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 customised sniper rifle.
Created byFrederick Forsyth
Portrayed byEdward Fox (The Day of the Jackal)
Bruce Willis (The Jackal)
  • Alexander James Quentin Duggan
    *Per Jensen
    *Marty Schulberg
    *Andre Martin
NicknameJackal, or Chacal
'The Englishman'

The Jackal is a fictional character, the villain of the novel The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. He is 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 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, having a divergent storyline and set in the U.S., with the First Lady as target of the assassination.

Biographical summary[edit]

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 to assassinate an Egyptian target had been enough to keep him in luxury for several years, but the offer of US$500,000 (about US$4 million in 2017 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 the OAS conspirators. 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?".[2]

Taking his usual elaborate precautions, the Jackal arranges a false passport to get him into France and forges identity documents to get him close to de Gaulle. He also steals two passports as contingent identities and purchases disguises to match. Unfortunately, France's Action Service is able to capture and interrogate Rodin's personal bodyguard, one of the few men who is broadly aware of a plot, if not the actual details.

Using OAS agent "Valmy" as a cut-out, the Jackal is kept fully informed of the French police's pursuit of him. On two occasions when the police get too close, he hides out with a wealthy woman he has seduced and a gay man he meets in a bar, respectively. He kills both of them after they outlive their usefulness.

Finally, on Liberation Day, 25 August 1963, the Jackal tries to shoot de Gaulle with a rifle he had hidden inside a stainless steel crutch. However, the French president unexpectedly 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 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".[3] The character is written as an Englishman living in Mayfair, London.[4] He is described by 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.[5] During the course of the novel he changes his hair colour frequently.[6]

Abilities and skills[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.[7]

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.[8]

Before he is 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".[9]


The Jackal's true name is never discovered by the authorities or revealed to the reader. He uses the following identities in the course of the novel:

  • 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.
  • Per Jensen: A pastor from Copenhagen who bears a resemblance to the Jackal but is older with iron grey hair and gold-rimmed spectacles. The Jackal steals Pastor Jensen's passport from his London hotel room and adopts the disguise after his cover as Duggan is accidentally blown by both the French police and a woman he seduces and hides out with.
  • Martin "Marty" Schulberg: A student from Syracuse University 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 on to Jensen, enhancing his cover to avoid them by posing as a flamboyant homosexual.
  • André Martin: A fictitious French war veteran from Alsace-Lorraine, Martin is in his 50s and has only one leg, necessitating walking around with an aluminium crutch. The Jackal becomes Martin — complete with French identity card and war wounded card courtesy of a Belgian forger — by dyeing his hair grey and cutting it badly, swallowing a couple of pieces of cordite to make himself sick and affect a pale complexion, and folding his leg back and binding it with a webbing strap to mimic an amputated leg.
  • 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 rumour 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 other media[edit]

In the 1973 adaptation of the novel, the Jackal is portrayed by Edward Fox. 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 Dag Hammarskjöld or Patrice Lumumba).

"Carlos The Jackal"[edit]

Real-life terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, already known under the code name "Carlos", was further nicknamed "The Jackal" after a copy of The Day of the Jackal belonging to a friend was found in his hiding place.[10]



  1. ^ Cumming, Charles (3 June 2011). "The Day of the Jackal – the hit we nearly missed". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  2. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 61.
  3. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 61.
  4. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 36.
  5. ^ Forsyth 1971, p. 129.
  6. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 282, 310.
  7. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 49, 56.
  8. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 259-260.
  9. ^ Forsyth 1971, pp. 36-37.
  10. ^ Rose, Steve (October 23, 2010). "Carlos director Olivier Assayas on the terrorist who became a pop culture icon". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved May 12, 2011.


External links[edit]