The Book is a Weapon (11)

December 15, 2009


Scene from The 39 Steps (d. Hitchcock: 1935), in which Sheriff Watson (Frank Cellier) inspects a Church Hymnary that has stopped a bullet intended for Richard Hannay (Robert Donat).

SHERIFF: [laughing]

HANNAY: Cigarette cases, yes. But I’ve never seen it happen to a hymn book before, except on [sic] the movies.

SHERIFF: And this bullet stuck among the hymns, eh? Well, I’m not surprised, Mr. Hannay! Some of those hymns are terrible hard to get through. I’ve stuck at ’em meself before now. Eh? [laughing]

HANNAY: I’m not complaining, Sheriff. “Hymns That Have Helped Me.”

SHERIFF: [laughing] Yes, that’s a good one, Mr. Hannay! That’s fine!



Eleventh in an occasional series.



What do you think?

  1. When Oliver Cromwell entered upon the command of the Parliament’s army against Charles I, he ordered all the soldiers to carry a Bible in their pockets (the same which is now called Field’s). Among the rest there was a wild, wicked young fellow, who ran away from his apprenticeship in London for the sake of plunder and dissipation. This fellow was obliged to be in the fashion. Being one day ordered out upon a skirmishing party, or to attack some fortress, he returned to his quarters in the evening without hurt. When he was going to bed, pulling the Bible out of his pocket, he observed a hole in it. His curiosity led him to trace the depth of this hole into his Bible; he found a bullet was gone as far as the 11th chapter of Ecclesiastes, 9th verse. He read the verse. “Rejoice, 0 young man in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know those that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” The words were set home upon his heart by the Divine Spirit, so that he became a very serious and sound believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and lived in London many years after the civil wars were over. He used pleasantly to observe, to Dr. Evans, author of the “Christian Temper,” that the Bible was the means of saving his soul and body too. —Charles Buck, Anecdotes Religious, Moral, and Entertaining, 1841.

  2. It saved him – from having fun! You always have to read the fine print in those supernatural contracts . . . or in this case, the bullet points . . .

  3. It’s a rich meme, the bullet-stopping Bible. Thanks to Google Books for this early example, but I’m going to see if I can hunt up any earlier… Peggy: bullet points ftw; these are the originals!

  4. I guess Mythbusters tried shooting a 400-page hardcover book with various guns — I should rent that episode. Apparently they concluded that a .22 bullet might be stopped, but that’s it.

Comments are closed.