"No one knows better than he how to throw the Punjab lasso, for he is the king of stranglers even as he is the prince of conjurers."
Today we’re going to examine the dark side of Erik, once again, and talk about one of his skills that earned him the title of “king of stranglers.” Occasionally, I get an email with the question what does the term “keep your hand at the level of your eyes” mean? It actually comes from Leroux’s version, where the Persian tells Raoul about Erik’s uncanny skill of being able to strangle his victims with his Punjab lasso.
Apparently, Erik learned this skill of the Punjab lasso while living in India. He practiced his art by strangling men condemned to death in front of applauding audiences. (Author shudders at the not so pretty picture.) Of course, we know this is how poor Joseph Buquet ended up swinging from the catwalk above, from the lasso made out of catgut. Erik was carrying out an execution.
Madame Giry warns both Joseph Buquet and Raoul de Chagny to keep their hands at the level of their eyes if they encounter the Phantom. Why? As explained by the Persian to Raoul, it was the only means of protection for an intended victim. When the lasso is swung around one’s neck, if your arm is up and the hand at the level of your eye, it catches both the arm and the neck, thereby allowing you to loosen the lasso and go free. Listen up and remember that little tip next time you’re walking around uninvited in the Opera Cellars.
Did Joseph or Raoul listen to the advice? Well, the answer is quite obvious. I bet they wished they had while they were hanging from the end of a rope. One died for his mistake, and the other almost died, all because they didn’t remember the warning.
Raoul failed to heed the advice. Instead, he let his guard down and turned the other way to watch the gate drop only to end up caught by the Phantom’s rope. It was a moment of weakness, and Erik took advantage of it. Stress and danger in our lives can often cloud our ability to think straight or act defensively, and so was the case with Raoul.
Let’s face it. Life is filled with warnings how to escape danger, which we often forget, ignore, or don't take to heart. We let our guard down, get distracted, and end up in trouble. We make poor choices under duress and put ourselves at risk. Had Raoul taken the warning seriously and kept his eyes on the Phantom the entire time by keeping his hands at the level of his eyes, it would not have given Erik the upper hand. Instead, he put himself into a less than comfortable position of strangulation.
Take the time to ponder. Has anyone given you any advice for your own good lately you’ve failed to follow or take to heart? Are there warnings and caution signs flashing all around you that you choose to ignore? Have you let your guard down? Are you distracted and not paying attention to danger coming your way? Life is tough enough without allowing it to strangle the life out of us, so pay attention and keep your hand at the level of your eyes.
Your obedient servant,
The Phantom's Student
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