ENLARGING THE WEST
THE HISPANIC WORLD AND THE LEGACY OF ALEXANDER
Christopher Columbus, by Adrian Collaert, circa 1575.
In The Man Who Would be King, Rudyard Kipling’s short story masterfully adapted for the big screen by John Houston, two opposed types of empire-seekers make an appearance. One is embodied by the character of Daniel Dravot, played by Sean Connery; the other is Peachey Carnehan, also memorably played by Michael Caine. When we first meet Dravot and Carnehan, they are just two former British soldiers at the service of the Raj roaming India and trying to strike it big without much luck. Their lot improved after their chance encounter with a journalist and fellow Freemason, Rudyard Kipling’s alter ego. Their new companion provided them with information to find the remote land of Kafiristan, in the confines of Afghanistan, which, in their audacious ingenuity, they hoped to conquer and loot. Their subsequent adventure was an ultimately doomed quest in search of riches and fame and a fateful journey inside the two character’s souls. For whilst Peachey Carnehan remained faithful to their initial purpose, namely to hit, loot and run, Daniel Dravot ended up believing that he was the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, the hero the local inhabitants of Kafiristan had been waiting for since he came to their lands in Ancient times and then vanished. Indeed, mystified by the masonic symbol the Englishmen carried with them, the Kafiris were convinced that Dravot was a deified Alexander. Despite Carnehan’s protestations to get back home before their game was unveiled, Dravot played the part with such conviction that he decided to take a local bride, by the name of Roxanne, marry her and establish a dynasty blending East and West, thus following in Alexander’s footsteps. At that point the two rascals’ paths were about to separate, but the accidental discovery by the local priests of Dravot’s human nature precipitates the dramatic end of the story. Once more, Alexander’s dream was to remain unfulfilled.
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