Christopher Columbus? Larry Ferguson? John McTiernan?
Dear Quote Investigator: One of the best action-adventure films of the 1990s in my opinion is “The Hunt for Red October” which largely takes place on three submarines. The movie ends with a poignant quotation due to Christopher Columbus that is delivered by screen virtuoso Sean Connery. Captain Marko Ramius played by Connery is about to start a life in a new country and he says:
And the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home: Christopher Columbus.
This quote is listed in several online databases. However, I have looked through many of the original Columbus documents online in English and in Spanish and I cannot find this saying. Could you investigate whether Columbus really said or wrote these words? Also, what was the larger context for this saying?
Quote Investigator: Thanks for this interesting question. QI investigates quotations in the English language but will attempt to trace this saying for you.
“The Hunt for Red October” is a popular movie, and the quotation at the end appears in some non-fiction texts, e.g., a book in the Complete Idiot’s Guide series where it is attributed to Christopher Columbus. T-shirts and mugs with the saying emblazoned and credited to Columbus can also be purchased. Yet, the questioner’s inability to find the quote in original manuscripts is understandable.
The movie is a product of the Hollywood studio system. The submarine warfare shown in the film was created using elaborate special effects. It turns out that this quotation also is a special effect crafted by a screenwriter in Hollywood. The words were never uttered or written by Christopher Columbus.
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to European History” was published in 2006 and it contains part of the full quotation followed by an ellipsis and an attribution to Columbus [CIGE].
“And the sea will grant each man new hope …”
The ThinkExist website has a version of the full quotation in its database and it is credited to Columbus [TECC]:
“And the sea will grant each man new hope . . . his sleep brings dreams of home.”
One piece of evidence that the quotation is not really due to Columbus is found at the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) website. Many movies on IMDB have companion web pages that list sundry facts under the heading “Trivia”. Here is the relevant claim [IMCC]:
At the end of the film, Ramius quotes a poem that is attributed to Christopher Columbus. According to director John McTiernan the poem was actually written for the film by screenwriter Larry Ferguson.
There is no author name or citation associated with this statement on the website, and it is not readily clear how one might locate supporting evidence. But further inquiries by QI lead to a Special Collector’s Edition DVD of the movie with an extra audio commentary track by the director John McTiernan [RDO]. In his comments the director refers to Larry Ferguson who is the screenwriter of the film.
Audio commentary by the director John McTiernan that is synchronized with the final scene of the movie during which the character Marko Ramius played by Sean Connery delivers the lines that he attributes to Christopher Columbus:
McTiernan: Larry Ferguson and I worked for quite a while to come up with this.
McTiernan: Larry wrote the poem that Sean quotes at the end.
McTiernan: Obviously, Christopher Columbus never wrote anything like that, but the gimmick works.
So, the words were not crafted in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean nor were they fashioned in Spain. They were produced in Hollywood for the purpose of entertainment. QI thanks you for your fine question.
(Many thanks to M. Mahaffey whose email provided inspiration for this question and investigation.)
[CIGE] 2006, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to European History by Nathan Barber, Page 98, Penguin Group, New York. (Google Books preview) link
[TECC] ThinkExist website, Quote attributed to Christopher Columbus, “And the sea will grant each man new hope”, Accessed 2010 September 3. link
[IMCC] Internet Movie Database IMDB website, Trivia for The Hunt for Red October (1990), Accessed 2010 September 3. link
[RDO] The Hunt for Red October 1990 (Special Collector’s Edition), DVD, Includes audio commentary track by director John McTiernan, Studio: Paramount.