Dame Christie and the Crone

I first discovered Agatha Christie when I was touring Ireland with my cousin in 2002. Sure, I’d heard of her. And I had read a couple of American mystery writers. But the light had not shone upon me yet.

After a long terrifying day of driving on the wrong side of the road, Teresa and I checked into a bed and breakfast in our great grandfather’s village, Crossmolina, Co. Mayo. Crossmolina is smaller than Wasilla, Alaska, if you can imagine, and rolls up the carpet at about 6 PM. That evening, after dining in a neighboring town, we wandered into the sitting room where we found the proprietress watching television. She patted the couch beside her and then said, “I love Miss Marple.”

That was the first day of the rest of my life.  From then on, I wanted to be Jane Marple .

Miss Marple is the quintessential crone. That archetype has floated down to us through the ages in Greek, Roman and Celtic mythology, has been analyzed modernly by Carl Jung and discussed by Christopher Vogler. But the center of most of those ancient and modern mythological tales is the hero, some young man who bumbles through life and needs a series of helpers to keep from getting killed. Most writers have dismissed the crone and, I argue, unfairly so.

What about the crone? She’s powerful. She’s smarter than everyone else. She sees things no one else sees by virtue of her wisdom. She’s aloof, above the fray.

In modern story telling, writers are advised to attach personal stakes to our hero. No such personal stakes for Miss Marple! It never gets more personal for her than the crises of her best friend, Dolly Bantry. (As much as I love Joanna Lumley, Gwen Watford will always be Dolly Bantry to me.) Miss Marple is called upon to solve mysteries because of her unique crime solving abilities, analogizing the present puzzle to the evils she has previously witnessed in the English village. She answers the call because justice must be done. She is Nemesis, the avenger.

And Miss Marple is scary. With that one look, Joan Hickson told you that she knew what you’re thinking. I remember old ladies turning that look on me when I was little and being terrified. I probably had cookie crumbs in my hair giving me away but at the time I thought those old ladies could read my mind.

I need to work on that look. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep making it up as I go along. What about you, Mysteristas? Who is your favorite archetype?

Look for my new column, Ipso Facto, in the Guppies’ newsletter, First Draft.  The debut article “Courtroom Theatrics” was published in the March 1, 2016 edition.  Topics will cover the law and crime writing.

Visit my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/keenanwrites. Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KeenanPowell6

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Dame Christie and the Crone”

  1. Ohh, I never thought of Miss Marple that way, but you’re right. She is the crone. I have a hard time picking out a favorite, but I always have a soft spot for the Jester. Come to think of it, my favorite secondary character in my novel might fit that type.

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  2. I’ve never thought of her as a crone either! Hmm. I do like the bumbling gumshoe, like Columbo. I guess that’s why I’m drawn to the cozies. My sleuths all tend to be completely reluctant heros, only getting involved when they’re dragged kicking and screaming into the fray, doing stupid stuff all the time. And, yes, I bet the cookie crumbs gave you away. My adult kids still can’t figure out how I knew stuff. OMG! Was I a crone when I was 30??

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  3. That sounds like quite the adventure, Keenan! Ooh, I love character archetypes! My favorite is probably the rogue, those individuals so popular in noir who fight for the good side…eventually 😉

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  4. Crones make the perfect detective! Hmmm, I haven’t thought much about a favorite archetype, but I guess it would have to be the wise old woman–the crone–because I’m fascinated by what gives them that special gift of insight. It has to be more than just their age.

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  5. Love all your comments. I’d never thought much about the Jester. But I’m reading Adrian McKinty’s new release, Rain Dogs. The protag, Sean Duffy, would fit into that role as well as the Rogue. Becky: I don’t see bumbling gumshoe often. Maybe that’s because no one can compete with Columbo.

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  6. LOL, I was 19 when I discovered Miss Marple. Loved those books. Matter of fact, now you mention it, she is a crone. Now I see that in my cozy mysteries, the Jean Hays series, that my MC, Jean, is a crone! She’s over 50, retired AF MSgt, Project Manager, mother and divorcee. Thanks for pointing it out to me!

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  7. Great post. The “Look” Yes, having been educated by nuns, I know all about the “Look.” Never gave much thought to archetypes. Put me down for the explorer and the jester. Both have tremendous appeal for me.

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  8. What a great defining moment! I love how those moments just pop out of nowhere when you’re least expecting them. (Got my computer working again!)

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