A tale of danger and intrigue, romance, betrayal, friendship, loyalty and politics. And as you most likely know, it revolves around the encounters D'artagnan has with "the three Musketeers", known as Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
What is less well known is there were in fact FOUR Musketeers. So why did Dumas only tell us about 3 of them?
In case you doubt my claim of four, think just a little bit. If there were but three Musketeers, how could they play bridge? Every day would be the same.
"Athos, Porthos, want to play bridge?"
"We can't, Aramis. We need a fourth for bridge."
Fencing practice would have been difficult as one of them would always be standing around doing nothing.
Chess tournaments would be extremely short.
Games of foursquare would be spent chasing the ball as everyone sought to put out the easy target, only to find the ball rolling far away from the game.
No, clearly there were not just three Musketeers.
So why did Dumas choose to leave out the fourth?
Was it because he refused to wear those stupid ear-hats for the group photo for the book cover? "I may be a Musketeer but I refuse to wear Musket Ear hats. If you want people to wear them, start a theme park.*"
Was it because his name did not sound right? Athos, Porthos and Aramis sound right together. D'artagnan not so much. And how many names can you have in a book that sound "odd" in conjunction with one another?
Was it just because the book title would have been less catchy? "The Four Musketeers" hardly rolls off the tongue the way "The Three Musketeers" does.
Was it for synergy with the marketing department for the Three Musketeers candy bar?**
No, the truth is far more simple and vastly more appalling.
The fourth Musketeer was left out for just one reason.
You see, he was so afraid of water that he wanted to be dry cleaned instead of showering. As a result, he had terrifically bad body odor and, more important, lice.
Now, as a general rule, this would not have mattered. After all, the Musketeers were French.
But as you may recall, the Musketeers encountered Cardinal Richelieu during their quest. Richelieu, being a Catholic religious figure, was bald.
And that is the ugly truth. You see, the Fourth Musketeer was so filthy that he was left out of the story for fear his lice would show up on Richelieu's bald head.
*It is a little known (and less believed) fact that this is where Walt Disney got the idea for Disneyland Merchandise shops.
** Yes, I know the bar was named after the book. It is a pretty sorry joke anyway, did you really need to make it worse by asking that question?