“Emilio Salgari: Dreamer, Writer, And 19th Century Creator Of Can Yaman’s Turkish Sandokan

Emilio Salgari:  Creator of Sandokan 

Emilio Salgari (21 August 1862 – 25 April 1911) was an Italian writer of action adventures colorfully labeled “swashbucklers”. He was also called a pioneer of science fiction and is considered the father of Italian adventure fiction and Italian pop culture, and the “grandfather” of the Spaghetti Western. In Italy, his extensive body of work was more widely read than that of Dante of “Divine Comedy” fame, which is apparently saying something of monumental importance. Today, Emilio Salgari is still among the 40 most translated Italian authors. Many of his most popular novels have been adapted as comics, animated series, television series, and feature films. 

Although I’ve heard this term most of my life, I cannot seem to get past wanting to know a dictionary or encyclopedic definition of the term “swashbuckler”. Given the recent news that none other than Can Yaman, our favorite Turkish actor, has been cast in the lead role of a modern remake of “Sandokan”, the classic “swashbuckler” written by Emilio Salgari, now I really had to know. From Wikipedia, here it is for the edification of one and all:

“A swashbuckler is a genre of adventure literature that focuses on a heroic protagonist stock character skilled in swordplay, acrobatics, guile and chivalrous ideals. Heroic, daring, and idealistic, he rescues damsels in distress, protects the downtrodden, and uses duels to defend his honor, the honor of a lady, or to avenge a comrade. Swashbucklers would often engage in daring and romantic adventures with bravado or flamboyance. Swashbuckler heroes are gentleman adventurers who dress elegantly and flamboyantly in coats, waistcoats, tight breeches, large feathered hats, and high leather boots, and are armed with the thin rapiers used by aristocrats.” 

Knowing that Can Yaman will embody the hero of the swashbuckler adventure story of “Sandokan”? Well, this is almost more than my imagination can visualize or the increase in my blood pressure and corresponding lack of breath can comprehend. One thing is for certain though. The new series being filmed in 2021 will be an experience not to be missed, but more details about this later in this article. 

Biography:  Emilio Salgari was born in Verona, Italy on August 21, 1862 to a family of modest merchants. He died on April 25, 1911; the cause of death was Suicide. He was married to Ida Peruzzi and they had four children.  

From a young age, Salgari had a desire to explore the seas. He studied seamanship at a nautical technical institution in Venice. However, his academic performance was dismal and his marks so poor that he never graduated. His dream to captain his own vessel and explore the world was shattered. So, he turned his passion for exploration and discovery to writing, beginning his career as a reporter on the Italian daily La Nuova Arena where some of his first stories were serialized. Early on, Salgari began signing his tales as “Captain Salgari”. Once he even defended this title in a duel when his claim to it came under question.

As his skill in narration grew, so did his reputation for having lived a life of adventure. He claimed to have explored the Sudan, sailed the Seven Seas, and met Buffalo Bill in Nebraska. Well, he actually met him but it was at Sherman’s “Wild West Show” tour which made a stop in Verona, Italy. His early biographies were filled with adventurous tales set in the Far East which he claimed were the basis for much of his work. Actually, Salgari never ventured farther than the Adriatic Sea.

He wrote more than 200 adventure stories and novels and many are considered classics. Setting his tales in exotic locations with heroes from a wide variety of cultures, he used his powerful imagination to bring the wonders of the world to the doorstep of generations of readers. He gained inspiration from reading foreign literature and newspapers, travel magazines and encyclopedias, which he used to portray his heroes’ worlds. Salgari’s heroes were mostly pirates, outlaws and barbarians, fighting against greed, abuse of power, and corruption.

Soon, Emilio Salgari’s tales were so popular that his publisher soon hired other writers to develop adventure stories under his name and 50 more novels were written. Salgari’s style was imitated by many, but no other Italian adventure writer managed to duplicate his popular success. 

Arguably the best-selling Italian author of all time, Emilio Salgari is virtually unknown to the English-speaking world. Though he was wildly popular and even knighted by the Queen of Italy, Salgari never earned much money from his books and lived hand-to-mouth for most of his life.

sandokan – the tiger of malaysia:  

 

Salgari’s most enduring creation and legendary hero is Sandokan, The Tiger of Malaysia, a prince of Borneo who turned pirate after he was orphaned when the British murdered his family and stole his throne. Sandokan gathered a legion of pirates and took to the sea to take his revenge. They live in the small town known as Mompracem. 

Under the command of Sandokan and his loyal friend Yanez de Gomera, a Portuguese wanderer and adventurer, Sandokan led The Tigers of Mompracem in attacks against the Dutch and British fleets and to fight for the defense of tiny native kingdoms against the colonial powers of the Dutch and British empires. 

 Sandokan’s physical endurance, ability to strategize, and his determination is unrivaled. Despite his impulsive and rash nature, he cleverly allows himself to be guided by his friend, Yanez. Sandokan is a man filled with unbounded courage and even when at his most enraged state, he is still filled with an unusual sense of fair play. 

There are 11 titles in the series, spanning a period of 25 years, from 1849 to 1874.  ROH Press has published Italian and Spanish editions of the entire Sandokan series for Kindle. Eight of the first titles have been translated into English by Nico Lorenzutti and are available on Kindle Cloud and/or on Amazon. 

Although not confirmed by any source I have found, it seems plausible that the first episode of the new 2021 series starring Can Yaman will reflect the storyline of Salgari’s first book in the Sandokan series. Here is a brief synopsis: 

First written around 1883, Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem is the first in the series of adventures of this favorite and most beloved character. The first book in the series introduces readers to the exotic world of Borneo and Malaysia at a time when Europeans held power, rather than the local people who had lived on the islands for centuries. 

This tale captivates the reader and sweeps him/her back in time on a whirlwind ride through storm-swept seas and lush tropical jungles inhabited by dangerous beasts. Salgari convincingly portrays this fearless pirate and his struggles between the world he knows and the love he feels for a woman who is one of the enemy.

“Nico Lorenzutti’s translation of this tale is seamless, and reminds readers of the serial movies once shown at movie theaters. You might go to see the feature film, but you cheer the heroes and sit on the edge of your seat as each new episode reveals another twist to a tale of adventure and thrills. ~ Cindy Vallar.” 

Profile of Sandokan: 

In the 1960’s, a swashbuckler Spaghetti Western called “Morgan the Pirate” was a great hit in the US. So, major studio MGM decided to venture into a co-production to bring Sandokan, Salgari’s most legendary creation, to the American audience. When “Sandokan the Great” hit theaters in 1963, it was popular but did not generate the response hoped for. Sandokan was then modified for American tastes in a sequel called “The Pirates of Malaysia” but America took little notice. Other Sandokan movies were made in the mid-1960’s but failed to impress.

In 1976, a Spaghetti Western director, Sergio Solima, gave Salgari’s characters their greatest cinematic fame. His six-hour Sandokan mini-series starring Indian actor Kabir Bedi rocketed to #1 in countries throughout Europe. Every week, 80 million viewers tuned in to watch. The merchandising was spectacular: books, comic books, soundtracks, action figures, and posters. Sandokan was everywhere across television screens broadcast in Italian, Spanish, French and German.

In the 80’s, science fiction, fantasy, the future and aliens ruled the screens. Though efforts were made to adapt Salgari’s classics to those realities by revamping and updating his titles, his books began to disappear from bookstores. 

Though a few TV movie adaptations of his novels appeared in Italy in the late 80’s and early 90’s, none captured the imagination of the viewing public. Indian actor Kabir Bedi even tried a comeback as Sandokan in two films, “Sandokan Returns” and “The Son of Sandokan”. However, they were mediocre efforts and even the RAI refused to air the second film. (“RAI” is Radio Audizioni Italiane, the national broadcasting company of Italy).  

At libraries and small societies, Salgari’s books were discussed from time to time. However, for the majority of the reading public, Salgari’s time had come to an end. Only a few Sandokan titles remained on the shelves, but most of his work went out of print. Then in the mid-90’s in Spain, something happened. A new Sandokan cartoon caught everyone’s attention. Drawn as the figure of a tiger, Sandokan quickly grew in popularity and was soon exported to France and Germany. Even England began to take an interest in the exploits of the Tiger of Malaysia. 

Not to be outdone, the RAI made its own Sandokan cartoon. Filled with action and adventure, it quickly caught on with kids. A second Sandokan series was followed by a series of the Black Corsair books written by Salgari. The animated stories were popular but Salgari’s books were still not on bookshelves, except for a handful of classics.

In 2001, the Italian publishing house of Fratelli Fabbri Editori published the first new Salgari series in over 25 years. Salgari’s complete works with reproductions of the original illustrations were sold through newspaper stands throughout Italy. The first volume, “The Mystery of the Black Jungle” sold 100,000 copies in its first week. It seemed that Salgari had made a comeback.

The first National Salgari Association was also formed that year. It began hosting national conferences discussing the author’s work. New biographies began to appear as did re-evaluations of his work. Salgari’s resurrection was made complete by one last bit of unexpected help: Pirates of the Caribbean. Johnny Depp made pirates fun and exciting, and publishers scrambled to fill the shelves with new editions of Mr. Salgari’s classic adventures. New modern translations appeared in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Russian, and English. It seemed the world was ready to rediscover an old friend.

In 2011, Emilio Salgari was honored on the centenary of his death with a special stamp from the Italian post office. Two seagulls fly across a portrait of Salgari to symbolise his love of travel, even though he never visited the far-flung places where his novels are set. An old sailing ship is also featured, a symbol of the sea adventures and exotic lands that fill his novels. The 60-cent stamp was issued in Turin on April 23, 100 years from the day in 1911 when the novelist committed suicide in the Piedmont countryside.

Can Yaman and Sandokan 2021: 

— Lux Vide is a leading European television production company headquartered in Rome, Italy. On December 22, 2020, they announced the development of a production inspired by the adventure novels of the 19th century pirate Sandokan written by Italian author Emilio Salgari. The series will star Turkish actor Can Yaman as Sandokan and Luca Argentero as Sandokan’s loyal friend and fellow pirate, Yanez. Principal photography will start in 2021 between the Lux Vide studios in Rome and exotic international locations. It was announced that the first season will consist of eight episodes. The drama will be shot in English, as it is intended for the international market.

Can Yaman talked about his role as Sandokan in an article published on December 22, 2020 in Corriere Della Sera (“Evening Courier”), an Italian daily newspaper published in Milan since 1876. Yaman made various comments: 

“It is a project still under development – the new Tiger of Malaysia – it is like a newborn baby. I am very curious about the work we are going to do. Above all, I am proud and proud to participate in an international production like this. I have heard a lot about the Sandokan who preceded me. At the time I was too young, but I am honored and enthusiastic to collect the testimonial from a great actor like Kabir Bedi.” 

“This time, the acting commitment is very complex. Such a character does not prepare in a few months, but I am determined to make him mine.”

“This is the first time I’ve worked with an Italian production. But I speak Italian well. I know Italy well. I can’t wait to get to the set and get familiar with the whole crew.”

— On December 22, 2020, various sources in the US picked up on the news of Can Yaman starring in the role of Sandokan and articles were posted on the sites of Variety Magazine, Deadline.com., and WorldStockMarket.net. And on Dec. 24, 2020, on hollywood-spy.blogspot.com.  

In a recent issue of Sorrisi Canzoni TV, the oldest and most popular TV publication in Italy, was an interview with Kabir Bedi. He thanks Italy for donating him the character of Sandokan in the past years. His role as this character really launched his career and made Bedi an international star.

Bedi made this comment about Can Yaman in the role: “I always thought that Sandokan had to be re-done with modern special effects. I’m sure that Can Yaman will be a worthy successor. I can’t wait to see him in this new incarnation.” 

The worldwide fandom of Can Yaman (including yours truly) is waiting with great anticipation for our favorite Turkish actor to appear on our screens as the legendary, swashbuckling hero Sandokan. I’ve already read Salgari’s first book in the Sandokan Series, “The Tigers of Mompracem” and it is certainly full of action and adventure. We can rest assured that just as Can Yaman has done with each character he has played, his presentation of the character of Sandokan will be thought about and planned for down to the very smallest detail.

Here are some of the things we might expect to see in Can Yaman as Sandokan. Elegant and colorful clothes in silks, satins and velvets. Leather belts and boots. Jewelry of the gold and diamond variety and yes, perhaps a turban or two. Long hair blowing loose and free in the wind as he stands on the deck of a pirate ship. Leaping and turning in exciting swordplay. Galloping a horse through the beaten paths of the jungles of Borneo and Malaysia. Ah, and bringing the particular magic and charisma into love scenes that only Can Yaman can deliver. These images can sustain our daydreams and fill our nighttime dreaming until we see the real thing sometime in late 2021. 

Written exclusively for Can Yaman International 

by Mary Bloyd, Resident Editor.

Sources for this article: 

Kadir Bedi, The Original Sandokan, Offers Insightful Narration about the Series on his Youtube Channel

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