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'Skyfall' and the Mystery Behind James Bond's Family

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Nov 12, 2012 | 10:38am EST

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Skyfall: James Bond (Daniel Craig)

This article contains major spoilers for the ending of Skyfall.

When you spend your weekdays riding motorcycles across European rooftops, engaging in fisticuffs atop moving trains, downing every glass of liquor you can find, bedding random women without so much as a "So what do you do for a living?", and killing everyone who gets in your way without so much as a quaver, you're probably trying to make up for some longstanding mommy or daddy issues. We've got to imagine that James Bond turned out the way he did in part thanks to a healthy dose of childhood trauma linked to ol' Ma and Pa Bond.

As far as Bond's parents go, all we've ever really had were our own machinations. For the past 50 years, the issues of 007's family and childhood have been skirted by the film franchise, with nary a mention of whomever his parents might be. But if you've already seen the new release of Skyfall (which, if you're reading this spoiler-filed article, you should have!), then you know that some of our questions regarding the lineage of 007 (Daniel Craig) are brought to light in the third act. Hoping to find a secure residence for himself and his beloved boss and mother-figure M (Judi Dench) while awaiting the arrival of the film's villain (Javier Bardem), Bond chooses to retreat to his childhood home — a remote ranch in the foggy hills of Scotland.

There, Bond revisits, and introduces audiences to, the graves of his deceased parents: Andrew Bond and Monique Delacroix Bond, who died when Bond was just a young boy. As the still-living ranch caretaker Kincaide (Albert Finney) reveals, a preadolescent James took hospice in a cavernous tunnel beneath the family's property immediately following his parents' passing, surfacing several days later with the darker, steel demeanor that envelops the Bond we know.

It might well be the first time the movie series has treated its audiences to such substantial information about its super spy's upbringing. But to those who have traveled beyond Eon Production's Bond pictures in their investigations of MI6's golden boy, this scene might serve as more of a callback than a revelation.

The Bond Backstory

In Bond creator Ian Fleming's twelfth (and second to last) book about the secret agent, You Only Live Twice (published in 1964), the author first expanded upon his mainstay character's mysterious background. In this book, Fleming introduced his readers to Andrew Bond (a Scottish representative of an armaments company, educated at Fettes College in his nation's capital of Edinburgh) and the Swiss-born Monique Delacroix Bond. The pair was said by Fleming to have died mountain climbing when James was only 11, which is in keeping with the vague information provided by Finney's character in the conclusive chapter of Skyfall. The same novel introduces a paternal aunt who raised James in England following the death of his mother and father.

Following Fleming's initial foray into the Bond backstory, other media began exploring these elements of 007. In 1973, Fleming's biographer John Pearson wrote the book James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007, which extrapolates upon the character's personal and professional histories. Bond's family members — "authorized" and otherwise — would find life in their own material. Most notably, Bond's nephew, James Bond, Jr.... a relative who, for all intents in purposes, cannot exist.

James Bond JrThe Junior Problem

This character first came to fruition in the 1967 novel The Adventures of James Bond Junior 003½, penned by a still unknown author (using the nom de plume R.D. Mascott). A quarter of a century later, the character was revived in cartoon form for the short-lived series James Bond Jr., which featured the iconic hero's sprightly young nephew grappling with the offspring of Bond nemeses and their respective offspring (i.e., Goldfinger's nefarious daughter Goldie). But to those affixed on the consistency of the Bond universe, there arises a fatal error with James Bond, Jr.

Despite Junior's accreditation as Bond's nephew in both incarnations of the character, Fleming's texts have cited Bond as an only child. If one was impassioned enough to preserve the canon of James Bond, Jr., to seek a loophole in the form of dubbing the aspiring agent a nephew not by blood but by marriage, they'd still be sorely disappointed. Bond has been married once: to the ill-fated Teresa "Tracy" Draco (as featured in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, played by Diana Rigg) a reformed con artist born to criminal kingpin Marc-Ange Draco and an unnamed mother who died when Tracy was young. Like Bond, she was an only child, incapable of herself having any nieces or nephews that she might then transmit, by marriage, to James' claim.

There is truly only one possibility: Tracy's first husband, the duplicitous Count Giulio di Vicenzo. In the interest of keeping James Bond, Jr., a legitimate possibility in the reality of Bond, one could surmise that the boy was a child of one of the Count's siblings — we have no reason to believe that he, unlike his wife and her next husband, was necessarily an only child. Perhaps the child was born during the brief period of time that Tracy (still close with her in-laws despite a failed marriage to Giulio) was married to James prior to her death. And maybe James, too, had warmed his way into the hearts of the considerably less seedy di Vicenzo sibling and spouse, earning a namesake in their son, his nephew-by-marriage-by-marriage. Okay, it's far-fetched, but it's the only way it works.

The point is, even with Fleming's suggestions, with Pearson's followup tome, with the sort of roundabout rationalization you'll find above, and with the ending of Skyfall, James Bond's childhood is moreover a mystery. How the cold, dark man came to be is left largely up to the imaginations of fans... and honestly, that's not a bad thing. Such an iconic figure, who has maintained such a cherished position in the hearts and minds of audiences since the 1960s, deserves a malleable personal history. A tale we can create for him, in the way we deem most suitable for the hero. And, if we can all be a little bit honest, in a way that we deem most suitable for ourselves... after all, who doesn't want to believe that he or she is kind of like James Bond?

[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures; United Artists]

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