6 Baffling First Drafts of Classic Novels
What if we told you that there are extra scenes of your favorite book, written by your favorite writer, that you've never read before? Awesome, right? And what if we told you that they're all incredibly fucking stupid? We like to think of authors as infallible geniuses who have brilliant ideas coming out of every orifice in their bodies -- but the truth is, even the greatest novel has a cemetery of embarrassing deleted ideas the writers didn't want anyone to see. Here are those ideas:
Sherlock Holmes Was Called Sherrinford Hope (and Watson Was Ormond Sacker)
There's famous, and then there's "your name becomes an everyday phrase" famous. Sherlock Holmes is in the second category. Arthur Conan Doyle probably knew he'd made it as a writer the first time he made an obvious observation and someone said, "Yeah, no shit, Sherlock." Or perhaps it was when he found out his phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson" had become extremely common, despite the fact that he never actually wrote it.
This is made even more impressive by the fact that Doyle wrote the first book featuring Holmes book at age 27 and extremely fast. It was all there from the beginning, though: the Baker Street address, the faithful army doctor sidekick, the master detective Sherrinford Hope himself, the ... wait, what the hell is a "Sherrinford"?!
Are we sure Doyle wasn't just an extremely poor speller?
What Was Scrapped:
As revealed by Doyle's early notes, Sherlock Holmes' original name was Sherrinford Hope, and he was described as a "sleepy eyed young man -- philosopher -- collector of rare violins" (try picturing that on a PI's door). It's not outright stated, but it's implied by his name that he would have been an expert wedgie-receiver, too. It's hard to imagine a character called Sherrinford being deemed cool enough to be portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in a film. Benedict Cumberbatch? OK, maybe.
Jonny Lee Miller? Definitely.
Oh, and Dr. John Watson was originally called Dr. Ormond Sacker, which would have made the "Elementary, my dear ..." phrase sound rather awkward.
"I'll bet Sacker's good in the sack LOL" -- Everyone, forever.
Obviously, it didn't take that long for Doyle to realize there was something wrong with the Sherrinford Hope name -- namely, the "Hope" part. So he changed it to "Holmes," in honor of a famous doctor and writer. It was only later on that he banished "Sherrinford" and replaced it with "Sherlock," inspired by a 19th century cricket player, which could have gone worse.
This isn't limited to Doyle, either -- even Charles Dickens struggled with names while writing A Christmas Carol. Before landing on the most adorable combination of words ever with Tiny Tim, Dickens considered Small Sam, Little Larry, and Puny Pete. No drafts have been found confirming Diminutive Dan, Feeble Fergus, or Undernourished Uther, but it's only a matter of time.
"God bless us, everyone!" said Itty-bitty Ignatius.
Meanwhile, Gone with the Wind's resilient and fiery Scarlett O'Hara was nearly christened ... Pansy O'Hara, which sounds like an extremely lazy Mad Magazine parody name for the character. Vivien Leigh wouldn't have been physically capable of playing a woman called Pansy: that's more "Shemp from The Three Stooges in a wig" material.
Harry Potter Began With First-Hand Horror
Whether you've read each Harry Potter book 17 times or experienced this franchise exclusively through animated GIFs on Tumblr, you're probably aware of the fact that they started out pretty innocently and got darker with each installment. The first book opens with the wizarding world cheering the downfall of the evil Voldemort (also a spoiler for the last book) and a baby Harry Potter being sent to live with his aunt and uncle, since his parents got Voldermort'd off camera. The movie just shortened the above crap to "baby Harry gets dropped off on a doorstep," because that's all you really need to know at this point.
Then fast forward to Harry as a 10-year-old kid, and the magical adventure begins. A big part of the series' success is due to how accessible J.K. Rowling made this first book -- better save all the depressing stuff for later, when the characters are older and the readers have lost part their souls by Googling "Hermione fan art."
What Was Scrapped:
Originally, however, Rowling wanted to dive right into the horror: her first drafts of the book started with an unsuspecting civilian called Mr. Puckle seeing an explosion out at sea and sailing out in the middle of a storm to check it out. He's not a wizard or anything. He's just a guy who sees something ominous and decides to investigate. He then stumbles across two charred bodies in the ruins of a house with a screaming baby somewhere in there. And that's how we're introduced to Harry Potter and his parents.
Like this, but with glasses.
Would Mr. Puckle have raised Harry in this version? We don't know, but in that case, that would have turned Harry into Hermione's stepbrother (yep, the original name for Emma Watson's character was Hermione Puckle), thus turning a significant section of the Harry Potter fan base into people pushing for incest.
But more importantly, focusing on the Potters' deaths instead of Harry's survival would have changed the whole tone of the series. The latter has us rooting for Harry to overcome his tragic beginnings; the former has us asking "who are these people and why should I care?"
"Wait, so these magic people live on an island? That's too unrealistic; screw this book."
The Hobbit Was a Badass Who Surfed on a River of Blood
The whole point of The Hobbit is that the main character isn't some big action hero: it's a (literally) tiny hobbit called Bilbo Baggins who, along with a bunch of dwarves and an old magic hobo, somehow manages to defeat a giant dragon. Bilbo is an everyman who behaves a lot like we might under the circumstances -- complete with a lot of falling over and passing out -- rather than suddenly slaughtering orcs in a hurricane of slashes from his mighty blue blade. Hell, they got the UK version of Jim from The Office to play him in the movies, and it looked like the part was written for him.
"We at Wernham Hogg believe paper is our planet's most precious commodity."
What Was Scrapped:
This wasn't J.R.R. Tolkien's original intention, though: overly eager to give Bilbo the opportunity to prove himself a hero, Tolkien planned an uncharacteristically epic death scene for the dragon Smaug that would have left Bilbo with blood all over his sword. And his coat. And his everything.
In a scene strangely reminiscent of certain types of hardcore porn movies, Tolkien described Bilbo crawling on to Smaug's belly and driving his sword so far into the dragon's stomach that the sword disappears completely. The wound results in a gushing river of blood that threatens to drown Bilbo, so he grabs a giant golden cup from the pile of treasure nearby and surfs through and out of the mountain ... in blood. That's not a Tolkien book; that's a damned Slayer video.
Peter Jackson was clearly more of an Ozzy guy though.
Meanwhile, the dragon thrashes in pain and destroys the great hall inside the mountain until he dies, leaving the dwarves with a giant corpse to dispose of before they can spend their guts-stained money.
This article hasn't gone too well for Benedict Cumberbatch.
While the original draft has a certain "Hell yeah, Bilbo, we knew you had it in ya!" quality, having Bilbo slay the dragon is a little like having Rudy not just win the game but impregnate the girlfriends of all of the other team's players, too. Tolkien ultimately realized this (perhaps not through that exact same analogy) and toned down the scene to the point where Bilbo just lets out a much more in-character "Getting rid of dragons is not at all in my line."
Then again, considering how The Hobbit movies ended up, whoever remakes them in 2050 shouldn't completely discard this ending.
Lord of the Flies Had Fantasy Elements and Teen Jesus
It's one of those rare novels that young high schoolers are forced to read but actually enjoy, with enough subtle symbolism packed in to keep teachers happy (and warrant a Nobel Prize for its author William Golding) and enough blood to amuse the young'uns. This Maze Runner prequel follows a group of teenage boys trapped on an island as they eventually descend into savagery and ultimately murder the dreamy do-gooder of the group, a boy named Simon.
So why the hell is it called Lord of the Flies? Because at one point Simon comes across a severed pig head infested by flies, and imagines that it talks to him about the darkness of the human soul. Ha, those wacky kids and their imaginations!
Who didn't have the "rotting pig head" imaginary friend as a kid?
What Was Scrapped:
Except that, no, it apparently wasn't Simon's imagination as far as Golding was concerned ... because in his original version, the kid pretty much had superpowers.
Despite people's love for stories about rowdy kids, desert islands, and depressing dystopias, Lord of the Flies was an extremely tough sell: one publishing house's reader called it, "absurd & uninteresting fantasy. ... Rubbish & dull. Pointless." But then again, the reason for calling the novel a lame fantasy might have been because, at that point, Simon was such a ridiculously mystical Christ metaphor that it's a wonder he didn't walk on water to carry them all off the island. In one scene, he was supposed to just know, somehow, that it's forbidden to eat the fruit on the island, and that the one who forbids it is a mysterious person in the forest. So he meets this strange "person," and then, of course, they dance.
Turns out all the plants in the island are coca leaves.
But the biggest difference is that, instead of being murdered because fuck you, that's life, in the early drafts, Simon has a sort of premonition about his death and accepts it to save the others. Even the guys who directed the last two Superman movies would think the Jesus metaphor is too on the nose there.
When a young editor finally accepted the manuscript, he told Golding that all the magical shit needed to be "toned down." Golding was staunchly opposed to the suggestion ... but he was even more opposed to starving to death because no one would publish his freaking novel, so he made the changes and got a Nobel.
"He had a conch shell on his desk. I had no choice."
The Great Gatsby Was Called The High Bouncing Lover
The Great Gatsby is hailed as one of the best pieces of literature to come out of America, and considering that most of its fans have no idea what it's actually about, we're guessing that just having the word "Great" is a big part of it. But other than that, the name of the book also cleverly builds up Gatsby's figure from the moment you look at the front cover, making the ironic counterpoint with the character's fall from grace (and his general shittiness) much more dramatic.
The fact that said cover has hidden boobies on it doesn't hurt, either.
What Was Scrapped:
Here's someone who disagreed with us about the greatness of The Great Gatsby's title: the guy who wrote it. F. Scott Fitzgerald didn't so much hate that name as think it was kinda lame, only going with it because his editor and his wife bugged him about it. So what's a truly good name for a book according to this literary genius? Oh, you know, something classy like ... The High-Bouncing Lover.
That name's far more suitable for the inevitable Winnie-the-Pooh porn parody, anyway.
Besides that gem, Fitzgerald seriously considered other titles like Gold-Hatted Gatsby, Trimalchio, On the Road to West Egg and Trimalchio in West Egg -- dude was determined to get either Trimalchio in there (a character from the Satyricon who hosted literal Roman orgies), or the word "egg." Less than a month before The Great Gatsby came out, Fitzgerald tried to change the title to the Toby Keith-esque Under the Red, White and Blue, but they informed him that, shucks, it was too late.
So we beat on, boots against the current, borne back ceaselessly into your ass.
Other respected writers who struggled with titles were George Orwell (1984 was almost 1980, 1982 and The Last Man in Europe) and Joseph Heller of Catch-22 fame. Heller had serious trouble deciding which catch-number would enter our lexicon because of this novel: Catch-18 was rejected by his editor because of another book called Mila 18, Catch-11 because of Ocean's 11 (the non-"Clooney's Vegas vacation" version) and Catch-14 because the editor decided it's just not a funny number. We're pretty sure the guy was just messing with Heller, but Heller couldn't do anything since he needed an editor.
It was what we call "an impossible fucking situation."
Eventually the editor himself suggested 22, because everyone knows "it's funnier than 18." Just wait until the inevitable Ocean's Eighteen proves him wrong.
Willy Wonka Was a Racially Insensitive Cannibal
We've pointed out a few times that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was kind of a messed up movie, both in front of and behind the cameras. An absurdly rich chocolate-maker invites five random children from across the world on a tour of his factory, and the one who doesn't suffer a terrible fate along the way gets to inherit the place. How could a children's story get more disturbing than that?
What Was Scrapped:
How about "with rampart child murder and cannibalism"? The earliest drafts of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book had a lot of extra children compared to the final version, and of course they all freaking die. One kid falls into a mixer, and Wonka jokes that she's being added to the recipe, as we've covered already. Two others are sucked into what Wonka calls the "Pounding and Cutting Room," where they apparently become part of the mountain of fudge the other children are enjoying.
We're just grateful it wasn't Wonka's private S&M chamber.
In these early versions, Wonka invites 10 kids to his factory every week, giving him a steady supply of fresh young meat to attack and terrorize. Charlie himself has some changes, too: for starters, he's black. Hey, that's great; Dahl's books could use a little diversity. Oh, incidentally, check out what the book was called back then:
Meanwhile, Matilda was Cracker Girl.
Add this to the whole "the Oompa Loompas were African slaves" thing, and ... yeah, just stick to all-white characters, Mr. Dahl. To be fair, perhaps Charlie's Chocolate Boy wasn't a racial reference: maybe it was about good ol' cannibalism again. At one point in these increasingly nightmarish early drafts, Charlie gets "accidentally" encased in a giant chocolate mold and taken to Mr. Wonka's house as a gift for his son Freddie Wonka, presumably so Freddie can gorge on the Chocolate Charlie. Of the laundry list of free serial killer ideas included in this book, "suffocating someone in chocolate and feeding him to another kid" is easily in the top five.
Luckily, Charlie breaks out of the mold, foils a burglary, and is given his own chocolate shop as a reward. And they all lived happily every after! (Except the 10 kids Wonka continued torturing every week).
"Everything in this room is edible. You, especially."
For more bizarre originals, check out 7 Classic Disney Movies Based On R-Rated Stories and 7 Classic Movies That Almost Had Absurdly Dark Endings.
Are you on reddit? Check it: We are too! Click on over to our best of Cracked subreddit.