The Persian

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The Persian is a major character from the Gaston Leroux novel The Phantom of the Opera. In the book he is the one who tells most of the background of Erik's history. He is referred to by Erik as the "daroga" (داروغه, Persian for "police-chief") and his memoirs are featured in five chapters of the novel.

He appears in the Susan Kay fan novel Phantom as a major character named Nadir. In the 1925 silent film The Phantom Of The Opera, his character was changed into a secret French policeman named Ledoux that had been studying Erik as the Phantom for months. He still helps and accompanies Raoul to rescue Christine. In the musical, he does not appear although aspects of his character are merged with Madame Giry's. For instance, Madame Giry shows Raoul where Erik lives, however, unlike the Persian, she does not accompany him to Erik's lair.

According to his account of himself in the novel, the Persian served as the chief of police (daroga) in the court of the Shah of Persia during the years that Erik was there. He refers to these times as "the rosy hours of Mazenderan". Being kindhearted, he helped Erik escape from Persia when the Shah-in-Shah ordered him executed, a trick that involved presenting a body washed up on the shore as Erik's. When news of the escape spread, the Shah-in-Shah punished the Persian by stripping him of his property and sending him into exile.

The Persian later traveled to Paris and took up living in a small, middle-class flat in the rue de Rivoli, across the street from the Tuileries, on the modest pension he received from the Persian government. He became known as a fixture of the Opera, considered an eccentric Persian who was allowed to wander backstage where he pleased. Research into Leroux's sources has revealed that Leroux based this description upon a real-life Persian who frequented the Paris Opera in the nineteenth century, whose home was in the rue de Rivoli and who was an mysterious exiled prince living on a pension from the British government.[1]

The character has a Persian servant whose name is Darius.

He is described in the novel as having an "ebony skin, with eyes of jade", and he wears a short astrakhan cap along with normal dress clothes. Gaston Leroux writes that he has "a noble and generous heart" and is very concerned for the fate of others.

Role in the Plot[edit]

The Persian first appears during Christine and Raoul's mad flight from the rooftops and warns them to go a different way. He next makes himself known after Christine's disappearance when he suddenly appears to Raoul and warns him, "Erik's secrets concern no one but himself!" Raoul ignores this warning by telling the commissary the whole story, but the Persian intercepts him and tells him that it is Erik, not Raoul's brother Philippe, who has carried off Christine. He leads Raoul through the passages of the Opera House to Christine's dressing room, where they go through the revolving door hidden in Christine's mirror and travel down through the passages under the Opera. Raoul is very confused as to the purpose of the long pistol the Persian has given him, as he is only instructed to keep his hand as if he were ready to fire - and that it does not even matter whether he is holding the weapon. The Persian eventually reveals that keeping the hand at the level of the eyes is a defense against the Punjab lasso. No matter how expert the thrower is, the lasso cannot be tightened around a neck with a hand blocking its path.

When they finally reach the back entrance to Erik's house, where Joseph Buquet was found hanged, they drop into what turns out to be Erik's torture-chamber. This chamber contains heat-reflecting mirrors that reach from floor to ceiling, with an iron tree in a corner, making its occupant feel like he or she is in an unending forest of trees made of iron. (Buquet had stumbled into this room and used a Punjab lasso hanging from a tree branch to commit suicide.)

The Persian finds a hidden exit that allows him and Raoul to drop into a still-lower room filled with gunpowder; unless Christine agrees to marry Erik, he will blow up the Opera House. She accepts this offer and water floods into the powder room, nearly drowning Raoul and the Persian.

The novel concludes some 30 years after these events, with the Persian - now old and sick, and still attended by Darius - telling how he and Raoul were saved from the flood by Erik, who allowed all three captives to go free.

Apocrypha[edit]

In Susan Kay's 1990 novel Phantom, the Persian's name is given as Nadir Khan. Distantly related to the Shah, he is assigned the office of chief of police in Mazenderan, where the shah and his court spend the summers. He is a widower, his wife Rookheeya having died while giving birth to their son Reza. Out of love for the memory of Rookheeya, Nadir has never had any other wife and occasionally avails himself of servant women rather than get remarried. He is very fond of Reza, who bears a great resemblance to his mother and is dying of Tay-Sachs Disease. Nadir has a great dislike of cats, and they seem to know it. Unfortunately, the shah owns a number of favorite cats and Nadir considers himself lucky to get off with imperial displeasure and a deep scratch on the ankle when he accidentally steps on a cat's tail. In an earlier adapted novel by Theadora Bruns his name is Oded.

In Nicholas Meyer's novel The Canary Trainer, the role of the Persian is largely taken by an incognito Sherlock Holmes.

Kim Newman's short stories "Angels of Music" and "The Mark of Kane" from the Tales of the Shadowmen anthology series are a parody of Charlie's Angels. In the stories, Erik is the equivalent of Charlie and the Persian takes the role of Bosley.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shah, Raj. "No Ordinary Skeleton: Unmasking the Secret Source of Gaston Leroux's Le Fantôme de l'Opéra", Forum for Modern Language Studies 50:1 (2014), 16-29 (17-18).