar is even directly contrasted with that of Aymar's cousin and lover Avoye, who leaves after finding out the full truth of what happened to him. They are even referred to as "the faithful friend and faithless lover". Indeed, Avoye is absent for Aymar's entire trial by the military court of inquiry (whereas Laurent jumped at the chance to be with him), and by the end of the story he is ready to let her go. However, she returns for a Last-Minute Hookup.