Talk:And Then There Were None

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Former good article nominee And Then There Were None was a Language and literature good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
April 10, 2009 Good article nominee Not listed

Title used in article[edit]

The book was written as ‘Ten Little Niggers’ and known as this for many years. In more recent years, the alternative title ‘And Then There Were None’ has been introduced by the Christie estate to cater for objections to the original title.

  • Part 1: Should the article title be ‘Ten Little Niggers’ or ‘And Then There Were None’?
  • Part 2: Should the novel be described throughout the page as ‘Ten Little Niggers’ or ‘And Then There Were None’? (talk) 01:04, 24 June 2014 (UTC)

I know that the title Ten Little Indians is very popular, and many people will use that to refer to the book instead of And Then There Were None. But it's wishful thinking to believe that ATTWN is a "new" title. It's been the main title for all American editions since 1939, and for British editions since 1985. It was not introduced by Agatha Christie's estate, but by Agatha Christie herself. Considering not only how long the title And Then There Were None has been in use, but also how long Ten Little Niggers has been OUT of use, I don't see any reason to use the former in favor of the latter. On top of which is the offensiveness with which "nigger" holds in both American and now British culture, I think using the original title is pointless. Perhaps there would be a point in reinstating the title if it was what many foreign languages translate this title into---"Ten Little Negros" or "Ten Little Blacks." But at best, those titles would raise eyebrows. "Ten Little Niggers" would start fights, and while this is a classic mystery, nobody can intelligently claim that the word "nigger" is essential to the greatness of this book as it is to Mark Twain's The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn.
What would be an almost acceptable alternative would be what has been a popular ALTERNATE title for this book (and main title for the play) for many years, which would be Ten Little Indians. But there's the rub! This is the decision that the estate of Agatha Christie recently made concerning the book. It had nothing to do with introducing the title And Then There Were None because that has been used from the very beginning. Instead, the estate ELIMINATED Ten Little Indians as an alternate title for the book and retitled the play to match the book. If anybody has objections to replacing "Ten Little Indians" with "Ten Little Soldiers" then that should be the objection. If you think that the elimination of "Ten Little Niggers" has been done in recent years, then please be aware that Margaret Thatcher is no longer Prime Minister. Edward J. Cunningham (talk) 02:29, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Use of a slur[edit]

Why do we need to have the original cover depicting the book when it's not even printed like that anymore? I think we should have that cover somewhere else in the article, but definitely not as the main image. TheWompEditor (talk) 02:44, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

Because the image used to illustrate a book is (if possible) the cover of the first edition. Chemical Engineer (talk) 17:42, 4 April 2016 (UTC)
That, and "white-washing" history is not what wikipedia is for. (talk) 14:02, 23 July 2016 (UTC)

General John Gordon Macarthur[edit]

The term "life preserver" is ambiguous. Was he killed with a club or a lifebelt or a lifebuoy, all of which can have this name? (I am guessing not a lifejacket.) There is a link, but it would be better to have a non-ambiguous term in the first place. Chemical Engineer (talk) 16:11, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Dr. Armstrong said he had been hit by a "life preserver or some such thing" but that he couldn't find "the actual weapon used", so he is just guessing based on the wound, which we know from the epilogue is a skull fracture, and not because he saw a lifebuoy lying on the ground. Therefore I think that Dr. Armstrong was using the "club" sense of "life preserver", and we shouldn't link to Lifebuoy as though that is the likely meaning. Since Dr. Armstrong is unsure of the murder weapon himself I don't think there's any benefit to mentioning it at all. (As they search the island later for the revolver and nobody mentions a bloody or cracked lifebuoy, I think it's likely the weapon was in fact a heavy club-like object that the murderer promptly cast into the sea, but that is speculation and doesn't belong here.)Lee Choquette (talk) 17:24, 27 April 2015 (UTC)

A life preserver is a Victorian term for a club - nothing to do with a lifebelt or a lifebuoy. - SchroCat (talk) 15:12, 4 October 2015 (UTC)

Yes, but the link was to the generic term life preserver disambiguation page, which should not be done. Chemical Engineer (talk) 17:40, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

Citation required under "other media"[edit]

I don't really know how to edit Wiki but I can confirm that the game exists - it is this one A walkthrough here references the "Sailor Boys" many times. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:28, 30 June 2015 (UTC)


Under English Language editions we are told: 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).[13]


  • 1) it would seem it was first published in the UK as "And Then There Were None" in 1985 (which is NOT "the early 1980s")
  • 2) and then somebody traveled backward in time to publish it under the same name in 1963 in a London in a parallel universe where London was not part of the UK. Tlhslobus (talk) 11:08, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

Incidentally, we also have a 1981 edition in Dutch listed in the English Language section. Tlhslobus (talk) 11:08, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

You appear to be implying that I should have fixed it myself, even though you have not fixed it yourself either. I should point out that one of the 5 principles of Wikipedia is that Wikipedia is Not Compulsory. I would have had to spend time on some research that I had no wish to do if I wanted to be reasonably sure that my 'fix' was correct, and just because WP:Bold seemingly doesn't care about 'fixes' that are wrong doesn't mean that I don't - I've seen prolonged harm done to articles (and presumably also their misled readers) by bad fixes, which can seriously disimprove an article by replacing obvious errors by errors that are far worse because the reader can't easily spot they are errors. (And there are always other valid reasons for not wanting to try to fix things oneself - most of us know from experience that any edit carries a risk of getting involved in wasted effort and/or an unpleasant dispute, with the risk usually being greater for article edits than for merely mentioning a problem on Talk). Instead I prefer to point out the problem here so the article can be fixed by somebody who cares enough to put the effort into fixing it correctly. Comments implying "Fix it yourself" (incidentally WP:Bold is also called WP:SOFIXIT) merely make it less likely that people like me will point out such problems in future (for fear of ending up wasting yet more time defending oneself from undeserved criticism, as I have now done), thereby disimproving the Encyclopedia, and the fact that WP:Bold in effect invites such comments is just one of the many things that are wrong with Wikipedia, and quite likely a part of what causes Wikipedia to have such difficulty in retaining editors (and is part of the reason why I am now semi-retired as an editor). Tlhslobus (talk) 22:47, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
I've crossed out a small part of my original post, something which only belonged in the Talk page from which that post was copied - fixing things myself would presumably have required me to fix that article too, at least doubling the effort and risks involved.Tlhslobus (talk) 01:32, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
We all, of course, look forward to your complete retirement: and possibly even wish you a happy one. Slán. Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi 10:43, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
On a lighter note, excellent essay on the 2009 DefAct. 10:46, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I fear it's possible that you may need an unreasonable amount of patience while looking forward to my complete retirement :) But thanks for the compliment on the essay. It's thoroughly undeserved (the essay now looks like dreadful waffle to me - basically just 'on the one hand, and on the other', with no clear conclusion - though a clear conclusion might easily make it even worse), but undeserved praise is definitely a lot more enjoyable than undeserved criticism :) So thanks again, and all the best.Tlhslobus (talk) 14:26, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

In section And Then There Were None#Publication and title history, the four bullet points 1963 to 1977 must be wrong about the 1963 title or confused about subsequent titles in more complex way. If the list covers the novel and other print forms, then it must be written carefully in that regard. --16:28, 2 December 2015 (UTC)

I don't know enough about ANY of these publications that Tlhslobus cited to make any corrections, but I'd like to make this suggestion. For decades, this book has been published in the United States as And Then There Were None even when the rhyme inside was still "Ten Little Indians" and the two references to "nigger in the woodpile" were still in print. Just as Ten Little Indians was an alternate title in the United States to And Then There Were None, might it be possible that And Then There Were None was an alternate title to Ten Little Niggers in Britain before 1985 and what really changed wasn't the title but rather the text, which now matched the American version. Does anybody have a copy of this 1963 British edition so we can know for sure? Edward J. Cunningham (talk) 19:44, 3 April 2016 (UTC)
The British Library catalogue is free to access online and confirms that the 1963 Fontana [Collins] edition was called "Ten Little Niggers". I have a copy in front of me of the 13th impression (September 1971) of that 1963 edition and the title had not changed by then. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 20:53, 3 April 2016 (UTC)
Thank you, Michael. I'll check and see where either the catalog(ue) at the Library of Congress has similar information as to when "Then Little Indians" became "Ten Little Soldiers." It won't be easy because you cannot tell from the title. I may have to do this the hard way and go to a brick-and-mortar library to look up newspaper articles. I strongly suspect that this change took place in 2007, but I can't prove it. As much of a help as the internet has been for the spread of knowledge, it's frightening at how quickly that same information can disappear rapidly. Edward J. Cunningham (talk) 23:31, 3 April 2016 (UTC)

Excessive detail, OR, etc.[edit], seriously? A sentence or two ought to be more than enough: remember, this is a [List of] Characters, not "List of characters including the plot and my own conclusions about the story". The first section already says stuff like "His amorality makes him the first victim", which strikes me as an editorial comment, and "a rigid, repressed elderly spinster", likewise editorial (and sexist to boot--impossible to tell if this is the sexism of the Wikipedia editor or the author's). It contains (grammatically incorrect) verbosity like "The general fatalistically accepts that no one will leave the island alive" (sounds like Original Research to me). "His corpse washes ashore expeditiously" is POV/commentary, "his skull was crushed by a bear-shaped clock dropped from Vera's bedroom window onto the terrace below" is excessively detailed, "Lombard died in a standoff with Vera, both -- despite their cool, calculating, efficient natures -- overlooking in their panic (at discovering Armstrong's body) that neither of them could have killed Blore" is original research, "'U. N. Owen' (a homonym of 'Unknown')" is editorial commentary, etc. etc. Summarizing my edit summary as "silly detail" is acting untruthfully: I said "started cutting down this silly amount of detail, which should be in the plot or nowhere at all". Your quick and easy revert uses the almighty BRD as an excuse. Drmies (talk) 19:09, 11 November 2015 (UTC)

@Drmies: "A sentence or two ought to be more than enough..." sounds like one size fits all OR to me considering we are talking about a psychological thriller and one the best-selling novels of all time. If I even found a way to put some of the details you object to into other sections of the article you would object to that as well. You're throwing out the baby with the bathwater, if you know what that means. Your massive reverts are as drastic and objectionable as you claim some of the more florid prose is for you. Compromise is always best. And BRD was not created by me as a recommended course of action. Any other opinions -- please........... Quis separabit? 21:47, 11 November 2015 (UTC)
I know what that expression means. I don't think you know what a baby is. Drmies (talk) 21:57, 11 November 2015 (UTC)
That sounds like a slur of some kind. I guess I should contact the ACLU or Media Matters. When I wrote "Any other opinions -- please..........." I was referring to other editors besides the two of us, btw, so I hope you didn't take that the wrong way. Quis separabit? 21:59, 11 November 2015 (UTC)
Slur? There was no baby, only bathwater. Now, speaking of best-selling novels, Uncle Tom's Cabin is one, and Uncle Tom's Cabin is an FA. You haven't addressed any of my points and have said nothing of substance, so please go see how that article handles its characters. Note how it addresses points of substance, how it does not resort to plot or original research. That there is a reference for where the character of Eliza comes from. That the list of minor characters is indeed "a sentence or two". What we have, in this article, is poorly written, full of original research and editorial commentary, more plot than anything, unbecoming. A novel this popular deserves a better article. Drmies (talk) 22:31, 11 November 2015 (UTC)
I was just kidding about the slur, but I didn't originally get the point when you said I didn't know what a/the baby is. I got it now. If it's OR to point out that Vera Claythorne encouraged Cyril, her charge, to swim far out in the sea and pretended to save him so her lover would receive his inheritance that the child would otherwise have gotten? I did quote that fact the she recalled the child as "spoilt" and "whiny", adjectives I remember from my reading. Do you want me to see what quotations I can glean online and just add them with reflinks. OK. I'll try. Quis separabit? 22:59, 11 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Sure thing, Rms. There may well be good material available on these characters and verified stuff is more than welcome, of course. Direct quotes can be helpful too. Thing is, I have seen many of these articles (more in TV and movie articles than in novels, sure) where character description just gets out of hand (typically added by fans, I think...) that I think the best course of action is to cut it down to the minimum we can do without sourcing. Thanks, Drmies (talk) 05:19, 12 November 2015 (UTC)

Title translations[edit]

Catalan Deu negrets Ten Little Black Men
Finnish Kymmenen pientä neekeripoikaa Ten little negro boys
French Dix Petits Nègres Ten Little Negroes
Galician Dez negriños Ten Little Black Boys

The above are a sampling of the translated titles for this book. My question is, are the Catalan, Finnish, and Galician translations really demonstrably different from the French one? That is, couldn't they all be rendered as "Ten Little Negroes" just as easily? Do the English phrases "Ten Little Black Men", "Ten Little Negro Boys" and "Ten Little Black Boys" really have different translations in those languages than the English phrase "Ten Little Negroes"? --Khajidha (talk) 15:34, 17 December 2015 (UTC)

Well, about the Galician (and Spanish) translation, I have to say that "negro" is "black people", "nigger" or "negroes". Unless due to political correctness they (us) have decided to use different words, the three refers to persons of Negroid heritage, and none of them were supposed to be any kind of insult. Being that said, I have to say that nowadays it's also used "persona/gente de color" (Spanish) or "persoa/xente de cor" (Galician), which could be translated as "colored person/people" (regarding that, often when those expressions are used, some people just ask "which color?", so finally it's stated "black"; it's kind of a joke about stupid political correctness rules, no ofense is intended about black people).

So, for a quite long answer to your question, I'll try to put all the possible Galician (G) and Spanish (S) translations of those phrases (hint: "pequeño/pequeno" can be in size/height or in age, or both; hint 2: the Spanish/Galician diminutive can refer to size/height, age or denote sympathy or affection, among other uses): "Ten Little Black Men":

  (S) "Diez hombres negros pequeños"
  (G) "Dez homes negros pequenos"
        -> It states that the black men are adult and small/short.
  (S) "Diez pequeños hombres negros"
  (G) "Dez pequenos homes negros"
        -> It states that the black men are small/short ("hombres negros" that are "pequeños", or that they are kids ("pequeños hombres" that are "negros"; this is the translation used, for example, in the book "little women" - "mujercitas").
  (S) "Diez hombres pequeños negros"
  (G) "Dez homes pequenos negros"
        -> It states that the adult men are black and small/short. Not quite used, as it should preferably have an "y" (S) or "e" (G), stating an "and".
  (S) "Diez negritos" 
  (G) "Dez negriños" 
        -> Same as the previous ones. In this case, "negrito/negriño" is used (specially in Galician, that uses diminutives really, really a lot) to denote some kind of affection or sympathy (both are diminutive forms). 
  The correct one depends on the actual meaning, and you usually have to find that out from the context.

"Ten Little Negro Boys": Pretty much the same as the previous phrase, but in this case they are not adult men.

  (S) "Diez chicos negros pequeños"
  (G) "Dez rapaces negros pequenos"
        -> It states that the black boys are small/short.
  (S) "Diez pequeños chicos negros"
  (G) "Dez pequenos rapaces negros"
        -> It states that the black boys are small/short ("chicos negros" that are "pequeños", or that they are young boys ("pequeños chicos" that are "black").
  (S) "Diez negritos" 
  (G) "Dez negriños" 
        -> All said about these. 
  The correct one depends on the real meaning, and you have to find that out from the context.

"Ten Little Black Boys": Same as the previous.

"Ten Little Negroes": Same as the previous, although it could also be -pollitically correct- translated as:

  (S) "Diez personas de raza negra pequeñas"
  (G) "Dez persoas de raza negra pequenas"
  (S) "Diez personas pequeñas de raza negra"
  (G) "Dez persoas pequenas de raza negra"
  (S) "Diez pequeñas personas de raza negra"
  (G) "Dez pequenas persoas de raza negra"
  (S) "Diez personitas de raza negra"
  (G) "Dez persoíñas de raza negra"

For a shorter answer, all phases can have pretty much the same translation, although there are some different emphasis/connotations, that should be related to the original meaning and context.

That said, in Spanish I've seen the title "Diez negritos" in several editions of the book (one of my mother's books that I read when I was much younger), although it's possible that for political correctness later editions had been titled "Y no quedó ninguno" (that's the translation of the title in the 2015 tv miniseries).

By the way, both spanish titles are quite literal translations for the english ones: "Y no quedó ninguno" could be "And there were none". The "And No One Remained" can be an alternative translation. Check that the "then" was no translated into Spanish, possibly because it adds no much information and makes the Spanish title much longer and, let's say, "uglier": "Y entonces no quedó ninguno". "Diez negritos" could be "Ten little niggers" (or "Ten little black boys", etc.). "Ten black boys", although could be translated as the same, would be more accurate as "Diez chicos negros".

Year in which the incidents occur[edit]

I put "in the late 1930s" because as Dr Armstrong notes it was "closer to fifteen years" since the incident for which he was going to pay with his life (operating while drunk and killing a patient), and that incident occurred in 1925 as per the gramophone recording, and 1939 is really unlikely as the late August date would mean this all took place just days before the start of WWII in Europe. So "late 1930s" must be right. Christie wrote the novel in 1939-40, I believe, but it has a retrospective feel as there are various references to World War I (aka "the Great War"). Quis separabit? 00:26, 29 February 2016 (UTC)

Current published version of the rhyme[edit]

Right now under the current Wikipedia article, it gives the "current published version of the rhyme" as "Ten Little Indians." Clearly, that is no longer the case. I realize that this is controversial and that many fans of Agatha Christie wish that "Ten Little Indians" still was the rhyme used in the book, and that there are still others who wish it was never changed from "Ten Little Niggers." But pretending that it has NEVER been changed, and that "Indians" is the CURRENT (as of 3 April 2016) rhyme is doing Wikipedia readers a disservice. The only reason why I have not changed this right now is that I am having trouble finding an article online which cites exactly WHEN the estate of Agatha Christie approved the change in the book as well as the play adaptations.

One more thing I wish to note. There are some people who think that the book has been Ten LIttle Indians in the United States as early as 1940, and that And Then There Were None is only a recent title change. I know very well that when I was in junior high school (now middle school), the title of the book I read was And Then There Were None even when all the Indian and "nigger in the woodpile" references were not changed. Furthermore, there have been American publications of the book under the title ATTWN as early as 1939 or 1940. Ten Little Indians has merely been an ALTERNATE title for the book. What is new is that now that the rhyme has been changed, Ten LIttle Indians is no longer an option as an alternate title. I would not be surprised if there is a new publication with Ten Little Soldiers as an alternate title. Supposedly, there have been productions of the play under this title, but I cannot confirm this. Edward J. Cunningham (talk) 19:21, 3 April 2016 (UTC)

Main image[edit]

Is there a consensus that it is most appropriate for the main picture to be of a book with the old title? -KaJunl (talk) 21:38, 7 May 2016 (UTC)

Hi KaJunl, Purely speculation based on pictures in articles on music album, but I believe there may be some reasons around the non-free use nature of the cover art which causes us to use images of the original editions. @Masem: an admin with experience on these things. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 15:58, 9 May 2016 (UTC)
Yes, we generally use the first edition cover, even if the book's name changed (and here for obvious reasons). The caption does explain the discrepancy here so it should be fine. --MASEM (t) 16:03, 9 May 2016 (UTC)
Checking Wikipedia:WikiProject Books and Wikipedia:WikiProject Novels, both establish a preference for the original edition to be included in the infobox. Hope this helps. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 16:16, 9 May 2016 (UTC)

Arabic title[edit]

Based on a quick Google translation, it seems the Arabic translation has multiple titles. The English translation there should be changed. -KaJunl (talk) 22:08, 7 May 2016 (UTC)

Indians vs. Soldiers[edit]

It is not quite clear to me from the article whether modern publications (in the US/UK) are using soldiers or Indians (of both). It sounded like it has switched to soldiers but the current version of the rhyme section still uses Indians. -KaJunl (talk) 01:29, 11 May 2016 (UTC)

Periods in US[edit]

I took out some periods and changed U.S. to US for consistency with later instances of "US" in the article. I am wondering why one my edits was reverted but not another. I don't have a preference for U.S. vs. US (maybe there is a style guide recommending one or the other), but I do think it should be consistent across the article. -KaJunl (talk) 23:04, 12 May 2016 (UTC)

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Just a curiosity[edit]

I just wanted to add a curiosity that I didn't find in the page. Remember the Scotland Yard's ispector Sir Thomas Legge? I just wanted to advise you that the word "Legge", in italian (my mother tongue), means "Law"... so a man working for the respect of the law, whose surname is also Law, was the receiver of a letter sent by another (but "evil") lawman. I don't know if Agatha Christie knew this italian word (maybe she knew the latin one Lex, Legis), but the result was very accurate! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:52, 7 November 2016 (UTC)

Title translations again[edit]

It's fair enough to list the titles in other languages, though they ought to be sourced, or at least have publiction places and dates as other translations may exist wih different titles too. But without a source, we have no business translating those titles "back into English" ourselves--that's original research. I have spotted a number of instances where I find the back translation dubious. That entire secondary table ought to be removed. ZarhanFastfire (talk) 16:44, 11 March 2017 (UTC)

I really don't see a need for them at all. We have the interwiki links for that. But I definitely agree with you on the back to English point. look at the Croatian and Serbian titles, those are the exact same words in different alphabets. But we are expected to believe that the English meaning changes because of that? Is there really a difference in usage of the word "crnaca" between the two countries? --Khajidha (talk) 15:04, 9 May 2017 (UTC) Whoops, I looked the page wrong. But there are enough pairs of similar languages that my point should stand even if the example was wrong.
Look at all the languages where we are told that the title translates as "little black boys" or "little black men", do they REALLY mean that or do they actually mean "little blacks" with the understanding that 1) these are black people and 2) the word for black in this language has a masculine grammatical gender? --Khajidha (talk) 15:19, 9 May 2017 (UTC)