Posts Tagged ‘The Final Problem’

Can a fictional character assume a life and will power of its own? Can he scale heights of popularity and importance greater than those of his author and creator? That is precisely what appears to have happened in the case of Sherlock Holmes, the famous fictional detective.May 2014 379

The Final Problem was intended to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle´s last work portraying Sherlock Holmes. He entertained a belief that the Sherlock Holmes stories were distracting him from more serious literary efforts. An option available to the author was that of “killing” Holmes and undertake other literary endeavors.May 2014 380

In order to keep the fans of the detective in good humor, the author came up with a plot which involved Holmes saying good-bye with a flourish, ridding the world of a criminal so powerful and dangerous that any further task would be trivial in comparison (Holmes says as much in the story).May 2014 381

All authors walk a thin line between imagination and reality. In 1893, Conan Doyle and his wife toured Switzerland and discovered the village of Meiringen in the Bernese Alps. It was here that the idea of killing Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls took shape.May 2014 382

However, Doyle let the detective die in circumstances shrouded in mystery. No revolvers. No air guns. No African powders which emit deadly vapors. No eyewitnesses. No physical remains. No deceptive burials. Simply, a natural setting. Just the footprints in a muddy dead-end path. Signs of a violent struggle which make Dr. Watson come to the conclusion that Holmes is no more.May 2014 383

When one picks up a Sherlock Holmes story, one is assured of good value for one`s time and effort. Backed by hard-nosed judgement, insightful observations and above-par analytical skills, he delivers. He is utterly reliable. These are the very attributes which go on to build up a brand.

Eventually, the brand called Sherlock Holmes proved to be stronger. Pressure from fans persuaded Doyle to bring Holmes back, first writing The Hound of the Baskervilles and then resurrecting him in The Adventure of the Empty House.May 2014 384

Finally, it transpired that Sherlock Holmes had actually won the struggle at Reichenbach Falls and sent Moriarty to his death though nearly meeting his own at the hands of Moriarty’s henchmen. Conan Doyle could plausibly resurrect Holmes, much to the eternal delight and gratitude of the detective`s fans!May 2014 385

Have you come across any other characters in literature which survived their creatorエs attempt to vanquish them?!

For management experts, herein lies a potential case study: How to make a brand assume a higher stature than the corporate entity which creates it!

(Illustrations from the Sherlock Holmes Museum at Meiringen, Switzerland)

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/sherlock-holmes-the-honorary-citizen-of-meiringen-switzerland)

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May 22 happens to be the birth anniversary of one of the greatest wordsmiths of our times – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This year, the family decided to celebrate it by paying a visit to a museum dedicated to him in Switzerland.

Included in the itinerary was a visit to the famous Reichenbach falls. That is where Sherlock Holmes was supposed to have met his end while fighting the criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty. “The Final Problem”, a short story set in 1891, suggested the death of the greatest detective whose methods have influenced crime investigations all over the world!

The Museum

The small museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes is located in a quaint little church in the small town of Meiringen. The entrance has a fine sculpture of the detective in deep thought.May 2014 376

A short pathway of gravel leads one to an old building which was originally used as a church. The pathway has stone panels on its sides. These contain beautiful illustrations depicting in brief not only the story of “The Final Problem” but also retirement plans of the detective!

May 2014 374

The basement has several displays which would interest anyone familiar with the life and times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his legendary characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The highlight is a faithful recreation of the room at 221-b, Baker Street, just after the two inhabitants have left it hurriedly, supposedly on a top-secret mission of theirs.May 2014 345

In a corner of the room one can spot a cupboard which is full of the kind of books and records the destruction of which would regale many a criminal hounded by the legendary duo in their times.May 2014 364

For the architecturally inclined, there is a map showing the location of 221-b, Baker Street, as also an elevation of the building which houses it.

The display has, amongst others, sculptures of Holmes, the certificate of honorary citizenship of Meiringen issued to him, a set of binoculars, the famous pipe and the hat. The small note left behind by Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls can also be seen.May 2014 356

Uniform of a Scotland Yard rozzer of 1890s is on display, along with some investigative tools used way back then. Articles touching upon the rugby interests and army career of Dr. Watson also enthrall the visitor.

Reichenbach FallsMay 2014 414

“The Final Problem” tells us that in May 1891, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson had stayed at the Englischer Hof at Meiringen. A walk had led them to the Falls, from where Dr. Watson had been tricked into returning to the inn, leaving Holmes all by himself.

Finally, Dr. Watson returns to Reichenbach Falls, only to find two sets of footprints going out onto the muddy dead-end path with none returning. There is also the note from Holmes, explaining that he is about to fight Moriarty, who has graciously given him enough time to pen this last letter.

Watson sees that towards the end of the path there are signs that a violent struggle has taken place and there are no returning footprints. It is all too clear Holmes and Moriarty have both fallen to their deaths down the gorge while locked in mortal combat. Heartbroken, Dr. Watson returns to England.

In the present, a funicular railway takes the visitor up to a platform from where the falls are clearly visible. The place from where Holmes and his adversary had fallen off is marked with a star. One can trek up to the star and also beyond and enjoy the magnificent scenery around.

A Tribute

While climbing the mountain, one contemplates on the ingenuity of the human mind. When used against humanity, it has the potential to give rise to a Napoleon of criminals like Dr. Moriarty. When deployed to protect the denizens against fraud, crime and cheating, it produces characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.May 2014 424

In a way, Dr. Moriarty still lives on even today. He manifests himself in various forms. Criminal deeds, injustice, disparity in opportunities and incomes and corruption, just to name a few. However, one can derive satisfaction from the fact that characters like Holmes and Watson also continue to live on amongst us, represented by forces opposed to the likes of Dr. Moriarty.

The myth of Sherlock Holmes lives on. One marvels at the mental capabilities of a person like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who created a detective who is more real to most of us than any real person we might have ever met.Conan_doyle

Such visits are more like pilgrimages. These are but a form of tribute to legendary authors who live on in our collective psyche and imagination through their works.

(Curious?  Check out http://www.sherlockholmes.ch)

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