Is The Snowman’s Harry Hole Based on a Real Detective?

2017’s ‘The Snowman’ is a crime thriller movie directed by Tomas Alfredson. It revolves around an Oslo detective, Harry Hole, inclined toward dangerous homicidal cases. After a series of missing person cases turns out to be the disturbing works of a serial killer with Snowmen as his calling card, he teams up with new recruit Katerine Bratt and investigates the Snowman Killings. Harry Hole, portrayed by Michael Fassbender, is a classic crime detective burdened by his afflictions that he ignores in favor of his job. If you’re wondering whether this mysterious Norwegian Inspector has any roots in reality, then here is everything we know about the same!

Harry Hole is a Fictional Character

No, Harry Hole is not based on a real detective. Alfredson’s ‘The Snowman’ is a cinematic adaptation of the seventh installment in Jo Nesbø’s series of crime novels revolving around Harry Hole and his cases. As such, the inception and characterization of Harry Hole are mostly just a work of Nesbø’s imagination. The author comes from a family with strong relations to literature. His mother was a librarian, and his father was a book collector. Therefore, growing up, Nesbø had plenty of bookish influence in his life and has been an avid reader since he was young. Besides, he is a self-proclaimed fan of Charles Bukowski and considers Mark Twain one of the great American writers.

At 37, Nesbø wrote his debut novel ‘The Bat’ (Flaggermusmannen, in the original Norwegian), in which he first introduced Harry’s Hole’s character. While talking about the same, he delved into how the genre in which Harry exists influences his character. After Nesbø realized he wanted to write a novel based on the crime genre, he decided his main protagonist would have to play into some of the clichés within the genre. As a result, Harry becomes a gutsy Detective plagued by his alcoholic proclivities who has a taste for the thrill of the chase.

Viewers might liken the character of Harry Hole to several other literary figures that are detectives by profession, like Sherlock Holmes, Harry Bosch, and Hercule Poirot. However, in an interview, Nesbø talked about some of the actual Scandinavian culture that influenced his writing, such as Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, referring to them as inevitable inspirations for all Scandinavian crime fiction writers. Sjöwall and Wahlöö co-wrote the ten novels collectively known as ‘The Story of a Crime.’ The novels revolve around a Swedish Detective, Martin Beck, and similarly chronicle his cases as done by Nesbø and Harry Hole.

Nesbø also cited crime movies inspired by novels, like ‘The Godfather,’ as a general influence over him. Though he didn’t have much involvement in the actual making of the Tomas Alfredson directorial, and the production team saw many changes before the project actually started shooting, Fassbender’s portrayal of the beloved Norwegian detective is still pretty much on par with his bookish counterpart. Harry’s relationship with Rakel and her son Oleg in the film forms a significant basis for his personality and private life. She is his ex, whom he’s still friendly with.

Likewise, Harry acts as a father figure for Oleg and is very attached to the kid. These qualities about him further humanize his character without taking away from his gritty, no-nonsense detective exterior. While bringing this character to the big screen, Fassbender took help from Nesbø’s books and went through some of the earlier installments to get a good idea of Harry’s origin and how his fate unfolds down the line. His fascination and admiration for the book series enhance his character portrayal. As a result, the Harry Hole viewers see on the screen feels grounded.

Likewise, Fassbender’s attention to the flawed attributes of the character brings an authentic reality to it. Ultimately, Harry Hole from ‘The Snowman’ is not based on a real detective. Any familiarity viewers might find within his characters is likely a result of his clichéd crime detective persona. Numerous characters share these attributes with Harry as a side-effect of the genre in which they all exist. Nesbø crafted Harry Hole as a timeless literary figure without taking direct inspiration from any real-life individual.

Read More: Is The Snowman Based on the True Story of a Real Serial Killer?