S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
The Five Orange Pips (yet another Sherlock Holmes tale) is a particularly interesting read, however short it may be, because of where I hail from and the history of this place. The southern states of the United States, before they were united, had some… rather unsavory practices that they refused to give up, and were willing to go to war to keep. Thus the Civil War goes on, and the south eventually loses, and is stripped over time of those things for which they fought for. Two of the particular defining traits of this country in its early years were slavery and racism. If you know anything about the history of the south, then you quite possibly know the significance of “K.K.K.”, but The Five Orange Pips assumes you do not.
The initials “K.K.K.” are central to the plot of The Five Orange Pips, and they are not the initials of a particular person, as Watson suspects. No, Holmes corrects him, it is not a person but a group of people. The Ku Klux Klan. Watson is unfamiliar with the history of this organization, and so Holmes goes through his encyclopedias to shed some light upon the situation.
Given how and where I was raised throughout my life, I am rather educated on the K.K.K. and what some of their deeds are. But, as Sherlock Holmes was a British publication originally, it is true that its readership, like Watson, could easily be unfamiliar with the American group. But there is an aspect of the K.K.K. that I AM unfamiliar with, and that is the central point upon the mystery of this story: five, not-so-harmless orange pips.
According to Holmes’ research, the K.K.K. would deliver a warning to any person seen not holding to their standards of behavior by sending them an envelope of various things as a red flag: a sprig of oak leaves, melon seeds, orange pips… This is not something I was particularly aware of, but it gained my curiosity. Was it an embellishment on actual history, or actual history itself?
Doing some very light research, I mostly find other people who have done very light research, and they say there is no mention of sending these items to people in warning. They also mention that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a slight history of fudging facts in regards to the real-life secret societies he wrote about. This isn’t particularly surprising, as information was not SO readily available as it is these days, and generally the things one hears tend to be sensational at best, even when you aren’t dealing with a secret society.
Lesson to learn here? Even the most famous of us are capable of writing falsities for the sake of the story. Don’t believe everything outright, and enjoy the story for what it is: a story. Or don’t. Just don’t burn the poor book. Hand it to a donation center or something. Jeez.
With regards to the rest of the story, it is one of the very few that Sherlock Holmes’ client ends up dying in, in this case, almost immediately after their consultation. It’s also a case where the villain(s) end up dead instead of being brought to justice by the long arm of the law (this seems to be a fairly common practice in these stories, though).
It is a rather nice, enjoyable tale for being so short. Or was it really so short? It’s a short story, sure, but is my memory of it causing it to be pronouncedly shorter than it already was? Hm. Well then, I guess that would mark how interesting it is, then!
Interested in The Five Orange Pips? It can be purchased here.