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Author Topic: Rules for a Knight: The Last Letter of Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke  (Read 2398 times)

Jon Blair

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I recently picked up a small book at Booksamillion entitled Rules for a Knight. Written by Ethan Hawke, the four-time Academy Award nominated actor and author, the book is purported to be a translation and reconstruction of a letter and rubric written in July of 1483 by a certain Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke. Sir Thomas is supposedly a knight of Cornwall during the reign of Richard III Plantagenet, whom the author claims to have as an ancestor, and that the letter was discovered amongst Ethan Hawke's great-grandmother's belongings after her death.

The letter amounts to advice written by a father to his four children, whom he believes he will not see again due to the battle he is to fight the next day against the forces of the "Thane of Cawdor". The letter is divided into 21 sections (not really long enough to be called chapters), consisting of a prologue and twenty "rules" of knighthood, each rule with an anecdote and accompanying advice. Some are lessons learned while Sir Thomas was a squire under his maternal grandfather, while others are after his accolade on the battlefield. Each of the rules have an illustration by Ethan Hawke's wife Ryan. The rules are solitude, humility, gratitude, pride, cooperation, friendship, forgiveness, honesty, courage, grace, patience, justice, generosity, discipline, dedication, speech, faith, equality, love, and death. The grandfather, who remains unnamed, is full of pithy and humorous sayings. The book also has a poem, The Ballad of the Forty-Four Pointed Red Deer, a homily about a stag, whom after being spared by the king, is prepared to sacrifice his life for a doe with an unborn fawn. The royalties for the book are being donated by Ethan and Ryan Hawke to organizations helping children overcome learning disabilities, although these organizations are not named.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. At 169 pages, the book is a fun, short read. Normally, I'm not a big fan of epistolary style writings, but this book is not dull (well, except for maybe the poem). There is little time for character exposition which, given the familiar nature of the story, is unnecessary. There are anachronisms, such as the serving of tea (not introduced until the sixteenth century in Europe) or the ideals of equality, not only between social classes, but the sexes as well. While some of the rules would have pertained to knighthood, the anecdotes themselves are not much more than modern philosophical ideas shellacked with medieval trappings.

The book is published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2010, and is available in hardcover ISBN 978-0-307-96233-1.
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Thorsteinn

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Thanks for the review.  :)
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Sir_Edward_ReBrook

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I absolutely loved it, especially the audio version.  I loved it so much that I bought five copies for several of my closest friends. It also  made me appreciate Ethan Hawke much more than I did.
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Sir Rodney

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Thank you for the review Jon.  Another book to add to my wish list, let's see if I've been nice this year...   ;)
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Joshua Santana

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Interesting review. 
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Sir William

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Looking to see if I can add it to my Kindle now.
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Joshua Santana

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I actually plan on ordering it so as to read and see if it does follow with anything like Geoffri de Charney, Ramon Lull or Christine de Pizan. Personally I expect to find nothing of value in it, but it is worth a try.
Knight of The Lion Blade

Honora gladium meum, veritas mea, et Spirítui Sancto.  כדי לכבד המגן שלי, האמת שלי חרבי

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Sir William

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Personally I expect to find nothing of value in it, but it is worth a try.

A glass half empty sort of knight, eh?  Could be true; I always find it interesting when someone can trace their family tree back more than a few generations- back to a Plantagenet though?  That's pretty cool. Who here wouldn't like to find out they're a descendant of The Marshal?  :)
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jason77

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Based on this review I ordered this book on Amazon and received it on Sunday. I've read the first 3 short chapters so far and I quite enjoy this book. The origin of the book is quite contradictory and the writing style definitely does not lend itself to being of antiquity. Ethan Hawke apparently has been fascinated by knighthood and chivalry and this book is an outgrowth of the rules he wrote for his own children. I like this a lot as its a similar to my own emphasis with my children. I teach my children chivalry and knightly arts - cub scouts, wrestling, HEMA and I read books to them, like this one. The chapters in this book are short which allows me to read each one and to then encourage discussion and explanation with the kids. I have found this book to be proverbial in nature and in a more secular venue which is quite enjoyable. If someone acquires this book for a scholarly view of knighthood or chivalry they will be disappointed. This is a modern compendium of quaint proverbs and short fictional stories.
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Sir Martyn

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Nice find, thank you.
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