The Prince and the Pauper
By Mark Twain
Published by Recorded Books, Inc.
Read by Norman Dietz
This is one of those stories I thought I knew. I’ve seen several movie adaptations. It may not have been done as often as The Three Musketeers, but it is definitely one of the most frequently filmed stories. Sadly while there have been some fairly faithful to the original, such as the 1937 version with Errol Flynn, many of them have only the business of switching places right and at least half are modernized bastardizations, eg, Teen Supermodel has always wanted to be a normal kid and go to the prom, while nerdy bookworm wants to be a glamorous model. Even so, while a lot of the story did come back to me from the better adaptations, nothing beats the original.
Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII, is curious about the clothing of pauper Tom Canty, who would also do anything just once to wear something as fine as what the prince is wearing, so they trade clothing for what ought to be just a few minutes. There is a disturbance and Edward rushes off to see what is happening, forgetting he is dressed like a street urchin and is promptly ejected from the palace. Meanwhile, Tom is stuck having to play the prince, since no matter how many times he tells the truth of his identity, all around Him, including the king, believe he has gone mad. Then Henry VIII dies and Tom has to play the king. He does not do too bad a job and once he starts to think for himself he starts making a lot of changes that benefit the people of England.
Meanwhile, Edward is also thought to be mad, but in a peasant and beggar, but I guess that is not as unusual. On learning the hard way what a despicable bully and villain Tom’s father, John Canty, is, Edward attempts to escape his control only to keep falling back into John’s hand. They eventually fall into the criminal underground where Edward is forced to beg and steal and is relieved only when he comes under the protection of Myles Hendon, who also believing the boy to be mad, humors him in the hope he’ll get better.
So both boys learn there’s no such thing as a free lunch even when the grass really is greener, but in the end Edward is restored to the throne before Tom can be officially crowned and Tom and his mother and sister live happily ever after and Myles gets to sit in the presence of royalty. Yay! Yes I left a lot out, read the book! I’m not Cliff so you can’t trust my notes.
Anyway, it’s a darned good story, perhaps one of Twain’s best and much better than any of the movies. So this really ought to be on everyone’s READ list.
Norman Dietz performed quite interesting in this recording. His voices seem to fit the characters well even if sometimes they were not the way I might have imagined them. His accents and mannerisms of speech were widely varied so a listener had not trouble knowing whether a speaker was royal, noble or an urchin off the streets. Prince/King Edward has, at first the self-assured an overconfidence one might expect and as the story progresses his arrogance softens as it should. Tom may have sounded a bit too erudite, although Twain wrote that he was well read so it is understandable that he should not be speaking in a version of Cockney that would be best relegated to Disney’s Mary Poppins. Myles has a certain down-homelike quality as one might expect from a country squire, so all told the characters are as well-voiced as Twain wrote them.
So all in all this is a fine book for anyone’s reading list and the very good performance; well-spoken and unrushed. An enjoyable experience regardless of whether you read for yourself or listen to it.