Fictional representations of Romani people
Many fictional depictions of the Romani in literature and art present Romanticized narratives of their supposed mystical powers of fortune telling, and their supposed irascible or passionate temper paired with an indomitable love of freedom and a habit of criminality. Critics of how Romani people have been portrayed in popular culture point out similarities to portrayals of Jewish people, with both groups stereotyped negatively as wandering, spreading disease, abducting children, and violating and murdering others. Romani people were portrayed in Victorian and modern British literature as having "sinister occult and criminal tendencies" and as associated with "thievery and cunning,", and in English Renaissance and baroque theatre as incorporating "elements of outlandish charm and elements which depict [them] as the lowest of social outcasts," connected with "magic and charms," and "juggling and cozening." In opera, literature and music, throughout Europe, Romani women have been portrayed as provocative, sexually available, gaudy, exotic and mysterious. Hollywood and European movies, as well as popular music and other forms of pop culture, have promoted similar stereotypes.
Particularly notable representations of Romani people appear in classics like Carmen by Prosper Mérimée and adapted by Georges Bizet, Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Miguel de Cervantes' La Gitanilla. The Romani were also heavily romanticized in the Soviet Union, a classic example being the 1975 Tabor ukhodit v Nebo. A more realistic depiction of contemporary Romani in the Balkans, featuring Romani lay actors speaking in their native dialects, although still playing with established clichés of a Romani penchant for both magic and crime, was presented by Emir Kusturica in his Time of the Gypsies (1988) and Black Cat, White Cat (1998). Another realistic depiction of Romanies in Yugoslavia is I Even Met Happy Gypsies (1967).
- A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare (1596) – Which includes the lines "Sees Helen's beauty in the brow of Egypt", Egypt is used to refer to the Romani people of England. In the context that imagining the face of a lover can make the dark-skinned Gypsy look like Helen of Troy a great beauty.
- As You Like It a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare (1600) – Shakespeare uses the word "dukdame" is a corruption or mishearing of the old Romanichal word dukka me or (I foretell or I tell fortunes).
- Othello by William Shakespeare (1603) – Desdemona's handkerchief a gift to Othello's mother is a gift from a Gypsy "Egyptian charmer" who can almost read the thoughts of people.
- The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1611) – The only human inhabitant of the mythical island the character Caliban is thought to be named after the word Kaliban meaning black or with blackness in the English Romani language. As the first Romani immigrants arrived in England a century before Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, it is thought he may have been influenced by their exotic looks. In this time Romanies in England were targeted for discrimination.
- 1613: Miguel de Cervantes' novel La Gitanilla
- 1631: Ben Jonson's play Bartholomew Fair. A comedy set in London's Bartholomew Fair where a band of Romani entertain a crowd.
- 18th century: William Wordsworth's Vagrant Muse. A young homeless woman is welcomed by a band of Gypsies who take her in and offer her charity and companionship.
- 1722: Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders. Moll's earliest memory is of wandering "among a group of people they call Gypsies or Egyptians" in England.
- 19th century: Guy de Maupassant's short stories. Romani appear in several short stories by the French writer .
- 19th century: John Clare's Vagabond in a Native Place. A selection of poems romanticizing the lives, culture, and wanderings of the English Gypsy people.
- 1815: Jane Austen's Emma. Gypsies make a brief appearance in Emma as children who bait Harriet in a lonely lane. Austen's description of the Gypsies is romanticized.
- 1815: Walter Scott's novel Guy Mannering.
- 1823: Walter Scott's novel Quentin Durward. Called Bohemians.
- 1831: Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- 1841: Charles Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop. Describes the first literary mention of an English Romanichal vardo or wagon.
- 1845: Prosper Mérimée's short story "Carmen", upon which the opera was based.
- 1847: Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is described as looking like and presumed to be one by several characters, although this is never confirmed or denied.
- 1847: Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. English Romanies visit Thornfield Hall as fortune tellers.
- 1853: Matthew Arnold's "The Scholar Gypsy". A poem based on a legend recounted by Joseph Glanvill in The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), on the thoughts and reflections of Gypsies' relationship, belief in, and relationship with God.
- 1856: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's verse novel Aurora Leigh. Marian Erle is Rom.
- 1857: George Borrow's novels Lavengro and The Romany Rye
- 1860: George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss. The protagonist Maggie runs away to Gypsies, but decides she has gone out of her depth. They do not harm her, but the episode darkly prefigures the steps that she will take in adulthood.
- 1862: Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables. The main antagonist, Inspector Javert, is half-Roma.
- 1875: Georges Bizet's opera Carmen.
- 1892: Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
- 1897: Bram Stoker's Dracula. Features a group of Romanies working for the Count.
- 1902: E. Nesbit's Five Children and It. The children run into a band of English Gypsies on the road.
- 1908: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Toad owner of Toad Hall, an impulsive and conceited character, buys a horse-drawn English Gypsy vardo.
- 1911: Saki's short story "Esme" (included in The Chronicles of Clovis). Features a degrading depiction of a Gypsy child that is used to foreground the heartless nature of the English aristocrats.
- 1926: D H Lawrence's The Virgin and the Gypsy. A young Romani hero is a useful antidote to a rigid social class system.
- 1930: Hermann Hesse's novel Narcissus and Goldmund. Features a Romani girl called Lisa.
- 1943-1978: Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine books. A Gypsy family (Reuben, Miranda and Fenella) are friends and allies from the Lone Pine Club's members specially from the tomboy girl and the club's vice captain Petronella Sterling.
- 1940: Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. Featured a Romani named Rafael.
- 1947: The Nancy Drew Mystery Story The Clue in the Old Album. Some of the main characters are Gypsies.
- 1956: Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians. After escaping from Cruella De Vil's country house, the dogs are nearly trapped by an old Gypsy woman who wants to sell them. Her horse helps the dogs escape again.
- 1957: Ian Fleming's James Bond novel From Russia, with Love. Set in a Gypsy encampment in Turkey, features a traditional fight to the death between two Gypsy girls vying for the affection of the same man.
- 1958: Elizabeth Goudge's The White Witch. Features a description of the lifestyle of the Romnichals of the UK during the civil war.
- 1963: Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin comic book The Castafiore Emerald. Features several Romani characters and a few Romani words. This graphic novel is very sympathetic to the Romani characters.
- 1967: Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
- 1971, 1972: Martin Cruz Smith's Gypsy in Amber and Canto for a Gypsy.
- 1972: Rumer Godden's children's book The Diddakoi (also published as Gypsy Girl). Winner of the Whitbread Award. Adapted for television by the BBC as Kizzy.
- 1975: Roald Dahl's children's book Danny, the Champion of the World. A young boy lives with his father in a traditional English vardo, although it is unclear if the protagonist Danny and his father are themselves Romanichal and admire the culture or prefer the lifestyle.
- 1978–present: The Star Wars Expanded Universe books. A race of aliens known as the Ryn possess many stereotypical Gypsy traits, including clan family structures, wanderer natures, reputations as thieves and more.
- 1981, 1988: Robertson Davies's novels The Lyre of Orpheus and The Rebel Angels. Feature major characters who maintain Romani traditions, including the care and repair of musical instruments, in modern Canada.
- 1983: Tim Powers' novel The Anubis Gates. Features a band of Romanies led by Egyptian magicians and utilizes quite a few expressions from the Romani language.
- 1984: Stephen King's novel Thinner. Includes the classic plot device of the Romani curse. It was also made into a movie.
- 1985: Charles de Lint's novel Mulengro. Contemporary fantasy portrayal of the Romani and their cultural myths.
- 1986: Robert Silverberg's Star of Gypsies. A Sci-Fi epic about the King of the Romanies searching out the long lost Romany home star system.
- 1987: Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. The latter half of features the Romani in a hugely positive light, most prominent in Being A Green Mother.
- 1987: John Crowley's Ægypt cycle. Much of the narrative of unfolds from an encounter with a Gypsy fortune-teller, and revolves around the question of why people believe Romanies can tell the future.
- 1987: Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn series. A fantasy fiction novel about the land of men and beings destroyed by what they call the "Great White". This story includes many Gypsies, and how the townspeople are very jealous of their very good living.
- 1988–present: Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series. Features a fictional race of people based loosely on the Romani, even to the extent of using Romani language; most prominent in the Vows and Honor books.
- 1992: Joe Gores's "32 Cadillacs"
- 1995: The Parsley Parcel by Elizabeth Arnold is a children's novel set among Gypsies in the English New Forest and was the basis for a seven-part Gypsy Girl TV series in 2001.
- 1995-2000: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Features a nomadic race called the Gyptians. Gyptians are roughly the equivalent of Gypsies in our universe, with the exception that they use narrowboats in place of caravans. Throughout the books they are portrayed as good and kindly people.
- 1996-2001: Tad Williams' Otherland series of science fiction books. A Romani character and references to Romani appear as nomads who disregard the borders of an advanced virtual reality cyberspace.
- 1999: Bernard Ashley's novel "Johnnie's Blitz" features a Gypsy caravan.
- 1999: Ana Castillo's novel Peel My Love Like an Onion.
- 1999: Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal. A member of a seemingly Romani band of travellers is hired by Inspector Pazzi to pickpocket Hannibal Lecter, in order to lift a fingerprint.
- 1999: Joanne Harris's novel Chocolat (and the 2000 film based on the novel), features a group of French river gypsies.
- 2001: Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series of fantasy novels. Includes the Tsingani, based on the Roma.
- 2001: James Herbert's novel Once. A wiccan called Nell Quick is described as alluring and dressed in the manner of a Gypsy woman. She is noted for her extremely beautiful looks and raven-colored dark hair. The novel never fully explains her origins or if she is connected to the Gypsies.
- 2003: Louise Doughty's novel Fires in the Dark. A boy from a group of nomadic Kalderash Roma, born in a barn in rural Bohemia in 1927, grows up during the Great Depression and the rise of Nazism, is interned in a camp and escapes to take part in the Prague Uprising of May 1945.
- 2005: Isabel Allende's novel Zorro. Features a clan of Romanies who ally themselves with the titular hero in post-Napoleonic Spain.
- 2005: Edith Layton's novel Gypsy Lover. Daffyd, the illegitimate son of a noblewoman and a Gypsy, returns to England from a penal colony in Botany Bay to pardon and clear the name of his adopted father the Earl of Egremont.
- 2006: Louise Doughty's novel Stone Cradle charts one family's path through persecution and tragedy, asking, can the Romany spirit survive in a century that no longer has space for them?
- 2006–present: Rob Thurman's novel series, The Cal Leandros Series. The lead character, and his brother, are both half-Romani on their mother's side.
- 2007: Lisa Kleypas's novel Mine Till Midnight, and its companion Seduce Me At Sunrise. Feature two half-Romani male protagonists.
- 2007: Nikki Poppen's The Romany Heiress. The heir to the Earl of Spelthorne is captivated by the arrival of a beautiful Gypsy shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his deceased parents’ long lost daughter.
- 2007: Colum McCann's novel Zoli. Explores the life of a fictional Slovak Romani artist.
- 2007: Paulo Coelho's novel The Witch of Portobello. The character Athena's biological mother is a Gypsy.
- 2007: In Sally Gardner's novel The Red Necklace, the main character Yann and his companion Têtu are Gypsy along with the antagonist Kalliovski.
- 2007: Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series ("Silent in the Grave," "Silent in the Sanctuary," "Silent on the Moor," "Dark Road to Darjeeling," "Dark Inquiry") feature Nicholas Brisbane as the protagonist. Brisbane is the son of a reprobate Scottish nobleman and a Gypsy woman with the power of sight. Throughout the series, a number of Gypsy characters feature prominently.
- 2007, 2008: Kate Wild's teenage/young adult novels FightGame and FireFight. Thrillers with a science fiction overtone featuring a young Gypsy protagonist called Freedom Smith.
- 2008: James Rollins' novel The Last Oracle. Cmdr. Gray Pierce must stop a rogue group in Russia from using autistic savant Gypsy descendants from being used as weapons.
- 2010: Sonia Meyer's upcoming[when?] novel Dosha.
- 2010: Levi Pinfold children's book The Django (2010).
- 2011: Stef Penney's novel The Invisible Ones. Ray Lovell, a small-time PI of Gypsy descent, is hired to investigate the disappearance, 7 years previously, from a Romani family.
- 2012: "Old Gold", the first in a trilogy of crime novels by Jay Stringer, features half-Romani ex-cop Eoin Miller as protagonist.
- The Cirque du Soleil traveling show "Varekai" takes its name from the Romani language and the characters represented on stage are loosely based on the nomadic way of life associated with the Romani people.
- A part of the film The Red Violin is with the romani from Vienna, Prussia to Oxford, Victorian England.
- The Chilean telenovela Romané features the life of the Romani in the north of Chile.
- Romani characters are frequently depicted in werewolf films, including Maleva the fortuneteller (Maria Ouspenskaya) in The Wolf Man and the Romani clan of female werewolves in Cry of the Werewolf.
- The movie, Children of Men (2006) based on the P.D. James novel of the same name, features a gypsy woman called Marichka in the refugee camp. At one point when she is trying to help the mother and baby escape, Marichka and the woman engage in a tug of war with the baby, recalling the stereotype of gypsies stealing babies.
- Ashes to Ashes Series 2 2009 Episode 2 — A British television police drama series set in the 1980s. A police officer tries to clear her name when she is involved in the accidental death of an English Romanichal. She uncovers a pre-meditated plot to murder him. The episode does include some stereotypical elements as the plot unfolds; namely the plot device of an old Romani clairvoyant and friction between the police and the Romani camp. However these stereotypes are turned on their head as the local doctor who was obsessed with the victims wife is found guilty of poisoning and elements of police corruption. A supporting principal character is revealed to be part Romani.
- In 2002 the WB television series Charmed aired the episode "The Eyes Have It" which depicted Romanies as practicing a magical craft similar to those of modern-day witches. Much like the star witches in the series, Romanies possess supernatural powers and pass down family Books of Shadows.
- On the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Romanies in 19th Century Romania place a curse on the vampire Angelus to punish him for the murder of a little Romani girl, by restoring his human soul (and by extension, his conscience) and forcing him to feel guilt for his crimes. Angel was doomed to misery until he could enjoy a moment of pure happiness.
- The Canterville Ghost (1974) Television dramatization - Based on the (1887) short story by Oscar Wilde. An English gypsy group are suspected of kidapping a girl but are innocent and join in the search.
- The videogame Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King features Romani characters Kalderasha, named after the Kalderash, and his daughter Valentina.
- In The Andy Griffith Show, episode 183 in the sixth season is titled "The Gypsies". A family of Romanies (one of whom is played by Jamie Farr) places a curse on the town of Mayberry.
- In the Star Wars New Jedi Order series of books, the Ryn race are inspired by the Roma.
- In the anime Blood +, it is implied that the character Haji is Roma. However, he was bought from his caravan at a young age and does not identify as such thereafter.
- In Train de Vie, a group of fleeing Jews meet up with a large group of Roma.
- Lark Rise to Candleford, Series 2 Episode 1 — A BBC costume drama. The village is haunted by the spirit of a young English Romany girl who drowned in the local lake.
- Meggan of the Marvel comics superhero team Excalibur was born to a band of Romanies in England. She was expelled when they saw that she was a shapeshifter, and believed her to be a demon.
- In the anime Cowboy Bebop, the character Faye Valentine claims to be one of the Romani people, though this is later dispelled through her own personal flashbacks.
- In the Batman series of comics, the character Richard Grayson (a.k.a. Robin and Nightwing) is shown to be of Romani descent.
- While the canonical origin of the supervillain Doctor Doom has varied over the decades, he is usually of the Romani people, and was driven to his nominally villainous actions as a response to the persecution of his family. As dictator of the fictional nation of Latveria, Doom has taken a special interest in the welfare of Gypsies, as that is his heritage, and often that race is first to be taken care of in a manner similar to Saddam Hussein showering his Tikriti tribe with benefits.
- In the HBO series Carnivàle, the characters of Sophie and her mother Apollonia are said to be Roma.
- In the web comic The Science Table Comic, Alex, one of the recurring characters, is a gypsy and is adorned in what is stated by another character as his "Traditional native garbs."
- In Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock, the sentient anthropomorchi Trash Heap refers to herself as a 'gypsy Trash Heap' when she performs her only act of magic.
- Twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver respectively, of Marvel Comics are of Romani ancestry through their biological mother Magda and raised in the fictional Mount Wundagore. During Marvels Mystic Arcana the Scarlet Witch was one of the prominently featured mystic characters and depicted her Romani childhood and her encounter with other Marvel mystical characters. The Young Avengers Wiccan, Billy Kaplan, and Speed, Tommy Shepherd, are believed to be, and accepted as truth by the characters, the reincarnated souls of the Scarlet Witch and the Visions twins and can be classified as Romanies through their mother.
- In the videogame Psychonauts, a rival gypsy circus curses the main character's family to die in water.
- In the first season of Car 54, Where Are You, Maureen Stapleton plays a Romani matriarch telling fortunes from a storefront in Toody and Muldoon's precinct. Stereotypical jokes abound. She lifts a guy's wallet, the father is a layabout, the children don't go to school, they pack up and move to another storefront in short order, etc.
- An episode of Dennis the Menace featured a group of Romanies who visited Dennis' town, were accused of theft, and almost inveigled police Officer Murphy into marrying one of their women, to whom he had offered bread at dinner.
- 2001 UK Film Gypsy Woman starring Jack Davenport and Neve McIntosh.
- 2007 episode of House, in which House must treat a 16-year-old Romani boy with respiratory distress.
- The Fullmetal Alchemist movie Conqueror of Shamballa features gypsy women in Germany around World War II.
- In the television show Criminal Minds, the fourth season episode "Bloodlines" depicts a family of Romani who kidnap little girls to marry their sons.
- In the anime Kaze to Ki no Uta, Serge Battour is the orphaned son of a viscount and a beautiful Roma woman.
- In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, courtesan NPCs are replaced by Romanies which act as moving hiding spots and can be used to distract guards.
- The Crimson Skies character Nathan Zachary has claimed Romani heritage.
- The character Willa Monday on the TV show The Finder is Romani.
- 2013 series Hemlock Grove features a family of gypsies
|2011||Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows||USA||Dir. : Guy Ritchie. Madam Simza (Sim) Heron - 'a mysterious Gypsy' of the French Romanies or Manouche.|
|2009||Drag Me to Hell||USA||Dir. : Sam Raimi. Horror. An ambitious bank worker incurs the wrath of an elderly Romani woman, who places an ancient curse on her.|
|2009||Freedom||France||A Romani family travels the French roads during the Second World War. They learn that a new law forbids them from being nomadic.|
|2009||The Wolfman||USA||Romani fortune-teller.|
|2008||Khamsa||France||The main character, Marco/Khamsa is half-Romani, half-Algerian. Most of the main characters are his Romani relatives, who live together in a camp in the city.|
|2008||Filth and Wisdom|| UK
|Ukrainian Rom lives in London|
|2008||Stone of Destiny||UK||Scottish nationalists bury the Stone of Scone in a field. They return to find a Romanichal camp, and one barters with the Romany leader for the stone.|
|2006||Transylvania||France||Italian lives with Roma in|
|2006||The Indian and the Nurse||Czech Republic||Romani nurse and non-Rom in love.|
|2005||Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa||Japan||Romani character Noa is pursued by Nazis.|
|2003||Japigia Gagi Roma Stories||Italy||documentary by Giovanni Princigalli who lived one year in an illegal camp of Roms of Romania emigrated in Italy|
|Max becomes friends with Swing, a boyish romani girl, who shows him the nature and takes him to exuberant mucic evenings.|
|Two Romany families locked in an age-old struggle for power.|
|2000||The Man Who Cried|| UK
|Johnny Depp portrays Rom in France.|
|2000||Gitano||Spain||Romani central characters.|
|1998||Black Cat, White Cat||Serbia||Romani central characters.|
|1998||The Red Violin||Canada||The Romani takes the red violin across Europe from Vienna to Oxford over a century.|
|1997||Gadjo dilo||France||French lives with Romanies in Romania.|
|1996||Thinner||USA||Man cursed by Romanies after killing one.|
|1996||The Hunchback of Notre Dame||USA||Romani woman Esma helps the Hunchback|
|1995||Haunted||UK||Starring Aidan Quinn and Kate Beckinsale, an old Romanichal fortune reads the palms of two characters.|
|1993||Latcho Drom||France||The journey of the Romani people told through musicians and dancers of India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungry, Slovakia, France and Spain.|
|1988||Time of the Gypsies||Yugoslavia||Telekinetic Romani in realistic community at home, and in Italy.|
|1988||The Raggedy Rawney||UK||Starring Dexter Fletcher and Zoë Wanamaker, about a young soldier who falls in with a gypsy camp.|
|1983||Angelo My Love||USA||All-Romani cast; dir.: Robert Duvall.|
|1983||Les princes||France||Romanies who decided to settle down in the Paris suburbs.|
|1982||Corre, gitano||Spain||Romanies from Granada and Seville.|
|1979||Tsigan||Soviet Union||Romani's child was adopted by a Russian woman; after 17 years, a single old Romani-man appears in the village and gains respect and love of the boy, disturbing the piece in the family (Цыган).|
|1978||King of the Gypsies||USA||Gypsies in New York City come into conflict with modernity as they use ancient traditions to select their new king. Starring: Judd Hirsch, Eric Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Brooke Shields.|
|1976||Rosy Dreams|| Czechoslovakia
|Romani and non-Romani lovers, societies.|
|1975||Tabor ukhodit v Nebo||Soviet Union||Free-spirited Gypsy central characters; US title: Queen of the Gypsies.|
|1967||I Even Met Happy Gypsies||Yugoslavia||Realistic Romani central characters.|
|1966||Sky West and Crooked||UK||Inspired by the novel The Gypsy and the Gentleman by D. H. Lawrence. A young girl played by Hayley Mills finds happiness and friendship with a young English Romany played by Ian McShane.|
|1965||Pearls of the Deep||Czechoslovakia||5 shorts − last: 24-min. Romance with Romani female lead; dir.: Jaromil Jireš.|
|1965||Sheriff Behind Bars|| Czechoslovakia
|Among prisoners is a Rom.|
|1963||From Russia with Love||UK||007 in Gypsy camp in Turkey.|
|1963||Let Him Who Is without Sin...|| Czechoslovakia
|Romani soldier copes with love, hate.|
|1947||Golden Earrings||USA||Marlene Dietrich is Hungarian Gypsy in Germany, other Romani characters.|
|1946||Caravan||USA||American marries Gypsy in Spain.|
|1944||Cry of the Werewolf||USA||Romani werewolves.|
|1943||For Whom the Bell Tolls||USA||Romani character Rafael in Spain.|
|1941||The Wolf Man||USA||Romani fortune-teller.|
|1938||Gypsy Love||Czechoslovakia||Love and jealousy in Gypsy camp.|
|1922||Gypsy Love||Austria||Dir.: Thomas E. Walsh.|
|1921||Gypsies||Czechoslovakia||Count's son brought up by Romanies.|
|Romani woman helps capture hero.|
|1918||Carmen||German Empire||Pola Negri is Carmen; dir.: E. Lubitsch.|
|1915||Carmen||USA||Dir.: Cecil B. DeMille.|
|1908||Drama in a Gypsy Camp||Russian Empire||2-minute scripted story.|
|1897||A Camp of Zingari Gypsies||UK||1-min. document, Romanies in Hungry.|
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