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Hakeswill’s Enemy May 22, 2013

Posted by Me in Hakeswill's Enemy, Obadiah Hakeswill, Sharpe Series.
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Ever since becoming a fan of the Sharpe novels and films, I’ve wondered about how the enmity began between Sharpe and Hakeswill.  Starting with Sharpe’s Tiger, which is the first Sharpe novel I read, Bernard Cornwell makes it abundantly clear why Richard Sharpe hates Obadiah Hakeswill.

But Cornwell never explained how Obadiah came to have a personal hatred for Sharpe and why he singled him out for more intensive harassment than he gave to other men under his command.  Those who take his character at face value, might simply shrug their shoulders and say that Obadiah doesn’t need a reason; that he’s simply “mad”.

However, that’s too simple of an explanation for me.  Why Sharpe?  Obadiah is more cunning than “mad”, despite having some  issues from his bad childhood and from being hanged as a 12 year old — that would seriously mess up anyone.  I figured there had to be some reason for it  and that this reason likely went all the way back to Sharpe’s first years in the army, because the hatred seemed long-standing and well-developed by the time of Sharpe’s Tiger.

Considering that Bernard Cornwell has yet to write a novel about Sharpe’s first years in the army that includes when he first met Obadiah Hakeswill, I decided to write a story to explore this idea myself, which I’ve entitled Hakeswill’s Enemy.

As I began to write this story, I rejected the idea of Hakeswill immediately hating him on first sight — something had to have  happened between them to cause Obadiah to single him out.

But what?  Because most disputes in this world boil down to money, power, or sex, or a combination of the three, I considered these motivations first.

I rejected power right off the bat, as Sharpe was only a teenager when he first joined the army and would have been no threat to whatever influence Hakeswill might have built up by that time.

A dispute over money was a distinct possibility, considering that both Sharpe and Hakeswill were talented thieves, but I rejected that, too, as it wasn’t quite personal enough to explain Hakeswill’s single-minded hatred of Richard Sharpe.

That left sex.  Or, to be more specific, one woman in particular.  This fit both men perfectly, for various reasons.

For Sharpe, the novels firmly establish that he has a weakness for women.    He hadn’t always been a perfect gentlemen with them and had a reputation of being a love ’em and leave ’em kind of a guy.   And the film Sharpe couldn’t remain faithful even to Teresa, a woman he deeply loved.

Several times, Sharpe underestimated women, to his own detriment.  And as he hadn’t always behaved as a gentleman with women, he also did not play fair when other men shared an interest in the same woman.  Consider how he lost his friendship with Frederickson over Lucille and remember how Frederickson resented how it was always Sharpe who got the woman and couldn’t understand why Sharpe couldn’t leave a few for other men for once.   Just imagine how Obadiah would react in a similar situation!

For Obadiah, Cornwell repeatedly mentioned that no one had ever loved or cared for him, except for his mother, implying that some of the anti-social behavior this friendless and unloved man engaged in had its roots in this fundamental lack in his life.  Though coming from a similar background  as did Sharpe — though Sharpe never had to experience a botched hanging — Obadiah didn’t have the benefits of a handsome face and a charming personality to help him win the heart of a woman, let alone to make friends and mentors in the army who would help him to advance.  Just as Frederickson resented Sharpe’s facile ease with women, in my story Obadiah did so as well, though in a greatly intensified fashion because of his age and lack of maturity as well as the other issues I mentioned above.

When the story begins, Richard Sharpe is not quite sixteen and the events that trigger Obadiah’s hatred happen when Sharpe is eighteen.  Because Sharpe is not all that long removed from his upbringing, his behavior is less than gentlemanly.   But it is more thoughtless, immature behavior, than it is purposely malicious.

Obadiah is twenty-three when the story begins and twenty-five when the pivotal incident occurs.  Because he is so young, life has yet to completely shape him into the bastard he will become later in the books, though he’s well on his way to it during my story.  Yet, he still retains a touch of the innocence of youth,  in that he still hopes to find a woman to marry and raise a family with, like any other man.  His hopes have yet to be completely crushed.  Indeed, even in India years later, in Sharpe’s Fortress, Obadiah still naively thinks that the woman, “Brick”, will want to marry him.

So, from Obadiah’s point view in which I mostly write this story, the pivotal event is yet another loss for him and another kick in the teeth, which serves to contribute to the man he was later to become, as well as creating and cementing his hatred of Richard Sharpe.

Hakeswill’s Enemy is now available to read in its entirety on FanFiction Net.