Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sherlock Holmes had one word for snow.

While I've been blythely blogging about Sherlock this winter, there is one important word that's been suspiciously absent from my musings, and that word is this: "snow."

I probably didn't include it, because it you spend any time on Facebook at all, you know that at least a third of its content for the last few months has been people East of the Rockies bitching about snow. We seem to be having record amounts of it this year, and so now, before I head out to shovel for my first time in March 2014, I thought I'd take a moment to look at Sherlock Holmes's relationship with snow.

As one would expect, Sherlock Holmes's relationship with snow is primarily about footprints in the snow, and at that, primarily in "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet." But if one steps back and looks at the larger picture, a more ominous pattern develops.

Looking at the Sherlockian Canon from a chronological point of view, the last time we hear the word "snow" mentioned is in "The Final Problem." When Moriarty is gone, the snow is gone, too.

Snow appears in "The Gloria Scott," A Study in Scarlet, "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet," The Valley of Fear,  and "The Final Problem." It is with Holmes from the beginning of his career in GLOR, the beginning of his partnership with Watson in STUD, his first bout with Moriarty in VALL, and his final battle with Moriarty in FINA. BERY has the distinction of being a case that actually involved snow in its casework, so we can knock it out of the pattern. The beginnings and endings that show up in this pattern are very intriguing.

I was wondering how Sherlock Holmes's two years in Tibet post-Moriarty might have fit into this, but a quick bit of research on that mountain country shows its average snowfall isn only 18 inches. It seems that in the world of Sherlock Holmes, snow only existed when Moriarty was alive on this Earth. And while we know that's not a true fact, the number of people viewing snow as their personal Professor Moriarty this year would lend a certain weight to that little coincidence.

But while snow may be our Moriarty at the moment, we can always turn to Dr. Watson for a little hope: "For a charming week we wandered up the Valley of the Rhone, and then, branching off at Leuk, we made our way over the Gemmi Pass, still deep in snow, and so, by way of Interlaken, to Meiringen. It was a lovely trip, the dainty green of the spring below, the virgin white of the winter above . . . ."

As Moriarty's career came to an end, Watson and his friend made their way down from the snowy heights to the green places below, as we will soon do. We can only hope that our Moriarty snow is of the Canonical variety and not that of BBC Sherlock, about to pop up again in full force going, "Did you miss me?"

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