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Why are the misbeliefs spred about Sherlock Holmes dangerous?

Sherlock Holmes and the lies

Author: SherlockExtra - Translator: Revati

I. – Introduction

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most well-known fictional characters of the world, who appears in numerous television adaptations and pastiches. Lots of misbeliefs surround his figure. Here in our site we list the most frequent ones (Link: The most common misconceptions about Sherlock Holmes), and now we’d like to talk about the dangers of these misconceptions.

It’s very important to deal with this topic. Saying that „Sherlock is just a fictional character, so we can do with him what we want, because nothing hurts him” hurts the detective immediately. First of all, this way we harm ourself, because we just slammed the door to an opportunity that offered the chance to think things over, to discover new thoughts and to make fresh deductions (Although this can be a very exciting opportunity. Just think about how glad Sherlock becomes when he discovers things that help him solving a case or what astonish ordinary people. His valuable ideas are parts of his own success, and he can be proud of them and they make him happy). Not to examine the misconceptions means hurting ourself AND the legendary detective as well, who constantly inspires us to have time and energy to the things that interest us. A wider knowledge is a source of joy, and helps to live a more comfortable and useful life. So Holmes always fights for broadening one’s knowledge, for lasting values and for the truth.

The misconceptions are dangerous, because:

- 1. Their lies ruin both the fantasy and the real world
- 2. They derogate artistic freedom
- 3. Their spreading diverts attention from Sherlock’s genius and from the wisdom inside us
- 4. They lessen empathy and kill tolerance
- 5. Misbeliefs destroy communities

1. Their lies ruin both the fantasy and the real world

Imagination is one of the most brilliant properties of humanity. It helped to invent numerous life-saving contrivances, created wonderful draughtmanships and brought into life many devices and rules that make our life easier. Sherlock Holmes also relies on his imagination while he’s investigating a case. Among his other excellent features this helps him being faster than the police and hindering crimes to-come by stopping criminals before they could do wrong again. The detective is very strongly attached to the fantasy world, because he’s a fictional character. At the same time he’s attached to the real world as well, because he reflects his creator’s, Conan Doyle’s real thoughts and values. The character brought the writer fame, fortune and true friendships (with William Gillette or Sidney Paget for example). The sleuth also brought friendships arching over continents, because many of his fans became members of different Sherlock Holmes societies. The legendary tenant of Baker Street not only inspired and made world famous brilliant artists (Sidney Paget, Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch), but he also took effect on real-life crime solving. French genius dr. Edmond Locard created modern criminalistics inspired by Sherlock Holmes, and this way he made our world a much safer place.

Sherlock was able to have an enormous and real effect on real life because the logical method he uses works in everyday life as well. Conan Doyle had been inspired by his university lecturers to utilize all the things he learned from them. He did this using the form of the tale, and he himself experienced how handy they come in his own life. Without any doubt the British detective has an effect on both the real and the fantasy world. Whether we accept it or not, both worlds have their own rules, and these aren’t necessarily bad ones. Nature has its own rules as well: the Earth rotates in one direction, seasons follow each other, we land on the ground after a jump, and we have to keep the traffic regulations. These rules mean not only obligation, their main aim is protection against chaos and tragedies. Just think of it: breaking traffic regulations may result in the death of other people or animals. Keeping the laws, rules, regulations and habits is our interest and that of our environment as well. In addition, these create traditions, and traditions connect generations.

This is true in the world of fantasy as well. Fans of Lord of the Rings accept that Gandalf is a smart wizard, just like Star Wars fans accept Luke Skywalker being a good character. They would be shocked if someone would say the opposite, because these fictional characters are determined by their features. In the fantasy world the Gandalf’s wisdom and the jedi’s goodness are facts. Sherlock Holmes teaches us to accept the facts. He doesn’t judge others depending on their origin, financial position or skin color. His judgement is always based on revealed intents and deeds. He deserves to be judged as humanely as he does it with others – it is the least that belongs him, whom is referred to as a living person for almost two hundred years. He makes our world a better place, and he’s a good-natured genius.

The hero of Baker Street is a significant figure in both worlds. Remember, we have to keep the rules of the fantasy world as well. It’s important to know that children begin to discover the world trough tales. They learn new words and phrases from them, they learn that we have to face problems, and we can overcome them with thinking and cooperation. Tales shape the development of our personality. So it is important to have rules as limits in the fantasy world as well. Harmful lies of the fantasy world may cause catastrophies in real life. We may pass on damaged, wrong knowledge to the children of the future, and this way they may inherit fears and delusions.

Lies can sour people’s lives, and they can even unleash a war. Lies squeeze hearts, confuse minds, and lead to desperate actions, even to crimes. Don’t forget the warning of John Fitzgerald Kennedy: „The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” And be aware of what Voltaire said: "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Sherlock Holmes, the genius stresses soon in his first adventure (A Study in Scarlet) that it matters what we think. He says our brain is like an empty attic, its storing capacity is limited, and our thoughts are the furnitures we have to keep in it. A clever man fills his attic solely with important, valuable thoughts. People think those who talk about untrue things are foolish, and they are liars. After a while these liars believe their own lies. For our own good we have to think about what we say about the greatest detective of the world or about other things of life. We can avoid lots of inconvenience thanks to the truth. And we have to keep in mind that we are responsible for the children of the future. If they get a biased picture about Sherlock Holmes, the present and the future youth becomes injured. If we tell a child that the rope is a dangerous snake, he/she will be afraid of lacing shoes or using strings. This shows that the quality of fantasies is very important as well.

Sherlock Holmes tries to avoid making mistakes. For him facts are the most important things in both worlds, under any circumstances. Facts are the firm tools he can rely on at any time, they help him determine what is true and what is false. So he believes in the innocence of those who are ungroundedly accused with murder. Holmes doesn’t believe in rumours, he believes in happed events, in the motivations and deeds of suspects. He brings to the policemen’s notice the facts that go against the arrest. The consulting detective always bravely makes a stand for the truth. And this truth is based on logical deductions built up on facts, not on momentary feelings. Lies may damage lives and worlds, whereas the truth liberates, gives new hope and builds a better world. Holmes always works with the truth.

Everybody wants truth deep in their breasts – and truth is a weapon. But we can do more than craving for it. Everyone can use it, we only must dare to consider the facts carefully and to deduce – in the favour of ourselves and others, for quietude. There’s no peace and happinness in a world wanting truth. Clearing up the misbeliefs regarding Sherlock Holmes may improve the humour between the fans, give the feeling of togetherness and help to form new clubs.

2. It is a false statement that one can explain everything with artistic freedom

Some artists say they have the right to show/portray the world’s greatest detective in any form they want, because as artists they have the right for this. This is not true. Lending the character of a world famous author and place him into a political, erotic or crime story is not art. That’s not the way it goes. Conan Doyle knew this, he had lots of inspiration and he created his own characters based on these inspirations. His characters were very realistic – and this is quite hard to attain, because it needs extremely creative fantasy. Doyle discovered how many people wanted to use his pipe-smoking detective in quickies, often disfiguring the personalities of Holmes and Watson. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle very much considered whom he lent the character, because he wanted Sherlock’s world to remain intact.

Marcell Jankovics, the world famous Hungarian graphic artist said this brief, but beautiful thing:”You can’t call a thing art which has no morality in it.” Never forget that in Doyle’s works there were always moral lessons – and these are often missing from pastiches/adaptations. These works may be great for relaxation, but they have no artistic value, they don’t give nutriment for our brain and heart, and don’t educate.

It’s sad that Doyle’s copyright lost as time passed. Not just because of his death and the small number of his descendants. It’s a bigger problem that artists, literary societies and Sherlock Holmes clubs didn’t give voice to their objection adequately enough after some outrageous/shocking adaptations – though this would be their most important and most noble task. We have to note that fortunately there are honourable exceptions. Fewer scandalous adaptations would give rise to less debates among Holmes fans.

Strangely enough it was the USA, where the Supreme Court declared that everybody can freely use the character of Sherlock Holmes. This happened in America, where the detective is a national symbol, and his stories were published in several magazines. In America, where many fight for justice, human rights and against discrimination – just like Sherlock Holmes. In the country, where copyright laws defend even the most unimportant authors, a world-famous polymath artist has no rights at all. This is a great shame towards the writer’s merits, and a great shame towards his character as well – whom many respect as if he would be a living person. Holmes is the noblest representative and the biggest fan of valuable work. His successful investigations and his fame are the result of his intensive, quality and steady work. One of the greatest philosophy of his adventures is that everybody can find his/her place in the world if he/she develops his/her abilities, and works devotedly. The court decision caused harm in both worlds – because it contradicts the belief that everyone has to be appreciated according to their talent and work.

It’s not true that everything fits into artistic freedom. True art stands for morality, and a true artist’s greatest feature is that he/she respects the work of others. In Hungary the leading politicians asked Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967), the world famous composer to write a new national anthem. The country already had an anthem written by another great composer, Ferenc Erkel (1810-1893), whom everybody beloved. Kodály respected Erkel’s work, and he also knew that an anthem is very important for a country. He didn’t care either for the money he had been promised, or the fact that his name will be even more popular, and it was clear for him that his rejecting answer may result in inprisonment or death penalty during the years of dictatorship. Humbly and cleverly he said:”Gentlemen, the work of Ferenc Erkel is perfect as it is. Nobody could add to or take away from it anything.” So the original anthem remained and Hungarian people respected Kodály even more than before. Because he was a true artist, who could make a stand for another talented man. A real author doesn’t mutilate, caricature or satirize the work of others. We must not accept that everyone can do everything with Sherlock Holmes in books, series and memes, referring to artistic freedom.

3. Spreading misbeliefs diverts attention from Sherlock’s genius and from the wisdom inside us

False informations on Sherlock divert attention from the main point: that the consulting detective nobly represents the human spirit. Conan Doyle gave him to us to learn with ease. When we learn how to observe and deduce, we can have an easier, happier life. Focusing on misbeliefs fills the brain with useless material. Misconceptions may offer momentary pleasure, but in reality people who believe these are wide of real life, they may have illusions. On the other hand, using Sherlock’s methods they could have a happier, more successful life.

4. Misbeliefs lessen empathy and kill tolerance

When we are unable to evaluate an other person based on his/her real self and we believe rumours about him/her, we’ll have a false picture about that person. We may show less interest, cooperation and understanding towards others. It’s undesirable in these days, when human relationships slacken, and we all long for a more humane, more solidary world. Sherlock Holmes is a good-hearted hero, he’s the champion of justice and tolerance. It is noble and right to understand and accept the world he represents, because it leads to a more enjoyable life. The great detective fights against violence and brutality – one of his weapons in this fight is the fact that he accepts everyone according to their merits. It would be great to accept this and pass on for further generations.

5. Misbeliefs destroy communities

„Art has a refining effect on people. Art creates the spiritual relationships that make community out of humanity and that special moral environment in which humans are able to flourish. Otherwise people perish like an unweeded apple tree in a neglected garden.” (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russian filmmaker, writer, and film theorist. He is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential directors in the history of Russian and world cinema.)

The number of active Sherlock Holmes clubs decreases worldwide, though once one could list almost two thousand of them. We cannot simply say that our busy lifestyle is the reason for that, because people are social beings who are always ready to make contacts. The misbeliefs that appear in different Holmes adaptations often sparked heated debates or even irreconcilable conflicts between club members at society meetings, and lots of these organizations broke up. Sadly, as George Orwell remarked: “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” Incorrect adaptations may cause stress, anger or hatred even in the most valuable people. This occurs in case of young people more often, because they are still try hard to find their places in the world, and while they are looking for famous, creditable role models, they get a distorted picture. Without reading the Canon, and becuse of the distortion of the media they usually don’t have the chance to discover that Sherlock Holmes teaches us respect, solidarity, responsibility and morality, and he helps to see the world a better and nicer place. The greatest detective supports us in discovering the dangerous world, and lends a hand in feeling ourselves at home in it - young people desperately need this knowledge.

Untruthful adaptations ruined the wonderful, positive community-creating power the art of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave to the world.


Unfortunately we can’t be absolutely sure about anything nowadays. The media often shows false information and misconstruction. Sometimes the information are knowingly false, but misinformation also happens because journalists/bloggers have a hectic work schedule, so they don’t have time to check each and every information, or they don’t even think about checking anything. We can’t say that all we see in the news, in television, in movies, and read online or in newspapers is the whole truth. There was a film that pictured William Murdoch, the heroic sailor of the Titanic as a greedy murderer. Such immensely injustices happen too often. To be clever and well posted we have to spend a lot of time to get acquainted with the topics that interest us. Sherlock Holmes does the same during his investigations.

When we’d like to get acquainted with the greatest detective of the world, we have to start our journey with Conan Doyle’s original stories. The brilliant Scottish writer created an eccentric sleuth, who is cleverer, funnier and much more humane than how he’s often portrayed in adaptations.


Sherlock Holmes represents Joseph Bell's brain.
Dr. John H. Watson represents Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's heart.

We should respect them.

Sherlockian Holmesian

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