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No. 161: Dun dun duuuuuun!

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Dun dun duuuuuun!

First | Previous | 2018-02-21 | Next | Latest

Strip by: Ian Boreham

{A historical timeline of the evolution of murder mysteries. The first illustration is a viking helmet.}
caption: The history of murder mystery novels in English starts with the Old English hwadunnit and hwaetdunnit, the finest example of the latter being the epic poem Beowulf. It includes the trope of the too-obvious villain (Unferth) who turns out to be innocent; the perpetrators (SPOILER WARNING) are revealed to be demonic beasts. However, the denouement occurs very early in the story, prompting some scholars to protest its classification as a murder mystery.

{Geoffrey Chaucer.}
caption: The Old English hwadunnit continued into the Middle English period as the whoe-hath-donne-it?, followed by a wide variety of experimental forms. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is considered an early example of both the whencedunnit and the whitherdunnit.

{Shakespeare.}
caption: The greatest mystery writer of the early Modern English period was William Shakespeare, who created more forms than any other writer, including the whereforedunnit, of which Romeo and Juliet is best known.

{Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.}
caption: In the early 19th century, the popularity of Grimm’s and Anderson’s fairytales sowed the seeds for a new genre, in which a king offers a reward to determine the perpetrator of a princess kidnapping, or to discover who is secretly able to save the kingdom: the whosoeverdunnit.

{An old English grammar textbook and Henry Sweet, philologist and grammarian.}
caption: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, grammar pedants were responsible for the rise of the whomdunnit, a rather stultifying genre, in which the aim was to determine the identity of the victim, rarely a difficult task. Its swan song was on the Ernie Kovacs show in the 1950s, and it has now thankfully been put to rest.
{Ernie Kovacs.}

{Someone looking unimpressed.}
caption: The brief whatevsdunnit experiment in the early twenty-first century was met with reader apathy.
The only surviving form of this group of genres was the whodunnit.
Until this morning, that is, when its cold, lifeless corpse was discovered on the conservatory floor, one hand tightly clenching a gold locket, and the other resting near an ambiguous message written in blood on the tiles...

The author writes:

I suspect the grammar book shown is an anachronism, and I am probably also falsely accusing Henry Sweet of stultifyingness. He was a somewhat brave scholar who tried to wrest the study of historical English out of the hands of German academia. I first encountered him in the form of Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer, as a child. He was also a partial model for Henry Higgins in Pygmalion.

Drawn in Krita and Inkscape.