Who is the Princess Puffer?
The strange old woman, identified by Deputy merely as the Princess Puffer, has become a mystery in herself. What is her interest in John Jasper – does it extend beyond the usual dealer-customer relationship?
An opium dealer or blackmailer?
Many believe she may be looking to blackmail Jasper with the information he has leaked whilst taking opium – we know she has heard him threatening Ned and speaking of killing him.
One of the most popular theories is that the Princess Puffer is the mother of another character – but who? D Bilham suggested she might be the mother of Edwin Drood himself, making her Jasper’s older sister, though one might think, were this the case, that she would take greater pains to warn Edwin on the day of his disappearance.
Another mother theory holds that Jasper might be her child. This was suggested by the dedicated Droodist J Cumming Walters in 1905.
Mother of Jasper's first love
Of the various mother theories, this is the most popular. It hinges on the idea that the Princess Puffer, though interested in Jasper, is not interested in Edwin, and that therefore she is pursuing Jasper not for this recent crime, but a previous one. In early solutions the idea was presented that Jasper had formerly loved a woman and abandoned her to ruin and death, for which the Princess Puffer seeks vengeance on her daughter’s seducer. In Thomas Power James’s 1784 solution, the affair had led to the birth of a child; this idea was later picked up by Edwin Harris in his 1932 solution, with two extra complications – one, the child of John Jasper, and grandson of Princess Puffer, was Deputy, and two, Datchery was the wronged woman’s brother, making him also the son of the Princess Puffer.