Zorro (novel)

Zorro (novel)

Zorro is a 2005 mock biography and the first origin story of the pulp hero Zorro, written by Chilean author Isabel Allende. It is a prequel to the events of the original Zorro story, Johnston McCulley's 1919 novella The Curse of Capistrano. It also contains numerous references to earlier Zorro-related works, especially the 1998 film ''The Mask of Zorro.

The novel weaves famous historical figures into the story but also contains a few instances of magic, which has led some critics to place it in the realm of magical realism. It is also a retcon, notably because it changes Zorro's ethnicity from Spanish to mestizo.

Plot Summary

According to Allende's story, the future Zorro was a mestizo born in the 1790s in Alta California, son of the Asturian Captain Don Alejandro de la Vega and a native woman warrior, Toypurnia. The young Diego is sent to Barcelona by his father to complete his education, shortly before the French Army of Napoleon Bonaparte invades Spain.

In the occupied Barcelona of early 1810s, Diego de la Vega discovers his first love and becomes a fighter against foreign oppression. His travels also enable him to learn much of the characteristic Zorro-like skills: acrobatics from swinging on ship masts, fencing from the Spanish master Manuel Escalante, various tricks from Gypsies and a ship's cook, and a disguise patterned after a swashbuckling pirate.

After the French defeat, De la Vega returns to California, where he decides to continue the fight against the tyranny of his enemy from Spain, pompous Don Rafael Moncada and the landowning nobility—the caballeros—over the people of California. To avoid being recognized, De la Vega assumes the secret identity of Zorro. In his crusade he is helped by his mute brother Bernardo and Toronado, his horse.

Characters

Allende uses a mix of fictional characters borrowed from earlier Zorro works and invented for the novel, along with a smattering of historical characters.

Fictional

Traditional

  • Diego de la Vega the true name of Zorro
  • Bernardo was Diego De La Vega's milk brother, because they were fed from the same breast. He is the son of an Indian maid who works in the De la Vega Hacienda. After he witnesses the rape and murder of his mother, he chooses to act like a mute. He and Diego can still converse through sign language and twin telepathy. The rare instances when he speaks aloud are significant.
  • Lolita Pulido, whom Diego will later court in The Curse of Capistrano, appears as a young girl who falls in love with the disguised Zorro without realizing that he is her childhood friend Diego.

Original

  • Lechuza Blanca ("White Owl") is the maternal grandmother of Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro). She is a shaman and the spiritual leader of an insurgent Californian native tribe, As Diego's spiritual mentor, she leads him into the vision quest through which he discovers that the fox (which in Spanish is "Zorro") acts as his totem or guardian spirit. Her daughter Toypurnia is Diego's mother.
  • Toypurnia ("Daughter of Wolf") is the mother of Don Diego de la Vega. Her father was Diego Salazar, a Spanish renegade. Her name means "daughter of the wolf," because she was fostered by wolves briefly during her childhood. She had other names, including Grey Wolf and Regina de la Vega. Toypurnia/Regina figures prominently within the plot of the 2007 serial Zorro: La Espada y la Rosa.

Historical

  • Pedro Fages: The famous feuds of the California Governor and his wife Eulalia figure into Diego's family background.
  • George Sand: The famed French novelist makes an appearance as a young girl in love with Diego.
  • Jean Lafitte: Diego and his companions are captured by the notorious French pirate of the Louisiana bayous.
  • Marie Laveau: The voodoo queen of New Orleans makes a brief appearance, during the time Diego and his companions spend as "guests" of Jean Lafitte.

Themes & Issues

Continuity

Zorro contains numerous explicit references to Zorro works created before but taking place after Allende's tale. Most of the novel seems to correlate with most of the original Zorro tales. It even mentions Esperanza, Diego's wife in The Mask of Zorro. On the other hand, the epilogue states that Diego lived a comfortable old age after Esperanza's death, which The Mask of Zorro clearly contradicts. Also, Lolita Pulido meets Zorro well before their previously-established first encounter.

In McCulley's work, Diego de la Vega was born in the late 1700s to a Spanish mother whose name is never reported consistently. the 1940 version of The Mark of Zorro lists her name as Isabella and the Disney television series gives her maiden name as de la Cruz. Sometime after her death, the young man left California and was educated in Spain, before returning to don the Zorro mask. A speculative attempt to fuse together these disparate accounts is found in the on-line article Legacy of the Fox.

A young adult novel, Young Zorro: The Iron Brand, was published at around the same time as Allende's novel. It was written by young adult author and illustrator Jan Adkins, a technical advisor for Allende's story. It is the story of how Spanish California, pueblo de los Angeles, and the vaquero heritage at the beginning of the 19th century shaped fifteen year old Diego de la Vega and his mute brother Bernardo to create their eventual shared identity as el Zorro, advocate and protector of the people.

Other Mentions

Allende contributed an essay on the writing of the Zorro novel to Tales of Zorro, the first-ever anthology of original Zorro short fiction edited by Richard Dean Starr and published by Chicago-based Moonstone Books.

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