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What's in a (James Bond) Name?

By Kristin Wood. Mar 3, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond, Movie Tie-Ins

Imagine skimming through a new novel at the bookstore, when suddenly your name jumps unexpectedly off the page. With a little more digging, you realize that the character carrying your identity is not saving the day or getting the girl. He’s not even a plucky sidekick – he’s the villain.

Fleming_Man_Golden_GunWhile many authors admit to using real-life people as inspiration for their fictional creations, Ian Fleming, the author the James Bond series, did so in a not-so-subtle fashion. Scaramanga isn't a very common name, but it does not exclusively appear in the pages of The Man with the Golden Gun.  In this James Bond novel, the primary antagonist is Francisco “Pistols” Scaramanga, a character that likely borrowed his legendary surname from George Ambrose Scaramanga, a peer of Fleming’s at Elton College.

Fleming vs. Scaramanga

What’s unclear is Fleming’s motivation for using this name in his writing. According to the real Scaramanga's grandson, the George Ambrose Scaramanga never had a villainous reputation. He was mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and serious about his studies. His grandson further speculates that, if a rivalry did exist between the two men, it was because Fleming was a known troublemaker at school who may have resented those who were more inclined to respect the rules.

The Perfect Name

Some James Bond readers point out that Scaramanga is an ideal name for a villain, and this may be the one and only reason Fleming swiped it from his classmate.  Either way, George Ambrose Scaramanga was scaramanga-bondnot bitter about his connection with Francisco. Although his grandson does believe a rivalry existed during their college years, he also admits that when asked about the name, Scaramanga would tell people that he enjoyed having a Bond villain named after him.

Francisco vs. George

Still, even with his villainous tendencies set aside, Francisco Scaramanga is not complimentary character. He is portrayed as an outcast who spent his childhood traveling with a circus. Even within the community of circus “freaks,” he is unable to form human connections. He claims that his only friend is the elephant he cared for.  His life of violence begins when the elephant is killed during a rampage. Scaramanga avenges his lost companion by murdering the police officer who fired the elephant’s fatal gunshot. From here, Scaramanga becomes involved in the mafia and the KGB.

In contrast, George Ambrose Scaramanga was known for his gentlemanly behavior and good manners. He did not show signs of social deviance. He had friends, a supportive family, and strong morals. He served his country during World War II and was awarded the Military Cross. At the end of his life, he was a country vicar.

More Bond Villains, More Familiar Names

Scaramanga was not the only James Bond antagonist Fleming found real-life inspiration for. Auric Goldfinger was named after a well-known Marxist, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld may have been named after another student who attended Eton College with Fleming. While it remains unclear how deeply Fleming believed his characters connected to their flesh-and-blood counterparts, it is difficult to deny the pattern of names found outside his novels.


More About Ian Fleming


Kristin Wood
Lover of words, from the shortest tweets to the longest works of literature. She spends her days adventuring into the wilds of social media, working on her MFA, and adding an endless stream of books to her “to-read” list.


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