"See what my wife found in its crop!" Original illustration for "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sidney Paget, Strand Magazine, 1892.

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. First published in the January 1892 issue of Strand Magazine and collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in October of the same year, it is the seventh short story and the ninth tale overall to feature the brilliant consulting detective. It has the distinction of being the only story in the Canon set in the holiday season, and is notable for its whimsical tone and the warm depiction of the friendship between Holmes and Dr. Watson.

In the story, chance brings a battered hat and a Christmas goose to Holmes. When a stolen gem known as the blue carbuncle[1] is found in the goose's gullet, Holmes and Watson set out to discover the sequence of events that took the stone from a countess’ jewel case to Baker Street.

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" has been adapted for television and radio many times. The most faithful television adaptation of the story to date is the 1984 episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Granada series starring Jeremy Brett.

The story was ranked third, behind only "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" and "The Red-Headed League," in the "Ten Best Contest" held by the leading Sherlockian publication The Baker Street Journal in 1959.



Watson finds Holmes lounging next to a battered bowler hat. Illustration by Sidney Paget, Strand Magazine, 1892.

On the second morning after Christmas, Dr. Watson visits Sherlock Holmes and finds him lounging next to a battered bowler hat. Holmes explains that Peterson, the commissionaire, brought it on Christmas morning. Peterson had rushed over to assist a man being assailed by some ruffians early that morning, but the man ran away leaving behind the hat and a Christmas goose he had been carrying. The goose was tagged "For Mrs. Henry Baker" and the hat bears the initials "H. B."

No advertisement appeared for the lost items in the papers, so Peterson took the goose before it spoiled while Holmes kept the hat for his amusement. He has deduced much information about its owner from the hat including his age, financial situation, and domestic problems. As Holmes explains his inferences, Watson laughs and comments that, while ingenious, the exercise seems a waste of energy without any crime involved.

Just then Peterson rushes in to show them what his wife found in the goose's crop; a brilliant blue gem. Holmes identifies it as the blue carbuncle stolen from the Countess of Morcar's hotel room five days ago. A plumber with a previous robbery conviction named John Horner has been arrested on evidence from James Ryder, head attendant. Ryder had found the bureau forced open and jewel case lying empty after Horner did repair work in the room. The Countess' maid gave collaborating evidence.


Henry Baker tucks the replacement goose under his arm. Illustration by Sidney Paget, Strand Magazine, 1892.

Given the new development, Holmes asks Peterson to put an advertisement in papers for Henry Baker and to pick up a replacement goose on his way back. When Baker appears at the appointed time, he turns out to be just as Holmes described. Baker is delighted with the fresh goose and shows no interest in the feathers, legs, and crop from the original bird. Holmes asks where he bought the goose, and Baker replies that it came from the Alpha Inn. The landlord had run a "goose club" for his patrons to deposit a few pence weekly towards a bird at Christmas.

At the Alpha Inn, Holmes and Watson learn that the geese came from a salesman named Breckinridge. They proceed to the market where they find Breckinridge at his stall. When they inquire about the geese, the man becomes angry and refuses to say where the birds came from. He had already been pestered about the same birds earlier. Holmes shrugs it off and says it was just for a bet he had on the goose being country-bred. When Breckinridge says it was town-bred, Holmes refuses to believe him and bets a sovereign[2] against him. The salesman, pleased to prove Holmes wrong, brings out his books which show the birds' supplier, a Mrs. Oakshott in town. Holmes throws down the sovereign in apparent disgust. Once they are away, he has a good laugh, having correctly judged Breckinridge as a betting man and skillfully drawn out the information.

As they discuss plans to visit Mrs. Oakshott, Holmes and Watson hear a commotion from the stall and witness Breckinridge chase away a small man looking for the geese. They catch up with the man and Holmes tells him he knows all about the geese sold by Mrs. Oakshott. He demands a name before discussing business, however, so the desperate man reluctantly identifies himself as James Ryder.


James Ryder begs for mercy. Illustration by Sidney Paget, Strand Magazine, 1892.

They take Ryder back to Baker Street where Holmes confronts him about the gem. After nearly fainting, the frightened man admits the maid had told him about the stone. Holmes knows it was Ryder who sent for Horner, aware of his robbery record, in order to pin the crime on him. Ryder breaks down and begs for mercy, swearing he never went wrong before, will never do so again, and will leave the country so the charge against Horner would break down. Holmes asks him how the stone got into the goose and the goose into the open market, and Ryder tells his story.

As soon as Horner was arrested, he made for the home of his sister, Mrs. Oakshott. He was afraid of being searched, and needed a way to safely take the stone to Kilburn to consult a friend about selling it. He got an idea upon seeing the geese and, remembering his sister had promised him one for Christmas, he grabbed a big one with a barred tail. As he forced the stone down its throat, the bird struggled and got away, mixing back into the flock. With his sister's blessing, he took the goose to Kilburn only to find no stone inside. He rushed back and learned there had been two that looked alike, but by then the geese had been sold. He went to Breckinridge but he had already sold the lot and would not tell him anything.

Ryder bursts into tears. Holmes sits contemplating for some time before rising to throw open the door. He tells Ryder to get out, and the man rushes out. Holmes assures Watson afterwards that Horner is in no danger without Ryder to appear against him, and that Ryder is too frightened to go wrong again. He then remarks "Besides, it is the season of forgiveness."


"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" has been memorably adapted for British radio three times. The first adaptation, with Sir John Gielgud as Holmes and Sir Ralph Richardson as Watson, first aired on BBC radio on March 13, 1955. The second adaptation. with Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as Watson, first aired on BBC radio on December 25, 1961. The third adaptation, with Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson, first aired on BBC Radio 4 on January 2, 1991.

"The Blue Carbuncle" is the eighteenth and final episode of the 1968 BBC TV series Sherlock Holmes, starring Peter Cushing as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Watson. It was first shown in the United Kingdom on December 23, 1968. It is one of only six episodes of the series that have not been lost. Unlike in the original short story, the countess who owns the blue carbuncle asks Holmes to find the jewel for her after it is stolen. Holmes refuses to accept the case. He ells the countess that the case is being adequately handled by the police and eventually admits that, as a simple theft by a sneak thief, it does not interest him at all. He later confides to Watson that he did not want to do any work during Christmas. The episode ends with Holmes flatly refusing to help the countess find her missing maid.

The seventh episode of the Granada TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is an adaptation of "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle". The episode, which stars Jeremy Brett as Holmes and David Burke as Watson, was first shown on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on June 5, 1984. Actor Frank Middlemass, who appears as Peterson in the 1968 TV adaptation, appears as Henry Baker. The episode is largely faithful to the original short story, although there are some differences. It is made very clear in the episode that Holmes plans to keep hold of the blue carbuncle forever and has no intention of returning it to its rightful owner, even though he has already promised Peterson that he will get a one thousand pound reward for finding it. Holmes solves the case on Christmas Eve. The episode ends with John Horner being released from his cell and reunited with his wife and children after Holmes has persuaded the authorities of his innocence.

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is the thirteenth episode of the first season of the British-American animated TV series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. The episode, which first aired on Fox Kids in the United States on December 11, 1999, concerns a microprocessor that has been hidden inside a blue stuffed toy bear called Carbuncle.

"The Adventure of the Blue Polar Bear" (Japanese: 青いシロクマの冒険; Aoi shirokuma no bōken), the fifteenth episode of the Japanese TV series Sherlock Holmes Puppet Entertainment (Japanese: シャーロック ホームズ), is loosely based on "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" and "The Adventure of the Three Gables". It first aired on NHK Educational TV on January 25, 2015.

The Blue Carbuncle (Russian: Голубой карбункул; Goluboy karbunkul), a 1979 comedy film from the Soviet Union, is a very loose adaptation of the short story.

See also


  1. A carbuncle is a red gem, usually a garnet, cut en cabochon (un-faceted). Since there are no blue garnets, some speculate the "blue carbuncle" was actually a blue diamond, while others suggest a star sapphire.
  2. One pound gold coin, equivalent to perhaps a $100 bet today.

External links