Peaky Blinders: Why did Tommy Shelby become a gangster? Cillian Murphy reveals shock truth

Peaky Blinders picks up on Tommy Shelby’s (played by Cillian Murphy) story after he returns from World War One. While some aspects of his past have been hinted at throughout the series, a new Steven Knight audio story reveals the most yet. Read by Cillian Murphy, the short clip explains what drove Tommy to become the brutal man he is today.

Why did Tommy Shelby become a gangster?

Earlier this week, Steven Knight uploaded two short audio stories to looking at the past of his cast of characters.

Each narrated by Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, the two poems reveal more about the stories of their beloved roles.

In a short poem entitled The Ballad of Tommy Shelby, Murphy narrates the story of the notorious gangster Tommy Shelby as a young child through to his experiences in the war.

The moving piece contains some interesting revelations of Tommy as an intense young tearaway on the streets of Birmingham.


Fans of the series find out that he has always had his iconic stare ever since he used to scare his neighbours by appearing from the fog with a stick.

Tommy’s love of horses is also explored throughout, as listeners learn that he once tried to kill a man to save one.

However, the majority of the poem focuses on Tommy’s experiences in World War One and the trauma he faced after enlisting in 1915.

The Knight-written clip also reveals for the first time what Tommy’s explicit motive was in the developing the Peaky Blinders into a notorious gang.

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Beginning with the anger he felt against those who sent him to the front, the poem charts his disillusionment with religion and authority.

He reads: “He went away in a ship to fight a million other kids and they all drew straws to see who eventually died.

“And the kid came home knowing everyone but the horses lied.”

This seemingly leads him to ignite a battle of his own when he returns against those who sent him there.

He continues: “So we’re burning all the bridges and burning the past and we’ll tell the sons of b******* that this is a new day.”

The poem ends with Tommy returning from the war, the hardened man that viewers get a glimpse of in the first season of the show.

He said: “Then by some miracle, they sail you home to the place you used to be.”

“I got out of the hole and into a Mercedes Benz and I drove to the place the old morality ends.

“I became the solider of the living lost, the king and protector of the forgotten past, never once remember anything except what must come next.

“You must never, ever forgive me for the rest of what I did. ”

READ MORE: Peaky Blinders season 6: Will there be another series? 

Viewers have only been afforded few amounts of Tommy’s backstory in the series so far.

While his PTSD developed from his experiences as a tunneller in the war is one of the key themes of the series, the focus on the show is after he has returned to Small Heath.

However in season four, more was also revealed about his first love before he enlisted, Greta Jurossi.

This is revealed through his relationship with radical Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy) who presses him on the subject.

However, this new audio story gives fans of show their clearest insight yet into the notorious character.

Peaky Blinders seasons 1-5 are now available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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