Saturday, 6 January 2018


I never really thought much about walking sticks before I had to use one. Hopefully, in a few days or weeks, I’ll be back on my own two feet, but for the moment I have a stick.

I’ve used an alpenstock when walking the hills in the snow and been fascinated by the marks left behind. They differed according to the use I made of it. I filed away my thoughts until they became useful in a story, when an invalid suspected of a heinous crime was cleared because the marks left by the culprit were obviously not left by a lame person.

I can’t think of many literary figures of stature who use walking sticks or canes, but there are a few. Mr Micawber in David Copperfield carries ‘a jaunty sort of a stick, with a large pair of rusty tassels to it…’ and he ‘…went out with his cane under his arm: very upright, and humming a tune…’

Mr Brownlow in Oliver ‘carried a smart bamboo cane under his arm.’

A cane is used as a murder weapon in Jekyll and Hyde. ‘And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on (as the maid described it) like a madman. The old gentleman took a step back, with the air of one very much surprised and a trifle hurt; and at that Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth.’ On the body, the police find a letter addressed to Gabriel Utterson, who recognises the murder weapon as the broken half of a walking cane he gave to Jekyll years before.

JK Rowling maintains the threatening nature of a walking stick by giving one to Lucius Malfoy, or does she? I can find no evidence of one in the book, but Steven Kloves, who wrote the screenplay for The Chamber of Secrets, had other ideas and, for me, it works.
Draco Malfoy: Bet you loved that, didn't you, Potter? Famous Harry Potter.
            Can't even go into a bookshop without leading the front page.
Ginny Weasley: Leave him alone.
Draco Malfoy: Oh, look, Potter. Got yourself a girlfriend.
Lucius Malfoy: [Places the silver snake of his walking stick on Draco's shoulder]
            Now, now, Draco.

Even Mr Darcy carries one, but only as a gentlemanly accessory. He ‘wordlessly rises in the carriage, walking stick in his hand, ostentatiously tipping his hat ...’ Dear old Willie Wonka ‘carried a fine gold-topped walking can,’ and so does Hercule Poirot.

But in the main, walking sticks or canes are not much in evidence in the sort of literature I read. Perhaps I should use them more.

Happy New Year.


Enid Richemont said...

I have a very dodgy right ankle, Val, and have been exhorted to use a stick, but I find it far more of an encumbrance than a help, so don't.

Mystica said...

Intriguing post

Val Tyler said...

I hope your ankle improves, Enid. My stick and I parted ways yesterday. I can now carry things with both hands.