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This article is about a ruleset in Umineko no Naku Koro ni.

Van Dine's Commandments (ヴァン・ダイン二十則 Vu~an Dain ni Jussoku) are a set of twenty rules that were originally written by Willard Huntington Wright, a mystery author who wrote under the pseudonym S.S. Van Dine. They are frequently compared to Knox's Decalogue.

The rules are first alluded to in the story by Beatrice in Turn of the Golden Witch[1], and are later used by Willard H. Wright in Requiem of the Golden Witch and Twilight of the Golden Witch. The SSVD is also said to use the rules during heresy trials, but the application of the rules in these trials is not shown in the story.

Rules Used in the Story

While several concise versions of Van Dine's rules are used in the story by Willard, a full list of rules is never given to the reader. Ryukishi07 believed that strictly following Van Dine's rules would cause the motive to become obsolete and be removed from the story. As such, he decided to minimize their presence in the story and to write Willard as a character who had grown to dislike this form of ruthless application of the rules.[2]

No. Rule
1 It is forbidden to have a crime without all clues presented.
7 It is forbidden to have a crime without a corpse.
9 It's forbidden to have multiple detectives!

This rule is mentioned by Erika in the Tea Party of Twilight of the Golden Witch as a way of retorting against Bernkastel's borrowing of her catchphrase. It is however never said in red, and Bernkastel simply turns it against her to make fun of her.

11 It is forbidden for a servant to be the culprit!

Used by Willard in an unrelated mystery at the start of Requiem of the Golden Witch. Ryukishi07 has said that he used this rule in the story in order to test whether readers had "understood the true culprit in the fullest sense".[3]

12 There must be but one true culprit.
This rule was not stated in red in the visual novel but was made red in the Twilight of the Golden Witch manga. It is used by Willard against the goats in order to assert that Alliance of the Golden Witch only had one culprit and not multiple culprits killing each other.
16 There shall be no descriptive passages beyond what is necessary for the story.

This rule was also added to the Twilight manga. It is used by Willard against the goats in order to assert that repeated phenomena such as the golden butterflies must have a reason and rule behind them.

Van Dine's Original Rules

Van Dine's 1st

The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery. All clues must be plainly stated and described.

Van Dine's 2nd

No willful tricks or deceptions may be placed on the reader other than those played legitimately by the criminal on the detective himself.

Van Dine's 3rd

There must be no love interest. The business in hand is to bring a criminal to the bar of justice, not to bring a lovelorn couple to the hymeneal altar.

Van Dine's 4th

The detective himself, or one of the official investigators, should never turn out to be the culprit. This is bald trickery, on a par with offering some one a bright penny for a five-dollar gold piece. It's false pretenses.

Van Dine's 5th

The culprit must be determined by logical deductions — not by accident or coincidence or unmotivated confession. To solve a criminal problem in this latter fashion is like sending the reader on a deliberate wild-goose chase, and then telling him, after he has failed, that you had the object of his search up your sleeve all the time. Such an author is no better than a practical joker.

Van Dine's 6th

The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.

Van Dine's 7th

There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader's trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.

Van Dine's 8th

The problem of the crime must be solved by strictly naturalistic means. Such methods for learning the truth as slate-writing, ouija-boards, mind-reading, spiritualistic se'ances, crystal-gazing, and the like, are taboo. A reader has a chance when matching his wits with a rationalistic detective, but if he must compete with the world of spirits and go chasing about the fourth dimension of metaphysics, he is defeated ab initio.

Van Dine's 9th

There must be but one detective — that is, but one protagonist of deduction — one deus ex machina. To bring the minds of three or four, or sometimes a gang of detectives to bear on a problem, is not only to disperse the interest and break the direct thread of logic, but to take an unfair advantage of the reader. If there is more than one detective the reader doesn't know who his codeductor is. It's like making the reader run a race with a relay team.

Van Dine's 10th

The culprit must turn out to be a person who has played a more or less prominent part in the story — that is, a person with whom the reader is familiar and in whom he takes an interest.

Van Dine's 11th

A servant must not be chosen by the author as the culprit. This is begging a noble question. It is a too easy solution. The culprit must be a decidedly worth-while person — one that wouldn't ordinarily come under suspicion.

Van Dine's 12th

There must be but one culprit, no matter how many murders are committed. The culprit may, of course, have a minor helper or co-plotter; but the entire onus must rest on one pair of shoulders: the entire indignation of the reader must be permitted to concentrate on a single black nature.

Van Dine's 13th

Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. A fascinating and truly beautiful murder is irremediably spoiled by any such wholesale culpability. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.

Van Dine's 14th

The method of murder, and the means of detecting it, must be rational and scientific. That is to say, pseudo-science and purely imaginative and speculative devices are not to be tolerated in the roman policier. Once an author soars into the realm of fantasy, in the Jules Verne manner, he is outside the bounds of detective fiction, cavorting in the uncharted reaches of adventure.

Van Dine's 15th

The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent — provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it. By this I mean that if the reader, after learning the explanation for the crime, should reread the book, he would see that the solution had, in a sense, been staring him in the face-that all the clues really pointed to the culprit — and that, if he had been as clever as the detective, he could have solved the mystery himself without going on to the final chapter. That the clever reader does often thus solve the problem goes without saying.

Van Dine's 16th

A detective novel should contain no long descriptive passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no "atmospheric" preoccupations. such matters have no vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness and character delineation to give the novel verisimilitude.

Van Dine's 17th

A professional criminal must never be shouldered with the guilt of a crime in a detective story. Crimes by housebreakers and bandits are the province of the police departments — not of authors and brilliant amateur detectives. A really fascinating crime is one committed by a pillar of a church, or a spinster noted for her charities.

Van Dine's 18th

A crime in a detective story must never turn out to be an accident or a suicide. To end an odyssey of sleuthing with such an anti-climax is to hoodwink the trusting and kind-hearted reader.

Van Dine's 19th

The motives for all crimes in detective stories should be personal. International plottings and war politics belong in a different category of fiction — in secret-service tales, for instance. But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak. It must reflect the reader's everyday experiences, and give him a certain outlet for his own repressed desires and emotions.

Van Dine's 20th

And (to give my Credo an even score of items) I herewith list a few of the devices which no self-respecting detective story writer will now avail himself of. They have been employed too often, and are familiar to all true lovers of literary crime. To use them is a confession of the author's ineptitude and lack of originality.

  • Determining the identity of the culprit by comparing the butt of a cigarette left at the scene of the crime with the brand smoked by a suspect.
  • The bogus spiritualistic seance to frighten the culprit into giving himself away.
  • Forged fingerprints.
  • The dummy-figure alibi.
  • The dog that does not bark and thereby reveals the fact that the intruder is familiar.
  • The final pinning of the crime on a twin, or a relative who looks exactly like the suspected, but innocent, person.
  • The hypodermic syringe and the knockout drops.
  • The commission of the murder in a locked room after the police have actually broken in.
  • The word association test for guilt.
  • The cipher, or code letter, which is eventually unraveled by the sleuth.

References

  1. Turn of the Golden Witch — Chapter 13: Wolves and Sheep Puzzle. Beatrice: "There can exist no secret passages that you all are not aware of. Was it Knox who said it, or was it Van Dine?"
  2. Answer to the Golden Witch
  3. Answer to the Golden Witch. Ryukishi07: "I actually inserted that Red to test whether a player had understood the true culprit in the fullest sense. People who did not understand would clearly be misled."

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