Original Research

Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels as fairy tales: Two case studies

Lucyna Harmon
Literator | Vol 42, No 1 | a1756 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v42i1.1756 | © 2021 Lucyna Harmon | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 October 2020 | Published: 19 July 2021

About the author(s)

Lucyna Harmon, Institute of Neophilology, College of Humanities, University of Rzeszów, Rzeszów, Poland


The popularity of detective stories may result from the attraction of the hero, the entertaining thrill of the plot or the comforting power of the overall message which promises that evil will be defeated in the end: there is always someone able to fight it and determined to do so. But the immense success of detective stories can also be explained otherwise, which is the purpose of this article. In this research, Vladimir Propp’s narratemes – understood as recurring, genre-specific structure elements of the plot – are evidenced in two successful detective novels by Agatha Christie. The nature of detective novels in general and the uniqueness of the detective Poirot as a character are outlined, followed by the presentation of Propp’s narratemes. Then, the contents of two selected works by Christie, The mysterious affair at Styles and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, are scrutinised and retold in terms of the narratemes identified in them. It is thereby claimed and confirmed through selected examples that the detective novels examined draw on a modified morphology typical of fairy tales, as is described by Propp. Consequently, further research is postulated to verify the hypothesis of similarities between detective novels and fairy tales as a factor contributing to the tremendous success of the former as a genre.


Christie; Poirot; crime fiction; mystery; fairy tale; narrateme; Vladimir Propp


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