'Lupin': Is Arsene Lupin the French Sherlock Holmes? How the Gentleman-Thief stacks up against the Detective

Let's take a closer look at Arsene Lupin, French Gentleman-Thief, and whether he holds the same cultural significance as Sherlock Holmes does


                            'Lupin': Is Arsene Lupin the French Sherlock Holmes? How the Gentleman-Thief stacks up against the Detective
'Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief' (Penguin)
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Arsène Lupin is a fictional French character, and his name has inspired generations of stories sprung from his exploits. Whether those stories involve him, his descendants, or simply people who admired his work and wish to emulate it, Lupin is a name that has been handed down the decades from one creator to another, from whose minds have sprung a thousand tales. Very few fictional characters have that kind of reputation - and one of them is the famed British Detective, Sherlock Holmes. As Netflix's 'Lupin' releases, it's worth asking – is Arsène Lupin the French Sherlock Holmes?

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At first glance, Arsène Lupin is the exact opposite of Sherlock Holmes – Holmes solves crimes, while Lupin creates them. Created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905 with the story 'The Arrest of Arsène Lupin', the gentleman-thief himself was inspired by another famous French character, Rocambole. Like Rocambole, Lupin was written as a trickster sort of character, but one most firmly on the side of good, if not the side of the law. With his top hat, monocle, jeweled staff and the stubble of a hardened criminal, Lupin was a unique figure in the history of French fiction, with a distinctive style that was borrowed by many, many others in his wake.

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In terms of cultural significance, Arsène does in fact bear many similarities to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Both fictional characters were instant hits, beloved by many, and inspired many stories told about them afterward. The most significant difference between them has to be the issue of legality, while Sherlock Holmes' story has been adapted a number of ways by a number of different creators, Arsène Lupin is a character with a lot more legal restrictions, which is why those who capitalize on the character's name only do so as fresh characters inspired by the legend. 

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Arsène Lupin actually met Sherlock Holmes on one of his adventures. In 1906, in the short story 'Sherlock Arrives Too Late', Holmes meets a young Arsène Lupin for the first time, although, after legal objections from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the detective's name was officially changed to Herlock Sholmes. Maurice Leblanc got slightly better at renaming Holmes, as a detective named 'Holmlock Shears' and his assistant 'Wilson' would appear in later  Arsène Lupin stories.

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'Lupin' releases on Netflix on January 8.