Last updated04/17/03


The theme of the long-lost heir is a common one in historical and romantic fiction and is based on many examples in real life. A related theme is that of the long-lost husband (or wife), based on Tennyson's poem, Enoch Arden, which has inspired several films and novels, and the real-life case of Martin Guerre (adapted and filmed as Sommersby). The theme of heirs unjustly deprived of their property finds expression in such novels as Alexandre Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask and the real-life mystery of Kaspar Hauser, who emerged as a teenager from the forests of Germany without the ability to speak or explain his origins or survival.

In order to examine the cultural images of the long-lost heir, look at applicable statutes at the time of the story.

Related issues include the reappearance of a long-lost relative, often a child, after a kidnapping or supposed death. Movies dealing with this theme include Caroline?, aTV movie about a woman who suddenly reappears to claim a fortune after 14 years, Always Remember I Love You, about a teenager who discovers he is adopted and sets out to find his biological parents, from whom he was kidnapped,

Bibliography and Filmography

  • Woodruff, Douglas, The Tichborne Claimant: A Victorian Mystery ().

  • The Tichborne Claimant (Video,

  • Related Works

    • Patricia Moyes, Who Is Simon Warwick? ().

    • Josephine Tey, Brat Farrar (reprint 1997).

    • Patricia Wentworth, She Came Back ().

Enoch Arden and Related Works


  • Nathalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre

  • Janet Lewis, The Wife of Martin Guerre



  • Enoch Arden (1915)

  • Move Over, Darling (1963). Stars Doris Day.

  • My Favorite Wife (1940). Stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as Nick and Ellen Arden.

  • Retour de Martin Guerre (1982).

  • Sommersby (1993). Stars Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.

  • The Tichborne Claimant (1998).





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