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1001 Stories Collection

The Scarlet Pimpernel

1001 The Scarlet Pimpernel
Added on 15th August 2020

Author Baroness Orczy
First published 1905
Publisher Greening and Co, London, UK

They seek him here, they seek him there - but who is the Scarlet Pimpernel?


Amidst the terrors of the French Revolution the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel snatches French aristocrats from under the noses of their executioners. When Marguerite Blackeney, the French wife of a foppish English aristocrat faces the chance to rescue her brother from execution at the price of betraying the Scarlet Pimpernel, what will she choose?

Why we chose it

The Scarlet Pimpernel was the first literary hero with a secret identity, a character who pretended to be foolish to hide his brave deeds, who risked his life to save others expecting no reward for himself. He has been hugely influential in twentieth century fiction, inspiring similar heroes in books, comics, films and television series.

Where it came from

Baroness Emma Orczy was born in Hungary in 1865 but her family fled the country, finally settling in London when she was fifteen. She went to art school and worked as an illustrator and translator before imagining the character of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The novel was at first rejected by a number of publishers. It was adapted as a stage play which critics reviewed harshly but the public loved. It went on to break box office records and was finally published as a novel in 1905.

Where it went next

There have been numerous film, stage, television, and radio productions and the story inspired storylines for characters as different as Doctor Who, Daffy Duck and Blackadder. The device of a hero with a secret identity has since been used by other superheroes like Zorro, Batman and Superman. It has also been said to have inspired acts of real life heroism, like those Raoul Wallenberg who rescued tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi concentration camps.

Associated stories

Orczy wrote The Illusive Pimpernel and The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel as full length sequels to her first novel as well as two series of short stories.

Added on 15th August 2020

Author Baroness Orczy
First published 1905
Publisher Greening and Co, London, UK