How FanFic Expands the Sherlock Holmes Family
by Ryan Britt
LB’S NOTE: Remember when people used to mock fan fiction for being, oh, you know, fan fiction? Seems like just the other day, right? Because it was. But those days are over, gang. Here’s why.
New Netflix film Enola Holmes gives Sherlock Holmes a family beyond his estranged brother Mycroft. The Holmes family tree though, doesn’t come from Conan Doyle. Instead, it’s the result of a long history of fan fiction
Author Nancy Springer invented Sherlock’s secret sister. You might remember back in 2017 when Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes met his secret — and criminally insane — sister Eurus Holmes (Sian Brooke) in the 4th season of the BBC’s Sherlock, but Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) came first. Springer’s Enola made her splash in the 2006 middle-grade book The Case of the Missing Marquess (upon which the new movie Enola Holmes is based) which makes her the reigning champ of secret Holmes siblings, at least in the 21st century. Are there other secret Holmes siblings? What about the Holmes parents? Did Sherlock or Mycroft have any children of their own?
Mostly, the answer to these questions cannot be found in the canonical 56 short stories and four novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Instead, the tapestry of the Holmes family tree has been woven over the years, almost exclusively by fans. Because Sherlock Holmes fandom is so much older than most other fandoms, it’s tough to find the line between amateur fanfic and professional pastiches.
Sherrinford Holmes, the Eldest Holmes Brother
So, when I say that fan theories about a secret third Holmes sibling began in 1962 with the publication of Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by William S. Baring-Gould, I could be wrong. But, in terms of published mainstream pastiches and fanfic, it’s the easiest place to start. Because that’s where we get the notion that someone named Sherrinford Holmes lived out in the country, far away from London, and looked after the ancestral home of the Holmes family.
“Sherrinford” was one of the earliest names Conan Doyle considered for the character of Sherlock. Famous Holmes scholar Baring-Gould used this idea as the basis for there being a third Holmes sibling, the eldest of the three, and that he — Sherrinford Holmes — managed the family’s country estate. Some fan theories even suggested that after Holmes returned from the dead in “The Empty House,” that he wasn’t Sherlock at all, but instead, Sherrinford taking up the mantle. For Batman fans, this would be kind of like when Jean-Paul Valley became Batman after Bane broke Batman’s back, only in this scenario, Jean-Paul Valley would be Bruce Wayne’s secret older brother….