And Then There Were None

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None First Edition Cover 1939.jpg
Cover of first UK 1939 edition by Stephen Bellman with original title
AuthorAgatha Christie
Original titleTen Little Niggers
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreMystery, crime, psychological thriller, horror
PublisherCollins Crime Club
Publication date
6 November 1939
Preceded byMurder Is Easy
Followed bySad Cypress
WebsiteAnd Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by English writer Agatha Christie, her best selling novel and described by her as the most difficult of her books to write.[2] It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 6 November 1939, as Ten Little Niggers,[3] after the British blackface song, which serves as a major plot point.[4][5]

The US edition was released in January 1940 with the title And Then There Were None, which is taken from the last five words of the song.[6] All successive American reprints and adaptations use that title, except for the Pocket Books paperbacks published between 1964 and 1986, which appeared under the title Ten Little Indians.[citation needed]

It is Christie's best-selling novel, with more than 100 million copies sold; it is also the world's best-selling mystery and one of the best-selling books of all time. Publications International lists the novel as the sixth best-selling title.[7]

Plot summary[edit]

On a hot 8 August in the late 1930s, eight people arrive on a small, isolated island off the Devon coast of England. Each has an invitation tailored to his or her personal circumstances, such as an offer of employment or an unexpected late summer holiday. They are met by Thomas and Ethel Rogers, the butler and cook-housekeeper, who state that their hosts, Mr Ulick Norman Owen and his wife Mrs Una Nancy Owen, whom they have not yet met in person, have not arrived, but left instructions, which strikes all the guests as odd.

A framed copy of a nursery rhyme, "Ten Little Niggers"[8] (called "Ten Little Indians" or "Ten Little Soldiers" in later editions), hangs in every guest's room, and ten figurines sit on the dining room table. After supper, a gramophone (or "phonograph") record is played; the recording describes each visitor in turn, accuses each of having committed murder but escaping justice, and then asks if any of "the accused" wishes to offer a defence. All but Anthony Marston and Philip Lombard deny the charges, and Miss Brent refuses to discuss the matter.

They discover that none of them actually knows the Owens, and Justice Wargrave concludes that the name "U.N. Owen" is shorthand for "Unknown". After the recording, Marston finishes his drink and immediately dies from cyanide poisoning. The remaining guests notice that one of the ten figurines is now broken, and the nursery rhyme appears to reflect the manner of death ("One choked his little self and then there were nine").

The next morning, Mrs Rogers' corpse is found in her bed; she had died in her sleep from an overdose of chloral hydrate. By lunchtime, General MacArthur is found dead, from a heavy blow to his head. Two more figurines are found to be broken, and again the deaths parallel the rhyme. Miss Brent relates the account of the gramophone charge against her to Vera Claythorne, who later tells the others.

A search for Mr Owen shows that nobody else is on the island except the remaining seven. The island is a "bare rock" with no hiding places, and no one could have arrived or left; thus, they conclude that any one of the seven remaining persons is the killer. Wargrave leads the group in determining that so far, none of them can definitively be ruled out as the murderer. The next morning, Rogers is found dead while chopping wood, and after breakfast, Miss Brent is found dead in the kitchen, where she had been left alone after complaining of feeling unwell; she had been injected with potassium cyanide via a hypodermic needle.

Wargrave then suggests searching all the rooms, and any potentially dangerous items they can think of are locked up. Lombard's gun is missing from his room. When Vera goes upstairs to take a bath, she is shocked by the touch and smell of seaweed left hanging from the ceiling of her room and screams; the remaining guests rush upstairs to her room. Wargrave, however, is still downstairs. The others find him seated, immobile and crudely dressed up in the attire of a judge. Wargrave is examined briefly by Dr Armstrong and pronounced dead from a gunshot to the forehead.

That night, Lombard appears surprised when he finds his gun returned to his room. Blore catches a glimpse of someone leaving the house but loses the trail. He then discovers Armstrong is absent from his room, and the remaining three guests conclude that Armstrong must be the killer. Vera, Blore, and Lombard decide to stay together at all times. In the morning, they signal SOS to the mainland from outside by using a mirror and sunlight, but receive no reply. Blore then returns to the house for food by himself and is killed by a heavy bear-shaped clock statue that is pushed from Vera's window sill, crushing his skull.

Vera and Lombard are now confident that Armstrong is the killer. However, shortly afterwards, the duo come upon Armstrong's body washed up on the beach. They realize that Armstrong could not have killed Blore. Panicked, each concludes the other must be the killer. Quickly regaining her composure, Vera suggests moving the doctor's body past the shore, but this is a pretext. She lifts Lombard's gun. When Lombard lunges at her to get it back, she shoots him dead.

She returns to the house in a shaken dreamlike state, relieved to be alive. She finds a noose and chair arranged in her room, and a strong smell of the sea. With visions of her former lover Hugo urging her on, she adjusts the noose and kicks the chair out from under her.

Two Scotland Yard officials are puzzled by the identity of U N Owen. Although they can partially reconstruct the deaths from Marston to Wargrave with the help of the victims' diaries and a coroner's careful report, they conclude that U N Owen was one of the victims, but are unable to determine which one. The chair on which Vera stood to hang herself had been set back upright, indicating that someone was still alive on the island after her suicide, presumably the killer.

Postscript from the Killer

In a postscript, a fishing ship picks up a bottle inside its trawling nets; the bottle contains a written confession of the killings, which is then sent to Scotland Yard. It is not clear how long after the killings the bottle was discovered.

In the confession, Justice Wargrave writes that he has long wished to set an unsolvable puzzle of murder. His victims would be of his choosing, as they were not found guilty in a trial. He explains how he tricked Dr Armstrong into helping him fake his own death under the pretext that it would help the group identify the killer. He also explains that he replaced the chair in Vera's room. Finally, he reveals how he used the gun and some elastic to ensure his own death matched the account in the guests' diaries. Although he wished to create an unsolvable mystery, he acknowledges in the missive a "pitiful human need" for recognition, hence the confession.

He describes how his first victim was Isaac Morris, the sleazy lawyer and drugs trafficker who anonymously purchased the island and arranged the invitations on his behalf, making nine murders and two suicides. Morris was poisoned before Wargrave departed for the island. Wargrave's intention is to stymie the police as to which person on the island was the murderer. He states that, although there are three clues that could guide the police to the correct killer, he is confident they will be unable to find them and that the mystery will remain unsolved until the confession is read.


The following details of the characters are based on the original novel published in England.

  • Anthony James "Tony" Marston, an amoral and irresponsible young man, killed two young children (John and Lucy Combes) while driving recklessly, for which he felt no real remorse and accepted no personal responsibility, complaining only that his driving licence had been suspended as a result. He was the first island victim, he died due to cyanide poisoning reflecting the first verse ("One choked his little self and then there were nine").
  • Mrs Ethel Rogers, the cook/housekeeper and Thomas Rogers' wife, described as a pale and ghost-like woman who walks in mortal fear. She was dominated by her bullying husband, who coerced her into agreeing to withhold the medicine of a former employer (Miss Jennifer Brady, an elderly spinster) in order that they might collect an inheritance they knew she had left them in her will. Mrs Rogers was the second victim she died due to an overdose of chloral hydrate reflecting the second verse ("One overslept himself and then there were eight").
  • General John Gordon MacArthur, a retired World War I war hero, who sent his late wife's lover (a younger officer, Arthur Richmond) to his death by assigning him to a mission where it was practically guaranteed he would not survive. Leslie MacArthur had mistakenly put the wrong letters in the envelopes on one occasion when she wrote to both men at the same time. The general tells Vera that no one will leave the island alive. General MacArthur was the third victim he died due to a heavy blow to his head he didn't want to go inside the mansion and stayed on the beach where he died reflecting the third verse ("One said he'd stay there and then there were seven").
  • Thomas Rogers, the butler and Ethel Rogers' husband. He dominated his weak-willed wife, and they killed their former elderly employer by withholding her medicine, causing the woman to die from heart failure, thus inheriting the money she bequeathed them in her will. Despite his wife's death, Rogers was still serving the others. Rogers was the fourth victim he was killed by an axe while he was chopping wood reflecting the fourth verse ("One chopped himself in halves and then there six").
  • Emily Caroline Brent, an elderly, religiously rigid, socially respectable spinster who accepted the vacation on Soldier Island largely due to financial constraints. Years earlier, she had dismissed her teenage maid, Beatrice Taylor, for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Beatrice, who had already been rejected by her parents for the same reason, drowned herself, which Miss Brent considered an even worse sin. She was the fifth vivictim the murderer put a bee into the room, in addition to murder killing her with a syringe containing potassium cyanide, reflecting the fifth verse ("A bumblebee stung one of them and then there were five").
  • Dr Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street doctor, responsible for the death of a patient, Louisa Mary Clees, after he operated on her while drunk many years earlier. Wargrave exploited his naivety and convinced him to help him fake his death. He was the sixth victim (the seventh according to the nursery), he died on the beach reflecting the seventh verse ("A red herring swallowed one and then there were three").
  • Detective Sergeant William Henry Blore, a former police inspector and now a private investigator, was accused of falsifying his testimony in court for a bribe from a dangerous criminal gang, which resulted in an innocent man, James Landor, being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Landor, who had a wife and young child, died shortly afterwards in prison. He arrived under the alias "Davis" from South Africa, on the island for "security work". His true name is revealed on the gramophone recording. He denies the accusation against him from the gramophone recording, but later admits the truth to Lombard. He was the seventh victim (the eighth according to the nursery), a bear-shaped clock statue was pushed from Vera's window sill crushed his skull and this reflects the eighth verse ("A big bear hugged one and then there were two").
  • Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver, as suggested by his invitation letter. Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of a number of East African tribesmen, after stealing their food and abandoning them to their deaths. Neither he nor Marston feels any remorse. He is the only one to theorize that U N Owen might be Wargrave, but the others reject this. He and Vera are the only victims not killed by Justice Wargrave. He was the eighth victim (the ninth according to the nursery), he was shot by Vera reflecting the ninth verse ("One got frizzled up and then there were one").
  • Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a cool, efficient, resourceful young woman who is on leave from her position as a sports mistress at a third-rate girls' school. Her job as a governess was ended by the death of her charge, Cyril Hamilton. Claythorne let the boy drown so his uncle Hugo Hamilton could inherit the family estate and marry her. Hugo rejected her when he somehow realized what she had done. She was the ninth victim (the tenth according to the nursery) she hanged herself, after killing Lombard, by a rope hanged from the ceiling of her room that was prepared by Wargrave reflecting the last verse ("One little soldier boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none").
  • Justice Lawrence John Wargrave, a retired judge, known as a "hanging judge" for liberally awarding the death penalty in murder cases. Wargrave is accused of influencing the jury to hand a guilty verdict to Edward Seton, a man many thought was innocent of his crime of killing an old woman, and sentencing him to death unfairly. As the two policemen discuss at Scotland Yard, new evidence after Seton's execution proved Seton's guilt. He admits in his postscript that he has a lifelong hidden sadistic urge to kill, but only the guilty. Finding himself terminally ill, he devises and carries out this plot. He was the last to die on the island (the sixth according to the nursery) he was killed by shooting himself.
  • Isaac Morris is an unethical lawyer hired by Wargrave to purchase the island (under the name U N Owen), arrange the gramophone recording, and make arrangements on his behalf, including gathering information on the near destitute Philip Lombard, to whom he gave some money to get by and recommended Lombard bring his gun to the island. Morris's is the first death, as he died before the guests arrived on the island. Morris was responsible for the addiction and suicide of a young woman through his narcotics activities. The victim was the daughter of a friend of Wargrave. He accepts Wargrave's lethal cocktail of pills, as something that would help him.
  • Fred Narracott, the boatman who delivered the guests to the island. After doing so, he does not appear again in the story, although Inspector Maine notes it was Narracott who, sensing something seriously amiss, returned to the island as soon as the weather allowed, before he was scheduled to do, and found the bodies. Maine speculates that it was the normalcy and ordinariness of the guests that convinced Narracott to do so and ignore his orders to dismiss any signals requesting help.
  • Sir Thomas Legge and Inspector Maine, two Scotland Yard detectives who discuss the case in the epilogue. They reason out the events of the case, but are stymied as to which was the murderer until the confession comes to light, "legge" is a symbolic name which means "law" in italian.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Writing for The Times Literary Supplement of 11 November 1939, Maurice Percy Ashley stated, "If her latest story has scarcely any detection in it there is no scarcity of murders... There is a certain feeling of monotony inescapable in the regularity of the deaths which is better suited to a serialized newspaper story than a full-length novel. Yet there is an ingenious problem to solve in naming the murderer", he continued. "It will be an extremely astute reader who guesses correctly."[9]

For The New York Times Book Review (25 February 1940), Isaac Anderson has arrived to the point where "the voice" accuses the ten "guests" of their past crimes, which have all resulted in the deaths of humans, and then said, "When you read what happens after that you will not believe it, but you will keep on reading, and as one incredible event is followed by another even more incredible you will still keep on reading. The whole thing is utterly impossible and utterly fascinating. It is the most baffling mystery that Agatha Christie has ever written, and if any other writer has ever surpassed it for sheer puzzlement the name escapes our memory. We are referring, of course, to mysteries that have logical explanations, as this one has. It is a tall story, to be sure, but it could have happened."[10]

Many compared the book to her novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926). For instance, an unnamed reviewer in the Toronto Daily Star of 16 March 1940 said, "Others have written better mysteries than Agatha Christie, but no one can touch her for ingenious plot and surprise ending. With And Then There Were None... she is at her most ingenious and most surprising... is, indeed, considerably above the standard of her last few works and close to the Roger Ackroyd level."[11]

Other critics laud the use of plot twists and surprise endings. Maurice Richardson wrote a rhapsodic review in The Observer's issue of 5 November 1939 which began, "No wonder Agatha Christie's latest has sent her publishers into a vatic trance. We will refrain, however, from any invidious comparisons with Roger Ackroyd and be content with saying that Ten Little Niggers is one of the very best, most genuinely bewildering Christies yet written. We will also have to refrain from reviewing it thoroughly, as it is so full of shocks that even the mildest revelation would spoil some surprise from somebody, and I am sure that you would rather have your entertainment kept fresh than criticism pure." After stating the set-up of the plot, Richardson concluded, "Story telling and characterisation are right at the top of Mrs Christie's baleful form. Her plot may be highly artificial, but it is neat, brilliantly cunning, soundly constructed, and free from any of those red-herring false trails which sometimes disfigure her work."[3]

Robert Barnard, a recent critic, concurred with the reviews, describing the book as "Suspenseful and menacing detective-story-cum-thriller. The closed setting with the succession of deaths is here taken to its logical conclusion, and the dangers of ludicrousness and sheer reader-disbelief are skillfully avoided. Probably the best-known Christie, and justifiably among the most popular."[12]

The original title of the mystery (Ten Little Niggers) was changed because it was offensive in the United States and some other places. Alison Light, a literary critic and feminist scholar, opined that Christie's original title and the setting on "Nigger Island" (later changed to "Indian Island" and "Soldier Island", variously) were integral to the work. These aspects of the novel, she argued, "could be relied upon automatically to conjure up a thrilling 'otherness', a place where revelations about the 'dark side' of the English would be appropriate."[13] Unlike novels such as Heart of Darkness, "Christie's location is both more domesticated and privatized, taking for granted the construction of racial fears woven into psychic life as early as the nursery. If her story suggests how easy it is to play upon such fears, it is also a reminder of how intimately tied they are to sources of pleasure and enjoyment."[13]

In the "Binge!" article of Entertainment Weekly Issue #1343-44 (26 December 2014–3 January 2015), the writers picked And Then There Were None as an "EW favorite" on the list of the "Nine Great Christie Novels".[14]

Current published version of the rhyme[edit]

Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.[15]

Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.[16]

One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.[17]

19th-century original verses[edit]

This children's rhyme was originally written as songs in the 19th century, one in Britain in 1869[18] and one in the US in 1868.[19]

1869 & 1868 verses
Ten Little Niggers
(Frank Green)[18]
Ten Little Indians
(Septimus Winner)[19]

Ten little nigger boys went out to dine
One choked his little self, and then there were nine.

Nine little nigger boys sat up very late
One overslept himself, and then there were eight.

Eight little nigger boys traveling in Devon
One said he'd stay there, and then there were seven.

Seven little nigger boys chopping up sticks
One chopped himself in half, and then there were six.

Six little nigger boys playing with a hive
A bumble-bee stung one, and then there were five.

Five little nigger boys going in for law
One got in chancery, and then there were four.

Four little nigger boys going out to sea
A red herring swallowed one, and then there were three.

Three little nigger boys walking in the zoo
A big bear hugged one, and then there were two.

Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun
One got frizzled up, and then there was one.

One little nigger boy living all alone
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.

Ten little Injuns standin' in a line,
One toddled home and then there were nine;

Nine little Injuns swingin' on a gate,
One tumbled off and then there were eight.

Refrain :
One little, two little, three little, four little, five little Injuns boys,
Six little, seven little, eight little, nine little, ten little Injuns boys.

Eight little Injuns gayest under heav'n,
One went to sleep and then there were seven;

Seven little Injuns cutting up their tricks,
One broke his neck and then there were six.

Six little Injuns kickin' all alive,
One kick'd the bucket and then there were five;

Five little Injuns on a cellar door,
One tumbled in and then there were four.

Four little Injuns up on a spree,
One he got fuddled and then there were three;

Three little Injuns out in a canoe,
One tumbled overboard and then there were two.

Two little Injuns foolin' with a gun,
One shot t'other and then there was one;

One little Injun livin' all alone,
He got married and then there were none.

The title[edit]

Cover of first US 1940 edition with current title for all English-language versions.

The novel was originally published in late 1939 and early 1940 almost simultaneously, in the United Kingdom and the United States. In the UK it appeared under the title Ten Little Niggers, in book and newspaper serialized formats. The serialization was in 23 parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday 6 June to Saturday 1 July 1939. All of the instalments carried an illustration by "Prescott" with the first having an illustration of Burgh Island in Devon which inspired the setting of the story. The serialized version did not contain any chapter divisions.[20] The book retailed for seven shillings and six pence.

In the United States it was published under the title And Then There Were None, again in both book and serial formats. Both of the original US publications changed the title from that originally used in the UK, due to the offensiveness of the word in American culture, where it was more widely perceived as a racially loaded ethnic slur or insult compared to contemporary UK culture, rather than a fairly innocent rhyme for children to use when selecting one child for a game. The serialized version appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in seven parts from 20 May (Volume 211, Number 47) to 1 July 1939 (Volume 212, Number 1) with illustrations by Henry Raleigh, and the book was published in January 1940 by Dodd, Mead and Company for $2.[4][5][6]

In the original UK novel all references to "Indians" or "Soldiers" were originally "Nigger", including the island's name, the pivotal rhyme found by the visitors, and the ten figurines.[5] (In Chapter 7, Vera Claythorne becomes semi-hysterical at the mention by Miss Brent of "our black brothers", which is understandable only in the context of the original name.) UK editions changed to the current definitive title in 1985.[21] The word "nigger" was already racially offensive in the United States by the start of the 20th century, and therefore the book's first US edition and first serialization changed the title to And Then There Were None and removed all references to the word from the book, as did the 1945 motion picture.[citation needed]

Publication history[edit]

This is the best selling crime novel of all time, and what makes Agatha Christie the best selling novelist.[2] It is Christie's best-selling novel, with more than 100 million copies sold; it is also the world's best-selling mystery and one of the best-selling books of all time. Publications International lists the novel as the sixth best-selling title.[7]

The book and its adaptations have been released under various new names since the original publication, including Ten Little Indians (1946 play, Broadway performance and 1964 paperback book), Ten Little Soldiers and official title per the Agatha Christie Limited website, And Then There Were None.[2] UK editions continued to use the work's original title until the 1980s; the first UK edition to use the alternative title And Then There Were None appeared in 1985 with a reprint of the 1963 Fontana Paperback.[21]

  • Christie, Agatha (November 1939). Ten Little Niggers. London: Collins Crime Club. OCLC 152375426. Hardback, 256 pp. (First edition.)
  • Christie, Agatha (January 1940). And Then There Were None. New York: Dodd, Mead. OCLC 1824276. Hardback, 264 pp. (First US edition.)
  • Christie, Agatha (1944). And Then There Were None. New York: Pocket Books (Pocket number 261). Paperback, 173 pp.
  • Christie, Agatha (1947). Ten Little Niggers. London: Pan Books (Pan number 4). Paperback, 190 pp.
  • Christie, Agatha (1958). Ten Little Niggers. London: Penguin Books (Penguin number 1256). Paperback, 201 pp.
  • Christie, Agatha (1963). And Then There Were None. London: Fontana. OCLC 12503435. Paperback, 190 pp. (The 1985 reprint was the first UK publication of the novel under the title And Then There Were None.)[21]
  • Christie, Agatha (1964). Ten Little Indians. New York: Pocket Books. OCLC 29462459. (First publication of novel as Ten Little Indians.)
  • Christie, Agatha (1964). And Then There Were None. New York: Washington Square Press. Paperback, teacher's edition.
  • Christie, Agatha (1977). Ten Little Niggers (Greenway ed.). London: Collins Crime Club. ISBN 0-00-231835-0. Collected works, Hardback, 252 pp. (Except for reprints of the 1963 Fontana paperback, this was one of the last English-language publications of the novel under the title Ten Little Niggers.)[22]
  • Christie, Agatha (1980). The Mysterious Affair at Styles; Ten Little Niggers; Dumb Witness. Sydney: Lansdowne Press. ISBN 0-7018-1453-5. (Late use of the original title in an Australian edition.)
  • Christie, Agatha (1986). Ten Little Indians. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-55222-8. (Last publication of novel under the title Ten Little Indians.)
Foreign language editions

The sensitivity of the original British title varies across nations, depending on their culture and which words are used to describe people by skin color. In the US, the British title was considered offensive at first publication, and changed to the last line of the rhyme instead of its title. As the estate of Agatha Christie now offers it under one title only in English, And Then There Were None, it is likely that new foreign language editions will match that title in their language.[2] The original title (Ten Little Niggers) still survives in a few foreign-language versions of the novel, such as the Bulgarian title Десет малки негърчета, and was used in other languages for a time, for example in Dutch until the 1994 release of the 18th edition.[citation needed] The title Ten Little Negroes continues to be commonly used in foreign-language versions, for example in Spanish, Greek, Serbian, Romanian,[23] French[24] and Hungarian, as well as a 1987 Russian film adaptation Десять негритят (Desyat Negrityat). In 1999, the Slovak National Theatre staged the play under its original title but changed to A napokon nezostal už nik (And Then There Were None) mid-run.[25]

Possible inspirations[edit]

The 1930 novel The Invisible Host by Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning has a plot that strongly matches that of Christie's later novel, including a recorded voice announcing to the guests that their sins will be visited upon them by death. The Invisible Host was adapted as the 1930 Broadway The Ninth Guest by Owen Davis,[26] which itself was adapted as the 1934 film The Ninth Guest.

The 1933 K.B.S. Productions Sherlock Holmes film A Study in Scarlet follows a strikingly similar plot;[27] it includes a scene where Holmes is shown a card with the hint: "Six little Indians ....bee stung one and then there were five". In this case, the rhyme refers to "Ten Little Fat Boys". (The film's plot bears no resemblance to Arthur Conan Doyle's original story of the same name.) The author of the movie's screenplay, Robert Florey, "doubted that [Christie] had seen A Study in Scarlet, but he regarded it as a compliment if it had helped inspire her".[28]


And Then There Were None has had more adaptations than any other single work by Agatha Christie. It is the isolated location where all the players on scene are murdered, never knowing who their murderer is, that is the idea. "It was an idea which is now the basis for many Hollywood horror films and has become a cliché to modern audiences, but it was Agatha Christie who was the first to do it and so successfully that the story has become her most adapted piece."[2] She changed the bleak ending to a more palatable one for theatre audiences when she adapted the novel for the stage in 1943. Many adaptations incorporate changes to the story, such as using Christie's alternative ending from her stage play or changing the setting to locations other than an island.

With a plot line so well known, parodies and references to the novel or the play are frequent. Many television programs use the essence of the plot, a group of characters cut off from the outside world with a murderer in their midst, but with innocent victims in place of guilty victims, and give no credit to Agatha Christie for the many differences in plot and motivation.


There have been numerous film adaptations of the novel, some comedic. Examples include:



  • And Then There Were None (1943 play) is Christie's adaptation of the story for the stage. She and the producers agreed that audiences might not flock to a tale with such a grim ending as the novel, nor would it work well dramatically as there would be no one left to tell the story. Thus, she reworked the ending for Lombard and Vera to be innocent of the crimes of which they were accused, survive, and fall in love with each other. Some of the names were also changed, e.g., General Macarthur became General McKenzie in both the New York and London productions.[34][35] By 1943, General Douglas MacArthur was playing a prominent role in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, which may explain the change of the character's name. Regardless of the reason, it was changed.
  • Ten little niggers (1944 play), Dundee Repertory Theatre Company was given special permission to restore the original ending of the novel. The company first performed a stage adaptation of the novel in August 1944 under the UK title of the novel, with Agatha Christie credited as the dramatist.[36] It was the first performance in repertory theatre.[36] It was staged again in 1965.[37] There was an article in the Dundee Evening Register in August 1944
  • And Then There Were None (2005 play), On 14 October 2005, a new version of the play, written by Kevin Elyot and directed by Steven Pimlott, opened at the Gielgud Theatre in London. For this version, Elyot returned to the original story in the novel, restoring the nihilism of the original.[38]


Several variations of the original novel were adapted for television, three of which were British adaptations. The first of these, in 1949, was produced by the BBC.[39] The second was produced in 1959,[40] by ITV. Both of those productions aired with Christie's original title. The third and most recent British adaptation aired as And Then There Were None on BBC One in December 2015, as a mini-series produced in cooperation with Acorn Media and Agatha Christie Productions. The 2015 production adhered more closely to the original plot, though there were several differences, and was the first English language film adaptation to feature an ending similar to that of the novel.[41]

On 25 and 26 March 2017 TV Asahi in Japan aired そして誰もいなくなった (Soshite daremo inakunatta), a Japanese language adaptation by Nagasaka Shukei (長坂秀佳) of the original story set in modern times.[42][43]

Other media[edit]

The novel has been the inspiration for several video games. For the Apple II, Online Systems released the game Mystery House in 1980. On the PC, The Adventure Company released the video game Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None in 2005, the first in a series of PC games based on Christie novels. In February 2008, it was ported to the Wii console. The identity of the murderer is not that of the killer in the original book. The game player assumes the role of Patrick Naracott (brother of Fred Naracott, who is involved in a newly created subplot), who is stranded with the others when his boat is scuttled. This allows for alternate, more successful endings in which Naracott survives and is able to prevent the murders of the innocent Lombard and Claythorne. All endings depart markedly from the novel and previous adaptations in that the killer and motives are different.[citation needed]

And Then There Were None was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 30 April 2009, adapted by François Rivière and illustrated by Frank Leclercq.

Peká Editorial released a board game based on the book, created by Judit Hurtado and Fernando Chavarría, and illustrated by Esperanza Peinado.[44]

Timeline of adaptations[edit]

type Title Year Notes
Film And Then There Were None 1945 American film and first cinema adaptation. Produced & directed by René Clair.
TV Ten Little Niggers 1949 BBC television production (IMDb)
TV Ten Little Niggers 1959 ITV television production (IMDb)
TV Ten Little Indians 1959 NBC television production (IMDb)
Film Ten Little Indians 1965 British film and second cinema adaptation. Directed by George Pollock and produced by Harry Alan Towers; Pollock had previously handled four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. Set in a mountain retreat in Austria.
Film Gumnaam 1965 Loose, uncredited Hindi film adaptation, which adds the characteristic "Bollywood" elements of comedy, music and dance to Christie's plot.[citation needed]
TV Zehn kleine Negerlein 1969 West German television production (IMDb)
Film 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto
("Five Dolls for an August Moon")
1970 Loose, uncredited Italian giallo film adaptation written by Mario di Nardo and directed by Mario Bava.[29]
Film And Then There Were None 1974 English language film by Peter Collinson and produced by Harry Alan Towers. First English-language color film version of the novel, based on a screenplay by Towers (writing as "Peter Welbeck"), who co-wrote the screenplay for the 1965 film. Set at a grand hotel in the Iranian desert.
TV Ten Little Slaves (Achra Abid Zghar) 1974 Télé Liban TV series directed by Jean Fayyad, TV Adaptation by Latifeh Moultaka. (Facebook Page)
Film Desyat' negrityat
Десять негритят
("Ten Little Negroes")
1987 Russian film version produced/directed by Stanislav Govorukhin, notable for being the first cinema adaptation to keep the novel's original plot and grim ending.
Film Ten Little Indians 1989 British film, produced by Harry Alan Towers and directed by Alan Birkinshaw, set on safari in the African savannah.
TV Ten Little Slaves (Achra Abid Zghar) 2014 MTV Lebanon television production (MTV)
TV And Then There Were None 2015 BBC One miniseries broadcast on three consecutive nights, directed by Craig Viveiros and adapted by Sarah Phelps. Similar to book, although not identical, with changes to backstories and actual murders on the island.
TV Soshite Daremo Inakunatta 2017 Japanese TV Asahi miniseries broadcast on two consecutive nights, directed by Seiji Izumi and adapted by Hideka Nagasaka. (TV Asahi)


  1. ^ "British Library Item details". Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e "And Then There Were None". Agatha Christie Limited. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Review of Ten Little Indian Boys". The Observer. 5 November 1939. p. 6.
  4. ^ a b Peers, Chris; Spurrier, Ralph; Sturgeon, Jamie (1999). Collins Crime Club: a checklist of the first editions (2nd ed.). London, UK: Dragonby Press. p. 15. ISBN 1-871122-13-9.
  5. ^ a b c Pendergast, Bruce (2004). Everyman's Guide to the Mysteries of Agatha Christie. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing. p. 393. ISBN 1-4120-2304-1.
  6. ^ a b "American Tribute to Agatha Christie: The Classic Years 1940–1944". J S Marcum. May 2004. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b Davies, Helen; Dorfman, Marjorie; Fons, Mary; Hawkins, Deborah; Hintz, Martin; Lundgren, Linnea; Priess, David; Clark Robinson, Julia; Seaburn, Paul; Stevens, Heidi; Theunissen, Steve (14 September 2007). "21 Best-Selling Books of All Time". Editors of Publications International, Ltd. Archived from the original on 7 April 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
  8. ^ Christie, Agatha (1964). Ten Little Niggers. London: The Crime Club. pp. 31–32. Original nursery rhyme
  9. ^ Ashley, Maurice Percy Ashley (November 11, 1939). "Review: Ten Little Indians". The Times Literary Supplement. p. 658.
  10. ^ Anderson, Isaac (February 25, 1940). "Review: Ten Little Indians". The New York Times Book Review. p. 15.
  11. ^ "Review: Ten Little Indians". Toronto Daily Star. March 16, 1940. p. 28.
  12. ^ Barnard, Robert (1990). A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie (Revised ed.). Fontana Books. p. 206. ISBN 0-00-637474-3.
  13. ^ a b Light, Alison (1991). Forever England: Femininity, Literature, and Conservatism Between the Wars. Routledge. p. 99. ISBN 0-415-01661-4.
  14. ^ "Binge! Agatha Christie: Nine Great Christie Novels". Entertainment Weekly (1343–44): 32–33. 26 December 2014.
  15. ^ Christie, Agatha (1944). And Then There Were None: A Mystery Play in Three Acts. Samuel French. This line is sometimes replaced by One got left behind and then there were seven.
  16. ^ Note: In some versions the ninth verse reads Two little Soldier boys playing with a gun/One shot the other and then there was One.
  17. ^ Christie, Agatha (March 2008). And Then There Were None. Harper-Collins. p. 276. ASIN B000FC1RCI. ISBN 978-0-06-074683-4.
  18. ^ a b Ten Little Niggers, song written in 1869 by Frank Green, for music by Mark Mason, for the singer G W "Pony" Moore. Agatha Christie, for the purposes of her novel, changed the story of the last little boy "One little nigger boy left all alone / He went out and hanged himself and then there were none".
  19. ^ a b Ten Little Indians, song by Septimus Winner, American lyricist residing in Philadelphia, published in July 1868 in London.
  20. ^ Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale); Shelfmark NPL LON LD3/NPL LON MLD3.
  21. ^ a b c British National Bibliography for 1985. British Library (1986); ISBN 0-7123-1035-5
  22. ^ Whitaker's Cumulative Book List for 1977. J Whitaker and Sons. 1978. ISBN 0-85021-105-0.
  23. ^ ""Zece negri mititei" si "Crima din Orient Express", azi cu "Adevarul"" (in Romanian). 6 January 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  24. ^ "Dix petits nègres, nouvelle édition: Livres: Agatha Christie" (in French). Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  25. ^ "Agatha Christie: Desať malých černoškov ... a napokon nezostal už nik". Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  26. ^ Davis, Owen. The Ninth Guest: A Mystery Melodrama In Three Acts, Samuel French & Co., 1932
  27. ^ Taves, Brian (1987). Robert Florey, the French Expressionist. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-8108-1929-5.
  28. ^ Taves, Brian (1987). Robert Florey, the French Expressionist. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-8108-1929-5.
  29. ^ a b Lucas, Tim (2007). Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. Video Watchdog. p. 812. ISBN 0-9633756-1-X.
  30. ^ "Author of incredible reach". The Hindu. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  31. ^ "Agatha Christie e il cinema: un amore mai sbocciato del tutto" (in Italian). 12 January 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  32. ^ "Aatagara is not a remake". Bangalore Mirror. 30 August 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  33. ^ "Ten Little Niggers". Radio Times (1263). 26 December 1947.
  34. ^ "Ten Little Indians at Two New York City playhouses 1944-1945". The Broadway League, including cast and characters. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  35. ^ Christie, Agatha (1993). The Mousetrap and Other Plays. HarperCollins. p. 2. ISBN 0-00-224344-X.
  36. ^ a b "Ten little niggers, stage production at Dundee Repertory Theatre". Dundee, Scotland: Scottish Theatre Archive - Event Details. August 1944. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  37. ^ "Ten little niggers staged at Dundee Repertory Theatre 1944 and 1965". National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  38. ^ "And Then There Were None". Review. This Is Theatre. 14 October 2005. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  39. ^ BBC TV (20 August 1949). "Ten Little Niggers". Radio Times (1348). p. 39.
  40. ^ "Season 4, Episode 20 'Ten Little Niggers'". Play of the Week. ITV. January 13, 1959.
  41. ^ "And Then There Were None to air on BBC1 on Boxing Day 2015". Radio Times. 2 December 2015.
  42. ^ "And Then There Were None in Japan". Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie Limited. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  43. ^ "そして誰もいなくなった". TV Asahi (in Japanese). TV Ashi. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  44. ^ Peká Editorial website Archived 20 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine.; accessed 10 July 2015.

External links[edit]