Happy Barricade Day, everyone! It’s the 6th, so I’m still in time as far as I’m concerned. Here’s a little animatic for Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk, done in a couple of days because consistent style and decent lighting are for the weak.
Friends, allow me to tell you a story about how Joseph Spieldenner is actually the best.
So we were at the stage door, awaiting the appearance of the Spielbachs. Joe came out first, and we yelled “Joe!” And I waved my copy of The Brick at him and was like, “Joe! Could you sign my book?” And I flatter myself by saying that he basically lit up like a Christmas tree and looked super happy and flattered and I basically squealed.
And then he took the book and my Sharpie and flipped through it, and I was like, “OMG, he’s reading my annotations. Joe! You’re reading my annotations!”
And he said, “I’m looking for Orestes Fasting but I can’t find it!”
And I said, “It’s marked!” And pointed to the little Post-It flag things I have marking various passages, and I was like, “It’s the last one! It says OFPD!”
And he found it and signed it and handed it back to me and I pretty much cried.
“Death is temporary. Love is eternal. xo Joseph Spieldenner.”
I spent the entire two hour train ride home just staring at this.
In conclusion: if JoeSpiel isn’t your favorite, you need to reexamine your life choices.
Their Importance: Oh, Grantaire. Where to start with Grantaire? He’s a MLM, an addict, a sufferer of depression and in my heart the unquestionable winner of the Greatest Pre-20th Century Book Character (Who Appears In 20 Pages Or Less) Award.
So! A few paragraphs before we’re introduced to Grantaire we’re introduced to Enjolras, leader of the student revolutionaries and object of Grantaire’s affections. Hugo, god bless him, uses hundreds of words to tell us what the key deets are: Enjolras is HOT but SCARY and casts women aside with “astounding and terrible glance[s]”. Good to know!
Onto Grantaire. Take it away, Hugo:
However, this sceptic had one fanaticism. This fanaticism was neither a dogma, nor an idea, nor an art, nor a science; it was a man: Enjolras. Grantaire admired, loved, and venerated Enjolras.
There are men who seem to be born to be the reverse, the obverse, the wrong side. They are Pollux, Patrocles, Nisus, Eudamidas, Ephestion, Pechmeja. They only exist on condition that they are backed up with another man; their name is a sequel, and is only written preceded by the conjunction and; and their existence is not their own; it is the other side of an existence which is not theirs. Grantaire was one of these men. He was the obverse of Enjolras.
One might almost say that affinities begin with the letters of the alphabet. In the series O and P are inseparable. You can, at will, pronounce O and P or Orestes and Pylades.
Wondering who Orestes and Pylades are? These guys. Pay attention, that’ll be important later!
Anyway, for the next few chapters we get to know Grantaire even more. He’s very clearly an alcoholic (although the concept as we know it hadn’t really been invented back then) and also very clearly suffering from depression (ditto. Also, damn, does he talk about his depression the same way I think about mine.) Enjolras “disdains” him, largely because he can’t generally be trusted with simple tasks, and also because to be fair he can be a dick at times. But every time Grantaire looks at Enjolras it’s with “great gentleness” or something similar. IT’S SO SAD, BUT IT’S ABOUT TO GET SADDER.
Come the summer of 1832 the June Rebellion took place and seeing as Grantaire lives in a book literally called “the miserable” you can probably guess it doesn’t end well for him. BUT. Okay. As the student revolutionaries are taking their places at the barricades, Grantaire drinks so much he passes out, although not before Enjolras harshly tells him, “You are incapable of believing, of thinking, of willing, of living, and of dying.” (Woe.) So while Grantaire is out of it history takes its course and lovable revolutionary after lovable revolutionary is cut down until only Enjolras is left. BUT THEN:
The chapter where Enjolras and Grantaire die is called “Orestes Fasting [sober] and Pylades Drunk”. Enjolras is cornered in the room where Grantaire is waking up, about to be shot by a firing squad. Grantaire comes round and immediately realizes what’s happening. Let’s hear it, Hugo:
“Long live the Republic! I’m one of them.”
Grantaire had risen. The immense gleam of the whole combat which he had missed, and in which he had had no part, appeared in the brilliant glance of the transfigured drunken man.
He repeated: “Long live the Republic!” crossed the room with a firm stride and placed himself in front of the guns beside Enjolras.
“Finish both of us at one blow,” said he.
And turning gently to Enjolras, he said to him:
“Do you permit it?”
Enjolras pressed his hand with a smile.
This smile was not ended when the report resounded.
Anyway. Few things give me hope the same way Grantaire gives me hope.
I think he’s important largely because the force of his love for another man is what transforms him in the end, and gives him belief and power. It’s almost presented as something holy. Back in 1862! Well done, Victor Hugo. May you rest well in French Heaven.
Issues: Although many actors add their own longing looks etc to their Grantaires on stage (and George Blagden also did so in the 2012 movie) his story isn’t really included in the musical. Granted, this is probably because the average musical is only 165 minutes long.
whispers: American Gods AU where Grantaire is actually Dionysus and Enjolras is slowly becoming a God because he’s making himself into a symbol people can believe in and Combeferre is like, this cannot end well
so like, if you just read the wikipedia entry that says “orestes is the lover rather than beloved” you’d obviously step back confused–orestes is enjolras, why would he be the lover? why not grantaire, who’s love is arguably unrequited? well i have been asking myself this since i was 11. and i finally settled on something.
now in the story of orestes and pylades, the one who stayed behind would be slain, and it was viewed as a sacrifice. sacrificing their life, so that the other could live on. orestes sacrificed his life for pylades, showing his dedication.
only in putting emphasis on the word sacrifice did i realize something–grantaire embodies everything the revolution wants to fight for, despair, wrongdoings by their country, hopelessness, etc. so in the moment that enjolras shakes grantaire’s hand and smiles, he realizes the same thing as i just did: grantaire is the cause, and enjolras will sacrifice his life for that.
After seeing this post, I got the idea to make one of these a reality! So I put together some of the motifs from the musical and changed the words to re-create the Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk scene (Enjolras and Grantaire’s death). I hope you enjoy!
ENJOLRAS: I can’t hear the people sing All of my dreams have turned to ash Now all my dear friends have gone from me And my fate will come at last-
SOLDIERS: (soldier 1 sings lines 1 and 4, solder 2 sings line 2, solder 3 sings line 3) I know this man!- He shot the artillery-guard. He is insane!- The cause of all of this blood. He is in charge!- So if we kill him, we’ll win. Get ready, men, you fire on my command.
ENJOLRAS: Yes, shoot me now, I do not care, I wait for death-
GRANTAIRE: Stop! (all freeze except for Enjolras and Grantaire) Hold your fire, I beg of you For I am one of them These brave, passionate men And I will gladly die with him - if he shall will it so Oh, the people will sing For our deaths here will bring A change that makes tomorrow come
ENJOLRAS: Oh God, Grantaire, you fool, have you no fear? They’re going to kill us - you should flee from here!
GRANTAIRE: It will be fine, I’m unafraid. I’m with you - I am saved. So don’t you fret, m. Enjolras You won’t feel any pain The shots fall soft as rain They will not hurt us now (to the soldiers) I beg - finish us both with one! (to Enjolras again) And I will die with you (E: And I will die with you…) If you permit me to (E:(taking Grantaire’s hand)Yes, I permit you to…) And I’ll see you again- (E: Grantaire, I-)