“My story’s infinite, like the Longines Symphonette…”

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.

2 thoughts on ““My story’s infinite, like the Longines Symphonette…”

  1. Jeff,

    Brace yourself.

    Your blog is probably going to have a lot more traffic on this subject than you might otherwise expect. That is because Hollywood has Once Again decided that there can be no successful franchise left alone for too long.

    That’s right. There is a fourth Indiana Jones movie being made and it is due out in theaters May 22nd. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. See http://www.indianajones.com

    I was unaware of this forthcoming movie until my son received his latest Lego catalog. There are several action sets featuring Harrison Ford’s likeness transferred onto a minifig with a whip and safari hat.



    We had to rent Raiders of the Lost Ark this week because of the catalog creating a demand to see the movie.

    That means there will soon be a new generation introduced to the swashbuckling archaeologist who will be watching the earlier movies in anticipation of the newest installment. I expect you will see a surge in the number of people using “The Google” to search out the origins of that mysterious Charlemagne quote.

    The biggest question for me is how much swashbuckling we can reasonably expect from Harrison Ford who is now at the ripe old age of 65. Unless of course due to maturity and a limit on his full range of mobility he has begun to follow more traditional and realistic methods of archaeological research by merely sifting through digs looking for bones, pottery shards, and analyze coprolites.

    Then again, this is a Spielberg/Lucas film with Shia LaBoeuf (the kid from Transformers). Maybe LaBoeuf is now going to be the one to have to ride under a truck or get thrown into a temple full of snakes.

    Regardless of whether the movie is a success or tanks, get ready for more interest in that shady quote.




  2. The Last Crusade script had a page-one dialogue rewrite by Tom Stoppard, I believe, so anyone wishing to chase this further may find it useful to contact him.

    Good luck, fellow seekers of the truth!


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