Originally serialised in The Strand Magazine, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles was first published in book form in 1902. Conan Doyle used real-life people and places as well as folklore in the story, which takes place against the backdrop of Dartmoor in southwest England, with its craggy, wetland landscape dotted with Neolithic tombs, Bronze Age stone circles and abandoned medieval farmhouses.
A TERRIBLE CURSE
At the start, Dr. James Mortimer comes to visit Sherlock Holmes. Mortimer is worried as he is on his way to meet Sir Henry Baskerville, recently arrived from Canada. Henry is coming to claim the Baskervilles’ Devonshire estate from his elderly relative Charles, who has suddenly died, and there are rumours that he succumbed to a centuries-old curse, involving a demonic hound. Holmes dismisses the story as a fairy tale, but is intrigued.
AN UGLY BUSINESS
Dr. Watson and Holmes meet Sir Henry at the Northumberland Hotel in London, but find him furious.
“His face was flushed with anger, and he held an old and dusty boot in one of his hands. «I only had three pairs in the world... Last night they took one of the brown ones, and today they have sneaked one of the black».”
“Aveva la faccia rossa di collera, e teneva in una mano una scarpa vecchia e polverosa. […] Ne avevo soli tre paia... […] Ieri sera mi hanno rubato quella marrone, e oggi mi hanno fatto saltare una scarpa nera.”
the missing boots
Two single boots have gone missing. This is enough for Holmes to advise great caution. He urges Watson to arm himself and travel with Henry to Baskerville Hall.
“«It’s an ugly business, Watson, an ugly dangerous business, and the more I see of it the less I like it».”
“È un brutto affare, Watson, brutto e pericoloso, e più lo approfondisco meno mi piace.”
Promising to keep Holmes informed, Watson accompanies Sir Henry to Dartmoor, where dense fog contributes to a sinister atmosphere. Baskerville Hall offers little reassurance.
“The road in front of us grew bleaker and wilder over huge russet and olive slopes, sprinkled with giant boulders. Two high, narrow towers rose over the trees […] Baskerville shuddered as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the farther end.”
“La strada di fronte a noi diveniva sempre più tetra e più selvaggia, avanzando tra enormi pendii di un colore ora rossiccio, ora olivastro, cosparsi di massi giganteschi. […] Al disopra degli alberi si elevavano due alte e sottili torri. […] Baskerville ebbe un brivido nel vedere il lungo e cupo viale al cui limite estremo la casa scintillava con la incerto e fosforescente come un fantasma.”
STRANGERS ON THE MOOR
In the morning, Watson walks to the moor where he meets Stapleton, a keen naturalist and butterfly catcher. Stapleton shows him the highlights of the area, which include a dangerous bog.
“«That is the great Grimpen Mire,» said he. «A false step yonder means death to man or beast. Only yesterday I saw one of the moor ponies wander into it. He never came out. I saw his head for quite a long time craning out of the bog-hole, but it sucked him down at last».”
“Quella è la grande Palude di Grimpen - mi spiegò. - Un passo falso là dentro significa morte, si tratti di uomo o di animale. Solo ieri ho visto scomparire un puledrino di brughiera. Non è piú riemerso. Ho osservato a lungo la testa della bestiola allungarsi disperatamente fuori dalla palude, ma alla fine è stata risucchiata col resto del corpo.”
They hear a chilling howl. Stapleton says that the local peasants claim it is the hound of the Baskervilles calling for its prey.
LETTERS TO HOLMES
In a series of letters to Holmes, Watson reveals what he has discovered about Charles’ death, but the mystery of the hound remains. Then, quite by surprise, Sherlock Holmes shows up. He is ready to draw his conclusions.
“«It is murder, Watson –refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder. Do not ask me for particulars».”
“Vuole uccidere, Watson... si tratta di un delitto raffinato, premeditato, progettato con spaventoso sangue freddo. Non mi chieda particolari per il momento.”
A terrible scream interrupts them. They give chase and discover another dreadful death. Holmes says he can now reveal who the culprit is; a family portrait at Baskerville Hall has convinced him. But first, there is the hound to catch! Using Sir Henry as bait, the men wait with pistols on the dark moor. Suddenly, out of the darkness they see the fearsome thing.
“A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen [...] Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare […] Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.“
“Era un cane, un cane enorme, nero come la pece, ma non un cane che occhi mortali potessero aver mai veduto. Dalla bocca spalancata, quella creatura mostruosa eruttava fuoco, e i suoi occhi lucevano di una fiamma smorzata […] Mai, neppure nei sogni allucinati di un cervello impazzito sarebbe stato possibile concepire qualcosa di piú spaventoso, di più ossessionante, di piú infernale di quella forma scura, di quell’apparizione selvaggia che ci comparve improvvisodavanti uscendo dal muro di nebbia.”
The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted many times for the screen between 1914, with a silent version, until the latest in 2012, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. There have also been German, Russian and even Bengali language versions. It has appeared several times on the stage, and has also inspired a video game.