Every day, this site receives several hits from folks who are looking for the quip that Sean Connery’s character attributes to Charlemagne in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky.” In August, I wrote about how strangely untraceable this quotation is—not only in medieval texts, but also in modern storybooks that might have served as its source.
Recently, Merlin DeTardo read my August musings and discovered something neat of his own. Here’s his email, which I quote with his permission:
I just noticed your inquiry into the source of the supposed Charlemagne quote in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. As you note, Jeffrey Boam, author of the screenplay, died in 2000 and the story’s co-author, George Lucas, is unlikely to respond to any inquiry, but—not that I would know how to reach him—I wonder if the story’s other co-author, Menno Meyjes, played a part in that quotation. He also wrote the story and screenplay for Lionheart, a 1987 film that I have not seen, but it has a medieval setting: the children’s crusade (about which I only know what I’ve read on wikipedia).
Also, googling some of the words in the Indiana Jones quotation turned up something vaguely similar in Washington Irving’s Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada, Ch. 22, “Foray of the Moorish Alcaydes, and Battle of Lopera” (p. 102):
“Never let the most wary commander fancy himself secure from discovery, for rocks have eyes, and trees have ears, and the birds of the air have tongues, to betray the most secret enterprise.”
It has a military context, and retains the order “rocks… trees… birds”; on the other hand, it has “air” for “sky”, and takes place many hundreds of years later. Still, maybe it was part of the “leaf mould” on which the Indiana Jones’ authors drew.
Source: [Google books link]
Genuine lead or will-o’-the-wisp? The Irving quotation may or may not be relevant, but I’m grateful to Merlin for bringing it to my attention. I’m posting his observations here for the benefit of “Quid Plura?” readers and countless future Googlers, one of whom may, perhaps, use this information to confirm or debunk the best thing old Charlemagne probably never said.