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Monday, January 10, 2011

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2011 (1): And Then There Were None

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2011 starts now! This week's letter is: A

To celebrate the letter A and also to show my love to the Queen of Mystery herself, I dedicate the letter A to Agatha Christie's masterpiece: And Then There Were None.

This novel was first published in England on November 6, 1939 under the name Ten Little Nigger but changed to the current title due to derogatory meaning of Nigger, especially toward black community. 

The original version of Ten Little Niggers rhyme:
Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little nigger boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little nigger boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little nigger boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little nigger boys playing with a hive; A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little nigger boys going in for law; One got into chancery and then there were Four.
Four little nigger boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little nigger boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One little nigger boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were None…

Later on the N-word was changed into Indian. They - whoever they were - considered the N-word in here as offensive but not for the word 'Indian' although if this rhyme was considered as racist and mockery toward black community by portraying death of black children, thus the N-word was forbade, then the word 'Indian' should be viewed the same. With all due respect toward black people, apparently people in those days thought that it was forbidden to mock black people but it was okay to mock Indian, crocked logic. Perhaps this is due to my ignorance as I didn't live in US where I could witness the effect of using the N-word, but this is solemnly based on my view that everything should be treated similar. If the word nigger in this rhyme considered as offensive toward black people, then changing it to Indian means it's offensive toward Indian people.

In essential, I'm against any form of censorship toward book. Let the readers read the original version! Let them think and value it by themselves, let them understand the circumstances during the time those books were created so they could cherish and understand the progress we've achieved today. Instead of banning books or censoring it, discuss it! So we could see the book from different point of view and gain better understanding.




Anonymous said...

You make a compelling case for leaving the title as it originally was. I think much depends on one's perspective on such a sensitive issue, but I certainly see your point. And thanks for reminding me of a wonderful Christie novel, said to be one of her personal favourites.

Bev Hankins said...

You and I chose the same one for our letter A. I'm with you--instead of censoring, I'd rather words/titles be left alone so that people can talk about what the words mean and why they shouldn't be used.

La Toya said...

Yes, I do find this highly offensive, in the US the n- word is an extremely sensitive issue that I couldn't begin to try to help you to understand. Even seeing you write it so many times on this blog entry makes my skin crawl. But it's even more offensive that that word would be changed to "Indian".

But I do agree that it shouldn't be censored. I had no knowledge of the real words to this rhyme prior to your post. Thanks for sharing.

Lynossa (Deranged Book Lovers) said...

@Lazy girl, I'm sorry if my post somehow offended you. I have no intention to offend anyone, just to present the original form of this rhyme. I do notice that the word is consider as offensive, but what I consider funny is they (as in the people in high places) think it's important to censor books like this (or Huckleberry Finn) while letting rappers use n-word and b-word freely in more offensive tone compare to this rhyme. If they want to censor it, it should applies to all, all or nothing at all.

And yes, if this rhyme offended black people, changing it to Indian isn't the solution; it just shifting it to the Indian people.

Kerrie said...

Well done on this contribution to the CFA Lynossa.
I've seen the n-word issue discussed on a couple of blogs recently.

You could submit this to the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival too
Submission here

Lynossa (Deranged Book Lovers) said...

@Kerri, thanks ~
I've sent my submission.

Anonymous said...

I struggle with this whole question. I generally think that words should be left as the author wrote them, with annotations where appropraite to explain the context, but in this case as the title contains a word that is so offensive to many I would prefer to change it rather than risk readers turning away from the author without a proper understanding.

Ricki said...

I honestly thought the original title was always Ten Little Indians since India was under the British for so long (and therefore I never saw anything offensive in the title). This is one of my favorite books.

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