I first read the Hound of the Baskervilles when I was in seventh grade.
I remember reading the book in my grandmother’s large and open ancestral house as the evening turned to night…
I remember the dread, and the actual “terror” I felt when I had to go to the toilet that night.
The dread is gone now - but the excitement and thrill that The Hound of the Baskervilles gave me, still remain.
I would go so far as to call it Arthur Conan Doyle’s best Sherlock Holmes novel ever. With tons of deductions, quite some drama and interesting twists sprinkled in, it’s definitely a satisfying read.
The original, 1902 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles
Here’s my rating of The Hound of the Baskervilles:
The story begins when Dr. Mortimer - a doctor from Devon, approaches Sherlock Holmes and Watson.
This Dr. Mortimer wants Holmes’ suggestion on what his deceased friend Sir Charles Baskerville’s nephew Henry Baskerville should do.
Sir Charles you see, was killed under mysterious circumstances - apparently by the sight of a monstrous hound, in Dartmoor, Devonshire.
His nephew Henry is the inheritor of his fortune - BUT - is his life threatened by the terrifying Baskerville legend about a hound?
Should Henry Baskerville go back to where he lived - Canada - or is it OK for him to inherit his uncle’s fortune and risk death through the hound?
That’s what Dr. Mortimer wants to ask Holmes.
An illustration by Sidney Paget showing Holmes, Watson and Dr Mortimer talking
Now I know that a hound is, in the end - just a dog.
Why would anyone not inherit a fortune just because a dog is in the neighbourhood?
But then…this is no ordinary hound - the way Conan Doyle describes it - it sounds more like a tiger or a lion - wild, merciless and unimaginably huge and strong.
So yes, that’s how the story begins.
Holmes advises Henry Baskerville to come and live in Devonshire - and Sir Henry himself figures out that - that’s what he wants to do. He comes to live in Baskerville Hall, where Sir Charles Baskerville lived.
What happens to Sir Henry there? Does he encounter the mysterious hound? Was Sir Charles’ death because of an animal or a man? Also, will Watson and Holmes be able to save Henry Baskerville’s life?
These are the questions that The Hound of the Baskervilles answers in mind-boggling fashion.
That’s all I’ll tell you for now. :-)
One of the most exciting moments of the novel occurs right at the beginning when Dr. Mortimer (the doctor) tells Holmes and Watson about the legend of Hugo Baskerville.
This man - Hugo - was an ancestor of Sir Charles Baskerville. He was wicked, cruel, and as pleasure obsessed as any villain you’ve known.
Apparently, he was killed by a gigantic hound, indescribably threatening in its appearance - while he was pursuing an innocent maiden.
The way the legend is written is spell binding.
The magic Doyle weaves with his words as he describes Hugo and his companions pursuing the maiden - and Hugo’s death scene - is so intense, that you can’t help feel a tinge of terror and excitement.
I actually imagined the stormy night and Hugo pursuing the maiden - only to meet his death by a mysterious hound.
A scene from the legend of the Baskervilles by Sidney Paget
The moment when Mr Mortimer finishes the tale and looks up at Holmes and Watson is definitely one of my magic moments from the story.
Of course, our dear Holmes does not share the terror or the excitement at all. In fact, when Mr Mortimer finishes the tale and says, “Do you not find it interesting?”, here is Holmes’ reply:
“To a collector of fairy tales.”
But then - that’s Holmes for you - attentive but immensely practical. :-)
The Hound of the Baskervilles is slightly different from other Sherlock Holmes novels and stories in the sense that Holmes does not appear to directly investigate the case.
In fact, he sends Watson to Dartmoor to look into any new happenings.
The magic moment occurs when Watson finds a mysterious, unknown man in Dartmoor, pursues him, finds his hut - and actually enters it - only to be surprised by his dear friend Holmes!
Holmes is the mysterious man in Devonshire in disguise. So while he had told Watson he was busy in London, Holmes was actually in Devonshire studying the case in detail…
When I read the book for the first time - I was taken aback by Holmes’ sudden appearance in the hut!
That was definitely a magical moment for me.
Poor Watson is investigating the hut of the mysterious man he has seen on the moor, when he hears a footstep and in comes Holmes saying,
Of course, Watson is dumbfounded. :-)
This is definitely the moment when everything falls into place for Holmes…
As Watson and Holmes are talking to Sir Henry Baskerville, Holmes suddenly looks at a portrait of the Baskerville ancestor Hugo - and notices something stunning.
Hugo resembles one of Sir Henry’s neighbours very, very much.
In fact - this neighbor and Hugo look almost like one and the same person.
The only exception is a broad hat and some curls and ringlets.
This shows Holmes that “the neighbour” - is actually related to the Baskerville Family. Holmes already knows that the neighbour - Stapleton, is the villian. This similarity in looks - proves the motive as well - inheritance of the Baskerville fortune.
This detection by Holmes happens in such a short period of time - and so suddenly, that it definitely leaves you stunned. You suddenly gasp and say, “Oh shit! THIS is who Stapleton is?”
Definitely, a magical moment.
If there had to be just one magic moment in the story - it has to be the moment when the hound actually appears.
Till this moment, the hound is just something we hear about - but never see.
Holmes, the Scotland Yard detective Lestrade and Watson lie in hiding as Sir Henry leaves a neighbour - Stapleton’s house to go back to Baskerville hall.
As he walks, a gigantic, diabolical (that’s another word for devilish), and monstrous hound pounces on him. The hound is immediately shot at by Holmes and Watson.
The way Conan Doyle describes this moment is very dramatic - and this is aptly the climax scene of the story.
If you’ve read the story - you can’t deny that you felt your heart skip a beat the moment the hound appeared. Mine almost did.
A dog similar to the hound of the Baskervilles recreated by Spettro84 and edited by me!
Here is how Watson describes the hound:
I love the idea of delving deeper into a story and finding out interesting facts about the story.
So here’s my pick of fun-trivia about The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The whole story is mostly based in Dartmoor, Devonshire.
That’s where Baskerville Hall is and that’s where the moor where the hound is supposed to live is.
Where is Dartmoor, exactly?
Here is Dartmoor on a map of England.
The famous moor - the Grimpen Mire - that Doyle talks about in The Hound of the Baskervilles is The Fox Tor Mire of Dartmoor.
Doyle stayed at a nearby hotel here along with his journalist friend
Bertram Robinson as he planned the novel.
An interesting point to note here is that though Doyle’s description of Dartmoor is based on real details, the details are not that accurate. In fact, Doyle has invented many of the distances and changed details to add to the mystery. Not that I am complaining, of course. ;-)
He talks for instance of many animals dying in the Grimpen Mire - and no one being able to cross it. There is, however an easy way across the Fox Tor Mire - and very few animals have ever died in it.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is an interesting read - but what inspired the idea?
I mean it is not common to get ideas about a deadly hound on the moor - in your head…
Most people conclude that Doyle got the idea from one of the legends that surround Dartmoor.
According to this scarrrr..y legend, there was once a man called Richard Cabell in the 17th century who was the squire of Buckfastleigh, a small town in Devonshire. This Richard Cabell was apparently evil and immoral and treated his wife very badly.
In fact, one day he beat his wife so badly as he accused her of infidelity that she ran away into the moor. He ran after her and murdered her.
His wife’s loyal hound was, however, by her side and it pounced on Richard Cabell’s throat and killed him on the spot.
Legend says that the hound’s soul still haunts the place - and so does Richard Cabell’s soul.
It’s quite devlish - this story…
And did you notice - that it is also similar to the legend mentioned in The Hound of the Baskervilles?
There are other legends that Doyle might have been inspired from as well - but they are not as popular as Richard Cabell’s.
For instance, there’s the legend of Black Shuck. Black shuck is a diabolical (sometimes headless and floating) black dog that is part of the folklore of Norfolk, a county in Great Britain.
Then, there’s the legend of Devon’s Yeth Hound which was apparently headless - it is supposed to be the spirit of an un-baptised child. Wooo...
Now I know all this sounds really spooky. I mean, it is spooky. Honestly, I don’t really know if these legends are true. I think they aren’t - but who can be sure?
Well, in any case - they definitely gave Conan Doyle enough food for thought - to help him churn out his masterpiece.
I was pretty surprised myself when I learnt this - but there is indeed such an effect.
Sir Charles Baskerville dies out of a heart attack - simply out of fear of a hound that appears devlish in the story.
The Baskerville Effect was discovered by David Phillips from the University of California.
Want to learn more about exactly what this effect is? Take a peek here for details…
Now we know The Hound of the Baskervilles is a cool book.
I mean, of course it is.
BUT - can you guess how many television show scripts, movie scripts, radio shows and books mention or are based on The Hound of the Baskervilles in one form or the other?
Come on, take a guess!
There are 42 such TV shows, movies, radio shows and books that I am aware of - and that is - I fear - just a starting point. Goes on to show how popular the book has become.
A funny representation of The Hound of the Baskervilles was produced in MAD magazine!
Something fascinating happened on December 7, 2012.
A single page of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s script of The Hound of the Baskervilles was sold for…
$150,000 at Christie’s.
The Hound of the Baskervilles was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1901 and 1902 - so this manuscript must have been sent to the editors of that magazine initially.
Just goes on to show how crazy die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans can be!
Well, I’ve rambled on about The Hound of the Baskervilles for a long time now…I’ll end my page with the quote:
If you haven’t read it - you must read it!
Here are some free links to the book: