The Ring of Thoth by Arthur Conan Doyle ★★★★☆ #BookBlog #BookReview #ShortStory

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Primary Genre(s): Short Story, Fiction
Published: January 1890 in The Cornhill Magazine
Page count: 36
My Format: free online
Pacing: Good
Ending: Tragically romantic
Would I recommend it: Yes

My rating: ★★

Synopsis
Mr. John Vansittart Smith is a student of Egyptology who travels to France to see some papyri in the Louvre Museum. Tired from his visit, he sits in a corner of the museum and dozed. When he wakes up, the museum is closed and he is locked inside. Trying to get out he meets a strange man who seems to perform a ritual on a mummy.

My Thoughts
I honestly had no idea Doyle wrote so many short stories! Today I am reviewing The Ring of Thoth, which is available online in many places. If you don’t want to take the chance of discovering plot details from my review, please read the short story first. You can click here to read the story online. This story was also adapted for a radio series in 1947 and you can listen to the audio here if you are interested. Here are my pros and cons for The Ring of Thoth:

Pros

  1. This story surprised me. I was expecting a typical mummy/horror story based on the synopsis I found and even Goodreads has this identified as horror and fantasy. Instead, I read a well-written tragic romance that spanned centuries. The story wasn’t horrifying, it was heartbreaking. It is way more Gothic Romance than horror.
  2. The main character, Vansittart Smith, is supposedly an intellectual on many subjects and a noted Egyptologist. But the man in the museum (named Sosra), for reasons you will discover when you read the story, is a much better expert on all things Egypt and tells our protagonist that his “knowledge of the subject is contemptible”! Mr. Vansittart Smith was quite insulted and it was a little bit funny to see him taken down a notch.
  3. I love the formal language. It is so exact and detailed and so very Victorian! I just love it! Even though it is formal and perhaps even “old-fashioned”, it is conversational, understandable, and actually easy to read.
  4. There are some French phrases in the story – it does take place in France after all. I had to look up the translation for a couple of words, but I actually don’t mind doing that because I learned something!
  5. I also loved that the secret to a long life was basically defined as nothing special.

There was nothing of mystery or magic in the matter. It was simply a chemical discovery, which may well be made again.

  1. I thought the Times article included at the end of the story was an effective way to conclude the narrative. It also reinforced the tragically romantic nature of the whole situation.

Cons

  1. I actually wanted a little more of Sosra’s backstory to be honest. I acknowledge that is purely selfish of me, but I really enjoyed Sosra’s story and I am disappointed I can’t have more.

Summary
I would definitely define the last two Doyle short stories I reviewed (The Horror of the Heights and The Terror of Blue John Gap) as horror… at least for the time-frame they were first written. I expected this one to be similar – it included mummies after all! But the romantic aspect of this story pleasantly surprised me, even if it was ultimately heartbreaking. It was an angle on the mummy story that I can’t imagine was that common at the time (1890). Again, I wonder how the contemporary readers reacted to this story. I certainly liked it in 2019!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

(image from Goodreads)

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