Movember Reading List: Six Moustaches in Books
It's almost the end of Movember, the annual November campaign from the Movember Foundation, when people around the world grow moustaches to help raise awareness and money for men's health issues.
In celebration of Movember, and in appreciation of all you moustache aficionados out there, please enjoy this selection of six fictional moustaches in books:
Hercule Poirot's Moustache
The moustache belonging to Agatha Christie's famous fictional detective, Hercule Poirot, is a lot like the man himself: impeccable, fastidious, and quite distinctive. You may have seen this moustache on television as worn by actor David Suchet, who played Poirot on the long-running television series, and described it in his 2014 memoir as "the best-looking waxed moustache in England." When Poirot first appeared in print in 1920 his moustache was described like so:
"Poirot was an extraordinary looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. Even if everything on his face was covered, the tips of moustache and the pink-tipped nose would be visible."
Moustaches abound in the village of invincible Gauls from the beloved comic book series by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Everyone's got one: our hero Asterix (bushy and yellow); his best friend Obelix (bushy and red); even loyal canine companion Dogmatix (bushy and white). When the Romans send a spy, Caligula Minus, to infiltrate the village and determine the secret of the Gauls' superhuman strength, he gets a moustache too (bushy and orange, and fake). But the spy's identity is revealed when his fake moustache is pulled off during the course of a traditional dance:
Asterix: "What on Earth is this?"
Caligula Minus: "Er...it's a detachable moustache! The latest thing from Lutetia!"
Asterix: "I don't think you're a Gaul at all! I believe you're a ROMAN SPY! GET HIM!"
Ignatius J. Reilly's Moustache
The unlikely hero of John Kennedy Toole's absurd and hilarious Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, published eleven years after the author's suicide, is Ignatius J. Reilly. Ignatius is a slovenly faux-intellectual buffoon with delusions of grandeur and an aversion to leaving his home town of New Orleans (where a statue of him now stands). We meet Ignatius, and his moustache, on the first page of the book:
"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs."
Colonel Aureliano Buendia's Moustache
Early in Gabriel García Márquez's story of seven generations in the fictional Buendia family, a magical realist masterpiece, Colonel Aureliano Buendia adopts a moustache that signals his growing militarism:
"About that time he had begun to cultivate the black mustache with waxed tips and the somewhat stentorian voice that would characterise him in the war."
Later, when the Colonel has withdrawn from fighting, his moustache serves to remind us of the futility of war:
“They had allowed him to shave. The thick mustache with twisted ends accentuated the sharp angles of his cheekbones. He looked paler to Ursula than when he had left, a little taller, and more solitary than ever.”
Captain Hook's Moustache
Captain Hook is a classic character of children's literature; a sinister pirate and archenemy of the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan, invented by J.M. Barrie, and re-invented by Disney and others. His moustache, like the rest of him, is fabulously terrifying:
"He was a strikingly unpleasant figure, with a pockmarked face and a large red nose, like a prize turnip, glued to his face. His long black hair, greasy from years without washing, stained the shoulders of the red uniform coat he'd stolen from a Navy sailor on the high seas, just before escorting that wretched soul over the side of the ship. He had dark, deep set, piercingly black eyes, overshadowed by eyebrows so bushy that he had to brush them away to see through the glass. But his most prominent feature was the thick growth of hair on his upper lip, long and black, lovingly maintained, measuring nearly a foot between its waxed and pointed tips. It was this feature that gave him his name, the most feared name on the sea: Black Stache."
The Fu Manchu
Dr. Fu Manchu's moustache is so iconic that it is the origin of an entire style of facial hair: the Fu Manchu. Actually, the evil criminal mastermind himself only wears the Fu Manchu in the film and television versions of the books; in Sax Rohmer's pulp fiction classics Dr. Fu Manchu doesn't have a moustache at all. But both the supervillain and his namesake moustache have become synonymous with racist portrayals of Asian, specifically Chinese, villain stereotypes in the West throughout most of the twentieth century:
"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green... Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."
For a critical analysis of racist depictions of Asian identities in popular culture, check out:
- Romance and the "Yellow Peril": Race, Sex, and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Fiction
- The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850-1940
- Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear
This is a revised version of a previously published Toronto Public Library blog post.