The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

by Franz Werfel

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 544

Gabriel Bagradian

Gabriel Bagradian, a loyal Armenian, although he is an officer in the Ottoman reserves. Married to a Frenchwoman and long a resident of Paris, he has returned to his native village, Yoghonoluk, in order to settle some business affairs managed by his older brother Avetis, who has just died. Gabriel has never been able to forget his Armenian home and ancestry. The mountain, Musa Dagh, is as dear to him as if it were a relative. War is imminent, and the Turkish plan is to exile all the Armenians of the district. After Gabriel assumes leadership of the community, the Armenians vote to defend Musa Dagh and take their position on that natural fortress. Their bravery is unmatched, but they have little food and insufficient ammunition for a siege. After forty days, the last attack is planned by Gabriel, and they have set fire to the mountainside. Three days of starvation have weakened the people, and they fly a flag of distress, which the French boat in the harbor sees. Immediately, it fires a protective barrage, which stops the Turks from their planned advance. After the survivors have been placed aboard the French ship, Gabriel climbs the mountain for one last farewell beside his son’s grave. A Turkish sniper shoots him, and he falls across the grave of his son; the last of the Bagradians lies on the bosom of Musa Dagh.


Juliette, Gabriel’s French wife. A woman with strong love for her own country, she finds her husband’s patriotism difficult to share. However, she falls in love with the country home in Yoghonoluk, and she enjoys its gardens and the refurbishing of the house. She also makes smart costumes for the servants, who enjoy her devoted care of the home. As Gabriel is drawn into political problems and has less time for his family, Juliette allows herself to respond to the charms of an adventurer. After the terrors of the defense of Musa Dagh, and after she is consumed by fever, she is carried, a raving madwoman calling only for her son, to the French ship.

Gonsague Maris

Gonsague Maris, a Greek adventurer with an American passport, a onetime journalist who seduces Juliette. In the hue and cry aroused by his perfidy, he escapes down the mountainside.

Stephan Bagradian

Stephan Bagradian, Gabriel’s adolescent son, deeply aware of his Armenian heritage and admiring of his father. Stephan tries to accompany his friend Haik, a hardy young scout, on a trip to ask aid of the American consul. He turns back, ill, and is shot by the Turks.

Samuel Avakian

Samuel Avakian, Stephan’s competent tutor. He has the long, narrow face of an intellectual but the guarded look of the Armenian patriot.

Ter Haigasun

Ter Haigasun, the Gregorian priest of the village and one of the three members of the council that plans the defense of Musa Dagh.

Sarkis Kilikian

Sarkis Kilikian, a deserter from the Turkish army, an Armenian patriot.

Iskuhi Tomasian

Iskuhi Tomasian, the sister of a pastor, deeply in love with Gabriel Bagradian.

Agha Rifaat Bereket

Agha Rifaat Bereket, old Turkish friend of Avetis Bagradian. He is a religious mystic.

Dr. Johannes Lepsius

Dr. Johannes Lepsius, a German pastor in charge of rescue work.

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