“And Then There Were None” is Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel, narrating the eerie tale of ten Indian boys whose fates take a chilling turn. The singsong, childlike verses set the stage for their mysterious deaths, culminating in the haunting phrase that gives the novel its title: “and then there were none.” With over 100 million copies sold, it remains a timeless classic in the world of mystery fiction.
The novel was originally published in 1939, and the first iteration of the poem, along with the book’s title, contained a racial slur. This racially insensitive language was later replaced with “Indians” in 1940, only to be changed again to “soldiers.” Finally, the book’s title settled on ‘And Then There Were None.’ Interestingly, different editions of the novel may include various versions of the poem, reflecting the evolving social sensibilities of the time.
Poem Then There Were None
Ten Little Soldier Boys went out to Dine,
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine Little Soldier Boys stayed 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.
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 through a door;
One stubbed his toe 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.
One Little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.
10 Little Soldier Boy Poem Author
The poem “Ten Little Soldiers” (also known as “And Then There Were None”) was written by Agatha Christie.
Agatha Christie was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She was born into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon, and was largely home-schooled. She was initially an unsuccessful writer with six consecutive rejections, but this changed in 1920 when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring detective Hercule Poirot, was published. Christie’s stage play The Mousetrap holds the world record for the longest initial run. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End on 25 November 1952, and by 2018 there had been more than 27,500 performances. In 1971, she was made a Dame (DBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to literature.
The Meaning of the “Ten Little Soldiers” Poem
The poem “Ten Little Soldiers” serves as an epigraph at the beginning of Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None. This nursery rhyme unfolds the story of ten boys meeting various tragic fates, including choking, oversleeping, bee stings, and even hanging. The significance of this poem extends beyond its verses, as it acts as a crucial clue to the novel’s plot. In the story, ten individuals are invited to an isolated island and meet their demise in a manner mirroring the rhyme’s macabre verses.
The poem delves into themes of death, isolation, fear, and the inexorable hand of fate, which are central to the novel’s narrative. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the poem has undergone alterations in different editions of the novel, notably replacing racially insensitive language with the word “soldiers.” Variations in the lines also exist, such as “going through a door” in place of “going in for law” or “a red herring swallowed one” instead of “a big fish swallowed one.”
This haunting poem is rooted in an older nursery rhyme titled “Ten Little Indians,” which was also utilized as a title in some editions of the novel. Its evolving iterations and the symbolic weight it carries make the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem an integral part of Agatha Christie’s literary masterpiece.
The Dark Dance of Death
One of the most striking aspects of the nursery rhyme is how it foreshadows the deaths of the characters in the novel. Each verse of the poem describes the demise of one of the “little soldiers” in a manner eerily similar to the deaths that transpire on the island.
An Intricate Structure
The poem’s structure is meticulous. Each line begins with the number of remaining “little soldier boys,” and as the verse unfolds, one of them meets a tragic end. These lines are divided in half, creating a caesura that adds to the rhyme’s rhythmic quality.
Rhymes and Allusions
Notably, the poet weaves rhymes skillfully into the poem, connecting the word before the pause with the final word of the line. For instance, in the first line, “nine” rhymes with the word “dine” in the middle of the line. This pattern continues throughout the poem, making it feel like a musical composition.
The Gruesome Deaths
The deaths described in the poem are often brutal, mirroring the grim events of the novel. Some fatalities, such as choking and poisoning, directly correspond to the characters’ demises, while others are more obliquely related.
Echoes of Classic Nursery Rhymes
The “Ten Little Soldiers” poem in Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ resonates with echoes of classic nursery rhymes, infusing the narrative with a timeless and enigmatic quality. Much like traditional nursery rhymes, this poem is rich in cryptic allusions, leaving readers with intriguing questions.
The perfect rhymes employed in the verses contribute to a sing-song quality, reminiscent of the musical rhythms found in nursery rhymes. The use of simple language, typical of nursery rhymes, contrasts with the complex themes of death, fear, and fate explored in the novel, creating a captivating interplay.
The poem’s universal appeal, like that of classic nursery rhymes, draws readers of all ages into its eerie and captivating narrative. Just as nursery rhymes often have mysterious origins, the authorship of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem remains a mystery, adding an extra layer of intrigue.
Moreover, the evolving versions of the poem in different editions mirror the adaptability and evolution seen in traditional nursery rhymes. In weaving these elements together, Agatha Christie’s work gains a sense of familiarity and eeriness, enveloping readers in a suspenseful atmosphere that’s both timeless and unforgettable.
The Final Countdown
In the poem’s last verses, the number of boys dwindles until “there were none.” The poetic narrative mirrors the novel’s plot, and in the end, only one “little soldier boy” remains, who tragically takes his own life. This grim conclusion mirrors the ultimate fate of Vera, a character in the novel who commits suicide, leaving no one behind.
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