Jackal (The Day of the Jackal)

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The Jackal
The Day of the Jackal character
The Jackal (Edward Fox) practising with his newly customized sniper rifle.
Created by Frederick Forsyth
Portrayed by Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal)
Bruce Willis (The Jackal)
Nickname(s) Jackal, or Chacal
'The Englishman'
Aliases Alexander James Quentin Duggan
Per Jensen
Marty Schulberg
Andre Martin
Occupation Assassin

The Jackal is a fictional character and the antagonist of the novel The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, which features a storyline centred on an assassin who is contracted by the OAS French terrorist group of the early 1960s, to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. The book was published on 7 June 1971, in the year following Charles de Gaulle's death and became an instant bestseller.[1] In the original 1973 film adaptation, he is portrayed by Edward Fox. A revised version of the character was portrayed by Bruce Willis in the 1997 remake, The Jackal, which had little in common with its original.

Biographical summary[edit]


The Jackal is described as a tall, blonde Englishman in his early thirties. The character's real name is unknown and details of his background are sketchy. Forsyth explains in the novel, "Alexander Duggan who died at the age of two and a half years in 1931... would have been a few months older than the Jackal in July 1963".[2] The character is written as an Englishman living in Mayfair, London.[3] He is described by Frederick Forsyth as six feet tall, with a muscular build and few distinguishing features, one of which are his cold grey eyes. In the novel, it is stated he likes to wear striped shirts.[4] During the course of the novel he changes his hair colour frequently.[5]

Abilities and skill[edit]

The Jackal uses a numbered Swiss bank account to hold the proceeds of his work. He is a careful, sophisticated, meticulous killer who plans every detail of each assassination well in advance. No police force in Europe has ever heard of him, implying that he might change his codename for each of his missions. It is also revealed the Jackal is an acquaintance of a former Congo mercenary called "Louis", whom he met in Katanga. "Louis" acts as a contact who puts the Jackal in touch with a skilled armourer who fabricates the assassin's rifle and a forger who provides false identification papers.

The Jackal speaks fluent French and is so skilled in hand-to-hand combat that he can kill with his bare hands. He is skilled with handguns and a marksman with a rifle. He has managed to remain anonymous except to those select few who recommend him for work. He considers his anonymity his main weapon and prefers to carry out missions alone.[6]

In the novel, the International Police forces hunting him speculate that he may have helped assassinate Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic by shooting the driver of his armoured car, causing it to crash.[7]

Prior to being approached by the OAS, the Jackal's only known confirmed kills are of two German rocket scientists in Egypt, who were helping Nasser build rockets to attack Israel. He performed this task at close range using a small-calibre weapon, a crime that left the Egyptian government baffled. The Jackal was paid by a Zionist millionaire in New York, who considered his money "well spent".[8]

Main novel plot[edit]

At the beginning of the novel, the Jackal plans to continue working as an assassin until he has enough money to retire. The money paid to the Jackal for the Egyptian kill had been enough to keep him in luxury for several years, but the offer of US$500,000 (about US$ 3.7 million in 2012 dollars) from the OAS to kill De Gaulle gives him the opportunity to retire early. Despite his concern over the "security slackness of the OAS", he finds the job too tempting to turn down.

The assassin invents the codename of the Jackal after he is hired by Rodin and his fellow conspirators. The codename seems to stem from the name of the animal, as both the assassin and the animal are predators. When asked for his choice of codename in the novel, the Jackal replies: "Since we have been speaking of hunting, what about the Jackal? Will that do?".[9]

Taking his usual elaborate precautions, the Jackal arranges a false passport to get him into France and forges identity papers to get him close to De Gaulle. He also steals two passports as contingent identities and buys disguises to match. Unfortunately, France's Action Service is able to kidnap and interrogate an OAS bodyguard, one of the few men who is aware of the plot to kill De Gaulle.

Using OAS agent "Valmy" as a cut-out, the Jackal is kept fully informed of the French police's pursuit of him. This, and his constant changes of identity, enable him to stay ahead of the police until Liberation Day, 25 August 1963, when the Jackal tries to shoot De Gaulle with a rifle he had disguised as an aluminium crutch.

However, De Gaulle moves his head at the last moment, causing the Jackal to miss. As the Jackal prepares for a second shot, he is discovered by French police detective Claude Lebel, who shoots him dead. The Jackal is buried two days later in an unmarked grave; only Lebel attends, anonymously. The death certificate identifies him as "an unknown foreign tourist, killed in a car accident".

The 1973 film[edit]

For the 1973 adaptation, some of the Jackal's background details are clarified. The dossier the OAS read from states that the Jackal killed Trujillo and the "fellow in the Congo" (presumably Patrice Lumumba).


  • Unknown: The Jackal's real name is never revealed. Until he chooses his new codename — "Jackal" — he is referred to as "the Englishman". At the end of both the novel and the movie Scotland Yard detectives are still wondering who he was. One apparent inconsistency in the novel is that when his employers try to call him at his London apartment to warn him his cover is blown — and just miss him — there is no indication that the French Intelligence services make note of the London number and thus have a real lead to the Jackal's identity. However, he could have held the Mayfair flat under an assumed name as well, in which case his anonymity is truly airtight.
  • Unknown: The Jackal signs in at the British Museum using his "habitual false identity". In the film version of this scene, all that is seen of this name is "J".
  • Alexander James Quentin "Alex" Duggan: This is the name of a boy who was born in 1929 but died aged two and a half in a car accident. The Jackal obtains Duggan's birth certificate under false pretences and applies for a passport in this name but with his own photograph and details. In the 1973 film the child's name is changed to Paul Oliver Duggan and his death certificate states that he died of diphtheria.
  • Per Jensen: A pastor from Copenhagen who bears a resemblance to the Jackal but is older with iron grey hair and metal-rimmed spectacles. The Jackal steals Pastor Jensen's passport from his London hotel room and adopts the disguise after the French police discover his Duggan identity. In the 1973 film, the character's name is Per Lundqvist and he is a schoolteacher; there is no Marty Schulberg character, so it is as Lundqvist that The Jackal pretends to be gay in order to stay at Jules Bernard's flat.
  • Martin "Marty" Schulberg: A student from Syracuse who bears a resemblance to the Jackal but is younger, with chestnut brown hair and heavy-rimmed executive spectacles. The Jackal steals Schulberg's handgrip containing his passport and adopts the disguise when he realises the police must be onto Jensen. In the book, as Schulberg, the Jackal pretends to be gay to slip past French security.
  • Andre Martin: A fictitious French war veteran from Alsace-Lorraine, Martin is in his late 50s and has only one leg, necessitating walking around with an aluminium crutch. The Jackal becomes Martin — complete with French identity card and mutilé de guerre card courtesy of a Belgian forger — by dyeing his hair grey and cutting it badly, and swallowing a couple of pieces of cordite to make himself sick and affect a pale complexion.
  • Charles Calthrop: Charles Calthrop is the name of a former small-arms salesman who was in the Dominican Republic at the time Rafael Leónidas Trujillo was shot. The SIS later heard a rumor that Calthrop has helped the partisans kill Trujillo by shooting the driver of his armoured car, causing it to crash. In the book, the British police originally think Calthrop is the Jackal's real name, until the real Calthrop shows up at the end, after the Jackal's assassination attempt was thwarted. The authorities were misled by the fact that chacal (i.e., Cha[rles] Cal[throp]) is French for "jackal". When the Jackal learns the French are looking for a Charles Calthrop, he doesn't acknowledge this as his real name. In the movie, however, the OAS mention that the Jackal killed Trujillo, implying that The Jackal may have borrowed Calthrop's identity while in the Caribbean or may just have become mixed up with him.

In any event, it is suggested that the British stumbled across the Jackal's false identity of Duggan by blind luck and that the Jackal may not even have been an Englishman.

The real life Jackal[edit]

  • Real-life terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez was given his nickname, Carlos the Jackal, based on this book. Already dubbed Carlos, when police raided one of his safehouses, they found a copy of The Day of the Jackal (actually it belonged to a friend) and a British journalist decided to dub him Carlos the Jackal. Apparently Sanchez despised the nickname, especially because it implied he was a mercenary like the Jackal rather than a revolutionary, which was how he saw himself.

Film portrayals[edit]

  • The book was quickly adapted into the 1973 movie The Day of the Jackal with Edward Fox in the title role. Though initially a box office failure, it garnered mostly positive reviews and is today widely popular with critics.
  • In the 1997 film remake The Jackal, the Jackal was played by Bruce Willis. In the remake, he is hired by an Azerbaijani mobster to assassinate the First Lady of the United States, and is pursued by the FBI and a former IRA sniper with a vendetta against him. In contrast with the original, this version of the character is portrayed as a sociopath; a supporting character in the film describes him as "ice, no feeling — nothing".



  1. ^ Day of the Jackal Bestseller
  2. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 61.
  3. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 36.
  4. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 129.
  5. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 282, 310.
  6. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 49, 56.
  7. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 259-260.
  8. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 36-37.
  9. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 61.


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