Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sherlock Holmes, a Fairy Tale?

Vincent Starrett
Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies. Vincent Starrett believed that ACD wrote fairy tales.

At a dinner in Chicago in his honor on June 4, 1963, Starrett gave a talk later reprinted under the title "How I Got That Way" in the March 1974 issue of The Baker Street Journal after his death. He ended that little speech with this thought:
More than any other form of fiction except perhaps the children's fairy tale - of which it is perhaps the successor - the detective story is (or should be) an allegory of Wickedness overcome by Virtue; of Evil confounded and put to flight by Justice and truth. It is Conan Doyle's triumph that The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are the best of all fairy tales for grownups.
The mind rebels a bit at the notion of Sherlock Holmes as a fairy tale. In our day the designation seems dismissive. But the great G.K. Chesterton, a huge (in several senses) admirer of fairy tales and of Holmes, likely would have agreed with Starrett. His most famous observation about fairy tales is often paraphrased or misquoted, so here's what he actually wrote in an essay called "The Red Angel":
Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
What is Sherlock Holmes but a St. George? What are Moriarty, and Milverton, and Moran ("a fine collection of M's") and all the other villains of the Canon but dragons to be slain?


  1. Reductio ad absurdum. Under that formulation, all of genre fiction could be classified that way. How is a romance novel different from Cinderella, for example?

  2. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is a grown-up version of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. It is absurd but it is also true much like the universe itself.