Monday, October 10, 2016

The Trump of the Baskervilles.

It finally occurred to me this morning how America's current political situation finds a parallel in the Sherlockian Canon: We are living in the nightmare early portions of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

You know the early parts of The Hound of the Baskervilles, of course. A demon hound is terrifying the locals of Dartmoor, roaming the countryside, and actually causes one guy's death. Note that I don't say "kills a guy" because the mythical dog in the tale causes him to fall off a cliff from his own fear. The man was a convicted murderer who probably would have faced down a plain old dog, no matter how vicious, had he not been stirred up by tales of a local demon.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, like so many ghost stories, only becomes a threat because people are willing to believe a myth -- that a common dog is somehow more powerful and more magical that it actually is. And many of the folk of Dartmoor probably actively choose to believe the myth -- having a demon from Hell in their neighborhood helps support their beliefs in a demon's prime opponent. Others are surely just so disgusted with the state of Dartmoor that they delight in seeing a supposed demon hound creating chaos throughout the countryside. These aren't all just ignorant peasants, though a few surely are. A goodly number of them are making a conscious choice to believe in the Hound of the Baskervilles based on rumors and superficial evidence.

And part of the way The Hound of the Baskervilles works is by getting us to buy into the fact that it's an enormous, supernaturally-charged monster as well.

But enter Sherlock Holmes.

Enter observation. Enter reason. Enter determination.

You know that Sherlock would like to just walk onto the moor and go, "It's a dog, you idiots." But he can't just do that. He has to dig in, find the exact details of who is encouraging this myth, how they're doing it, and get everyone settled down . . . though you know, even after he does that, there are still some Dartmoor residents who still clung to the myth of the Hound, for whatever personal reasons they had.

But here's the thing. Sherlock Holmes never once . . . not once . . . thought it was anything close to the powerful creature built up in the minds of the locals. Proof of this? Where does Sherlock Holmes stay from the first minute he arrives in Dartmoor? Out on the moor itself.

Sherlock Holmes knows the Hound of the Baskervilles is utter bullshit, or else he wouldn't be spending his nights on its home turf. Holmes just has to get everyone else on board with the reality of the situation.

So, here we are in America this election cycle with a mangey pooch all puffed up like a local demon legend. Some folks are shouting, "GO HOUND, GO! GET THOSE BASKERVILLES!" Others are living in the fear that this might be life in Dartmoor from now on. But Sherlock Holmes . . . Sherlock would take one look and go, "It's a dog, you idiots."

Pointed post-note: The grim irony in this metaphor is that the "curse of the Hound" started with a man who thought he could treat women like property and the legendary demon hound came up from Hell to drag the son of a bitch back there. But like all fairy tales, there's a happy justice there that we just wish was a reality. As we haven't seen any demon hounds come up to drag a similar brute back to Hell this week, we can pretty much be sure that the Hound of the Baskervilles doesn't actually exist.

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