Ian Flemming, the author of the original James Bond novels, once said of himself that he had never grown out of his adolescence. Whether or not this is true, it is possible that Flemming's greatest character, James Bond, derives much of his appeal from the spirit and themes of literature for youth. There is, in fact, a series of books about James Bond Jr. that testify to the fascination the lower age groups have for this action hero.
And, with ancient tales of the folk hero Jack the Giant Killer, we can perhaps locate the prototype James Bond. Jack, for example, is witty, brash, and known for his ingenuity. He is a rescuer of damsels in distress and the destroyer of remarkably strange villains. And while in service to the English monarch, Jack is even given gadgets that will help him out of trouble, such as a cap of knowledge, a never failing sword, and shoes of swiftness.
Another clear connection to children's stories and James Bond is the fact that Flemming also wrote a famous children's book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There is a lot of James Bond in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, especially in the film version of 1968. The movie was produced by the same company that made the James Bond films. The same set designer who constructed the Spectre hideouts in James Bond designed the Toot Suite factory with its catwalks and boiling cauldrons. And Gert Frobe, who played Goldfinger in 1964, played the part of Baron Bomburst. In fact, the car with all the gadgets, the exotic European locations, and even the name of the female lead, Ms. Truly Scrumptious, are all straight from the Bond factory, with the rpms backed down just a bit.
If there was ever a case to be made that James Bond has a connection with children's books, the recent addition to the film series, Die Another Day, is a rich source for comparison. Never before have Bond's exploits been so steeped in fantasy. Like the Greek tales of Hercules or a Superman comic book, Bond finds himself in this film, racing from satellite heat rays and surfing tidal waves. Like Harry Potter's cloak, Bond is able to make himself and his car disappear, and, like a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the climax of Die Another Day takes place on a floating palace of ice.
For Bond aficionados, who know how thrilling a more serious-minded Bond film can be, this turn to the fantastic is somewhat disappointing. But knowing how closely Bond is related to the fantasies of childhood literature, we can see in Die Another Day, more clearly than ever, the James Bond that was always there just beneath the surface, the boy at play, dreaming of a fantastic world and how it will make him a hero.
Copyright 2007© Kevin Shortsleeve
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Saturday, 31-Mar-2007 21:16:48 EDT