How to kill a monk: Notes on Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose

It always breaks my heart whenever I finish a book that I’ve become attached to. I never expected to find myself in a fetal position and thinking that my life is over when I finished reading The Name of the Rose. When I picked up this book 5 months ago, I didn’t anticipate the wonderful journey I would embark on. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck the moment I closed the book for the last time.

The Name of the Rose is one that’s right up my alley. It was a murder mystery set in the Middle Ages told in the form of a journal with a character named William of Baskerville. I’m a sucker for intelligent murder mysteries (and this book is nothing but intelligent). Medieval literature is becoming a trend in my reading and writing. Since I took up courses in the history of Christian civilization (which encompasses the Middle Ages), I already have a background on the subject. The only other time I’ve heard the name Baskerville from the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. As a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was greatly intrigued.

What I liked most about this book is that it’s metafiction. It incorporates fact with fiction. The specific abbey where the murders took place may not be real but the Benedictine order is. Umberto Eco even explained at the end of the book how he made sure that the events in the story were in sync with real events that happened in that timeline. Eco is a Medieval scholar and had all the materials he needed to create his story. Why did Umberto Eco write a historical fiction about the Middle Ages? It’s because he wanted to poison a monk. Figuratively, that is.

Who, in the name of God, is getting away with murder?

To satiate my desire for more Umberto Eco’s Medieval murder mystery, it was mandatory to watch the film adaptation (directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud) of the book. The notes that I’ve written are comparisons among the book, movie, and my personal ideas. Everyone thinks like a director when they read something. You can’t keep imagining a faceless character so you make a cast of characters in your head. The setting is also important in imagining how the events transpired. These are the personal ideas that I have. I tried my best to organize my ideas into “book versus movie” and “movie versus personal” but they keep overlapping each other as I wrote. Here we go!

  • Sean Connery is amazing but I didn’t expect William to look like that since the inspiration for the character is Sherlock Holmes. And no, Robert Downey Jr. is not what Sherlock Holmes is supposed to look like. Nor Benedict Cumberbatch (Sorry, fan girls). He also didn’t sound like a William but since William is English and I can’t really imagine what an English Franciscan monk in the Middle Ages would sound like, Sean Connery’s voice and accent would have to do.

Sherlock Holmes throughout the years

  • I don’t really have an imaginary Adso in my head but I think Christian Slater was a good choice. Handsome and youthful just like Adso. What I didn’t like was that the movie gave more focus on the romance between Adso and the peasant girl. It kind of ruined it for me. Then again, the movie would have become some sort of documentary if they didn’t focus on a more entertaining topic. But still. Stop making everything a romance movie!

Look at this beautiful boy

  • Though Salvatore looked more like an uglier Quasimodo in my head, Ron Perlman was adorable as Salvatore. I didn’t even recognize him! He was that good. I thought he was too tall but he pulled it off. Salvatore never tried to kill William and Adso in the book, and he didn’t interact with Remigio a lot but their interaction in the movie is important so that the audience understands the connection that they have. Two hours isn’t enough to condense the whole book (it was loooooong).

Ron Perlman and Quasimodo 2.0

  • Ubertino de Casale creeped the heck out of me with his cryptic speech and slow, whispered murmurs. It wasn’t explained in the movie why he left the abbey so if you didn’t read the book you’ll wonder why this old man had to be transported out of the abbey inside a barrel instead of a normal carriage.
  • The accused (Remigio, Salvatore, and the peasant girl) were sent to Avignon to be tried and executed but in the movie, they were burned at the stake inside the walls of the abbey. Bertrand del Poggetto and the other delegates of the Inquisition were supposed to leave right after the interrogation of the heretics but Bernard Gui stayed until the abbey burned down.
  • Bernard Gui is one of the non-fictional characters in the book (along with Ubertino of Casale). I actually read about him while I was writing a research paper about the Inquisition. In my head, Bernard Gui was Severus Snape (without the beautiful, black hair). As stated in the previous bullet point, he was supposed to leave when his business in the abbey was finished. He really should have left because when he tried to escape the burning abbey, his carriage fell into a ditch. For some reason, the townspeople pushed the carriage off the cliff instead of helping out and Bernard Gui fell to his death as he was impaled at the bottom. Serves him right for accusing William of being a heretic and the killer (which did not happen in the book as well but it serves him right!). Book version Bernard Gui was not as big of a jerk as the movie version for him to challenge William by putting him back to his former role of being an inquisitor. I don’t think he was also that ruthless in real life. Bernard Gui didn’t deserve to die. Bernard Gui is French, damn it! But hey, every movie needs a villain.

Bernard Gui doesn’t like your fancy gadgets!

  • On that note, THE ABBOT SHOULD HAVE DIED. WHY DID THE ABBOT NOT DIE. That is my only criticism about the abbot.
  • One thing that I really, really wish the movie showed was the scene where old man Adso goes back to the burned down abbey and picks up what’s left of the books among the ruins. That part made me cry when I read it. The thought of ancient books like original copies of Aristotle going up in flames and turning into ashes tore me up inside.
  • Okay, I have an issue with whole ending of the movie but I will admit that it made for a good spectacle.
  • The character of Nicholas the glazier was not introduced. I was looking forward to the emerald eyeglasses he made for William. Rose-colored glasses are out and emerald-colored glasses are in!
  • The library looked grander and more organized in my head but the labyrinth made so much more sense in the movie. My mind could not generate its own fictional library labyrinth. I am now sure that I cannot be an architect of labyrinths.

I’m just smiling cause I’m lost.

  • While I’m at the topic of the library, what is up with Berengar??? Why does he look like that??? Why are his nails so long?????

Seriously? Why???

  • JORGE WAS PERFECT! That is my only criticism of Jorge. I criticize everyone else for pronouncing his name as “Yor-geh” and not “Hor-heh”.

For those who have read The Name of the Rose, have you figured out the mystery behind the title? The movie made it seem like the title was about the unnamed peasant girl Adso fell in love with but we all know that’s not true.

Check out Umberto Eco’s website! He’s got one impressive curriculum vitae. You can also download his academic papers! But they’re in Italian. Time to start learning a new language!

Here’s an adorable picture of Salvatore just cause.

Hi!!!!!!!!! (drools)


2 thoughts on “How to kill a monk: Notes on Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose

  1. Pingback: Sunday Scoop | pattyspaperbacks

  2. Pingback: Now (re)Reading: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder | Idealistic and impractical

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