Yeah I know, worst meme ever, but you get the point. There are continuing arguments for the meaning of Sherlock’s three words. And I want on in the conversation.
I think the most helpful thing so far has been the work of the blog The Final Problem who, in detail, found every single time that the words “rat”, “wedding” and “bow” were used in the canon (that must have taken forever, I seriously appreciate you). Here are the links to the lists:
What does this new information provide us? In my opinion, it just shows that my theories have even more merit.
Let’s start with "rat". I said that it likely references the untold story of the giant rat of Sumatra from the Sussex Vampire. If you look at the list for rat there’s no other word that holds significance enough for Moftiss to make an episode out of. Except. The only competing possibility that I find plausible is The Boscombe Valley Mystery, which has a major plot element that does involve the word “rat”. It refers to the victim in this case mumbling about “a rat” as he died, which was later revealed to actually mean Ballarat, as the victim was talking about someone he knew from Australia. However, I’m still stuck on my theory. Not just because I thought it up but because the Valley just doesn’t sit well with me. It still seems to be too small a reference to a rat to be a useful as a “teaser word”. I also think that with Moftiss’ level of Holmesian nerdiness they must have been itching to write their own version of, what I call, “the Giant Rat Mystery”. But that’s just me.
Okay moving on to "wedding". This absolutely proved my idea that having an idea at this point is moot. There are too many references to narrow it down too well. And what’s funny about the whole thing is that the two main ideas I had (namely John’s wedding and Sherlock’s fake engagement) didn’t have the word “wedding” in them - at all. It amused me. However it was used in my favorite pet-idea about it being the Solitary Cyclist:
"Between them an elderly, grey-bearded man, wearing a short surplice over a light tweed suit, had evidently just completed the wedding service, for he pocketed his prayer-book as we appeared and slapped the sinister bridegroom upon the back in jovial congratulation.”
Like I said, “pet idea”. Don’t take me too seriously there. What am I saying about this though? “Wedding” can mean two really big things or it could mean anything. I’m prescribing “wait and see” because being surprised is half the fun, no?
"BOW." Okay so when I wrote the first post on the words I was shaky about everything except rat. I’m ninety percent sure I’m right about rat. I’d bet money. And I did just give up on figuring out “wedding” just there but bow. Bow… I had edited my original post because I became even more sure of myself and upon viewing the list I’m at that “I’d bet money” phase for bow as well. It has to be His Last Bow. The list of bow basically says that Holmes did the activity of bowing - a lot. He did it for comic effect/thanks/saying hello/saying goodbye/etc/etc. None of that is relevant enough to be a teaser word. Moffat want to mess with us, but he doesn’t want to kill us by using the word bow in some obscure sense like “oh he bowed when the lady walked in the room”. No, he’s not one to take a short-cut like that. I agree he’s teasing us but not to that crazy extent. Now, notice “bow” wasn’t in His Last Bow except for the title (but neither was “wedding” in the two main wedding ideas…). The bow’s a bit of a metaphor in the canon. It’s Holmes’ final hurrah (or was supposed to be… being the third time ACD tried to get out of writing him). The fact that its the title of the thing, the plot being amazing and that it’s the only relevant “bow” leads me to place money on the horse called His Last Bow.
Besides wouldn’t our boys love to write something like this?
"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared."
I’ll leave you to ponder on your own.