Giving Tuesday: Sponsor a Hogwarts Professor for the Global Autism Project.

Dear Readers:

I recently had the privilege of being accepted as a Skill Corps Volunteer with the Global Autism Project for July 2020. I will be part of a team traveling to Ecuador, to work in a center for autistic children and provide training for teachers and parents.  My university’s Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement is providing a seed grant for the project, but I need to raise 80% of the funds to make this trip a reality.

I am hoping readers who have enjoyed my Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent and Cormoran Strike postings over the years will consider a donation to this cause on this Giving Tuesday. Skill Corps teams travel to places where schools and services for special needs children are scarce, with the long-term goal of establishing self-sufficient local centers.

No gift is too small.  The funding site is here for those who would like to donate.

Many thanks as we enter the holiday season.

New additions to my Harry Potter Christmas Tree

I have never had any interest in braving the crowds for Black Friday shopping. For me, the day after Thanksgiving is the day to hang around the house, maybe catch up on grading, contemplate creative uses for Thanksgiving leftovers and start decorating the house for Christmas. This includes setting up my tabletop tree with all of the Harry Potter ornaments I have accumulated over the years. Hallmark keeps coming out with more each year; eventually I am going to need to get a bigger tree. Here are a few pictures of additions made to my collection since I first posted on this topic.

I have acquired quite a few buildings, most recently Hogwarts itself and Honeydukes Sweets.  Olivander’s and Gringotts have been around longer.  I have started setting all the buildings, except for the castle, which is scaled much smaller,  up around the base of the tree in some fake snow in the style of a Christmas Village.  The Honeydukes is especially festive, with the snow-covered roof. Note to self:  purchase some battery-operated lights to light them up.

Ornaments acquired in the last few years include the first Fantastic Beasts addition, the Niffler in the suitcase, and the first in a series of 3D book covers.  I only wish it said “Philosopher’s Stone” instead of “Sorcerer’s.”  There’s also one of Snape drilling Harry in his first potions class (another that plays dialogue from the movie) and, perhaps my favorite from an artistic perspective, one with Dumbledore and Harry exploring memories in the Pensieve.

Of course, like a lot of Hogpro writers, I am hoping the Cormoran Strike series will become popular enough to merit such merchandising tie-ins.  Can you imagine the holiday scenes?  Lula Lovegood’s body in the snow?  The near-collision on the snowy highway? Strike punching Whitaker in the gut? A yapping Norfolk terrier with a chorus of “Shut up, Rattenbury!”?  The possibilities are endless.

Lethal White Filming for BBC1 Begins: Robert Glenister as Jasper Chiswell!

Bronte Studios has begun filming the adaptation of Lethal White for BBC1 written by screenwriter Tom Edge. Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger are back in the lead roles as Cormoran and Robin and the actors who have played Charlotte and Matthew return as well. See the BBC1 announcement here.

The surprise? Robert Glenister, the brilliant narrator of the Strike audio book versions, has been cast as Jasper Chiswell:

Burke (The Souvenir, War And Peace) and Grainger (Animals, The Capture) lead a cast of acclaimed British actors including Robert Glenister, who most recently starred in Curfew for Sky Atlantic, other credits include Paranoid, Journey’s End and Live By Night as well as conman Ash “Three Socks” Morgan in the hit BBC One series Hustle. Glenister also read the audio-book versions of the Robert Galbraith books including Lethal White. Natasha O’Keeffe (Peaky Blinders, Sherlock) and Kerr Logan (Alias Grace, London Irish) also return as Strike’s ex-girlfriend and Robin’s fiancé respectively.

I guess this casting shouldn’t be that much of a surprise given Glenister’s accomplishments as an actor but the overlap is fascinating and curious. I mean, Stephen Fry and Jim Dale are famous comedians and actors, too, but they weren’t invited to take part in the remarkably large ensemble cast of the Hogwarts Saga film adaptations.

I look forward to the day (if I live long enough to see it — I don’t think this day will be coming anytime soon) when we learn the background machinations of The Presence in all things Cormoran Strike, from her planning and writing of the books to the adaptations for the wee screen and the serendipitous casting of Burke as Rosmer in the West End revival production of Rosmersholm the summer before Lethal White is filmed. I suspect that Glenister’s casting as Chiswell was as much a coincidence as Burke’s was, which is to say, “not an accident at all.”

I am not a fan of film adaptations, but I so admire Glenister’s readings that I confess to looking forward to seeing his version of Jasper Chiswell. You?

Literary Allusion in Cormoran Strike: Curious Case of Yeats’ Leda & the Swan

Ever since Rowling was outed as the author of Cuckoo’s Calling we have been discussing the mythological framework on which the Strike mysteries are written.We were talking about Cormoran’s mother Leda and her relations with rockstar Jonny Rokeby as a reflection of the myth of Leda and the Swan, an avian incarnation of Zeus, even before Joanne Gray broke the code of Strike and Ellacott being story stand-ins for Castor and Pollux.

Beatrice Groves, in a MuggleNet essay on literary allusion in The Silkworm, made a reference to Yeats’ poem, ‘Leda and the Swan’ as a gloss on Rowling’s swan twitter header. Does the Silkworm Expend Her Yellow Labors for Thee?

Rowling put up a rather aggressive-looking swan as a Twitter header during the period she was working on this novel, and a fanciful viewer could relate this image to Yeats’s famous sonnet on Leda:

The great wings beating still/ Above the staggering girl” (“Leda and the Swan”)

That was in February 2018. I didn’t even look up the Yeats poem then, I’m embarrassed to say now.

In March 2018 I was asked by Josh Richards, a brilliant novelist and literary critic out of St Andrews University, to read his The One and Only Sarah Jones. I was delighted to be among the first to read it (I hope you will one day have that opportunity, especially if you love Henry James).

Prof Richards included some notes as epilogue to the book in which he mentioned Yeats’ ‘Leda and the Swan.’ Incredulous that I had not found this in any of my readings about the Leda myth, I pulled down my copy of The Complete Yeats (thank you, Friends of the OKC Library booksale!) and took a look. Here’s an online source for you.

Leda and the Swan (W. B. Yeats1865 – 1939)

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                    Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

If you’re like me, your ears perked up at that “shudder in the loins” line. Strike says that about Rokeby: “As far as Jonny Rokeby was concerned, I was just a shudder in the loins.” I was sure I’d heard Robert Glenister say that in his audio book rendition of one of the first three Strike mysteries.

Here’s the thing: when Strike bemoans that he was nothing to Rokeby but a “shudder in the loins,” he is of course quoting Yeats’ poem.

I thought, having forgotten Prof Groves’ citation on MuggleNet, that I’d made a major discovery or at least a significant confirmation of the Leda, Zeus, Castor, and Pollux theorizing here at HogwartsProfessor. I wrote to the merry band of HogwartsProfessor faculty and assorted Pundits to see if I wasn’t covering something already well known. The response was positive and enthusiastic, if I was reminded about the previous citation. One correspondent wrote:

Superb, John!
I love it when scholarship works like this – I suspected that she knows this poem, but you’ve found the evidence. I had forgotten Strike’s line … so I’m confident you’ve got something completely new here – and what a great ‘lock in’!
I’m confident Strike knows this is a quote too – finally she’s got a literary-quoting hero: not just Catullus and Tennyson either it seems!

While I did my victory dance and looked for details to post on the subject, my Serious Striker sons burst my bubble.

I was searching for the “shudder in the loins” line in the actual print-copy Strike novels and couldn’t find the exact citation. Confident it was a Strike line — I knew I’d heard it somewhere — I asked my two sons, who have listened to the Robert Glenister readings of each book several times and both of whom have remarkable recall of all things Rowling/Galbraith.

They insisted the line was not in any of the books. Probably why my gracious correspondent said she “had forgotten” it, right? I’d made it up? I did a long, slow crawl through the then three books trying to find the line, to include searches of the online texts via Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ option, and found nothing.

So I finally searched the BBC1 scripts. The good news was that “shudder in the loins” definitely is in the television scripts, Episode 3 of the Cuckoo’s Calling adaptation (September, 2017). Exact location in script:

00:26:46.523 –> 00:26:49.843
“As far as Jonny Rokeby was concerned, I was just a shudder in the loins.”

Strike says that to Robin after learning about Ageyman’s son in the Sappers. It’s not in the equivalent scene in the text of Cuckoo, but at least I wasn’t making things up. I wrote my Friends list to see if any of them remembered reading it in the novels. The best response?

Sorry John – I didn’t know the line was in Galbraith, just assumed you’d found it, and I’d missed it. It’s still interesting, given that it is her production company (do we know how involved she is in the script?), but disappointingly does look like its the script writer’s thought (which could just come from the Leda name) and might not make it any clearer that there is a Rokeby/Zeus tie-in.

I think Amazon’s ‘look inside’ still searches the pages that it will not show you? If this is the case then I’m afraid your search is pretty clear evidence that it is the script-writer’s innovation (though maybe we’ll see it later in the novels….?!).

There are plenty of shuddering loins in Lethal White, but, alas, no quoting of Yeats to describe them.

The good news is that I haven’t lost my mind; I’ve only confirmed how powerful visual media are (I’d only seen the BBC1 show once and hadn’t even been that attentive). The bad news? Well, as my correspondent points out, we have to assume this allusion is a screenwriter’s conceit rather than a bon mot from The Presence Herself. We just don’t know how much input or supervision Rowling has with respect to the adaptations.

I post it now because I have a backlog of more than 200 post drafts I’m working through and this is certainly one of the more interesting.

What do y’all think? Is the BBC1 writer of this Strike adaptation, Ben Richards, the source for the “shuddering loins” allusion to Leda and the Swan or was it J. K. Rowling, one of five ‘Executive Producers’ for this show (Richards is one of the five, as well)? Is it Strike canon or deuterocanonical teevee hash?
Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!

The Mysterious Rowling Twitter Anagram

I searched the internet recently for connections between Agatha Christie and J. K. Rowling lest I find at the end of a long road that someone has already traveled it and written the travelogue. I found this note at the bottom of a 2014 NPR page whose feature was about a lost Christie longbox:

A Possible Potter Puzzle: J.K. Rowling dipped a toe in Twitter on Monday, apparently just to stir things up. When anything Harry Potter is remotely involved, that’s not hard to do. After mentioning Sunday that she was working on a novel and editing a screenplay, she responded to fans’ excited guesses at the novel’s topic, tweeting, “See, now I’m tempted to post a riddle or an anagram.” Hours afterward came this little riddle:

Answers to the riddle have as yet proved inconclusive.

Rowling was outed as the writer behind ‘Robert Galbraith’ in July 2013. In September 2013 Warner Brothers had announced that Rowling was writing a screenplay for Fantastic Beasts. Why in October 2014 were the guesses about this supposed anagram on her Twitter feed not about Cormoran Strike and Newt Scamander?

More to the point, can anyone find Newt’s and Cormoran’s full names in this tweet along with a message?

If you pull out the letters for ‘Cormoran Strike mystery,’ you’re left with a-a-a-a-d-e-e-e-f-f-h-l-n-n-n-n-n-o-o-o-t-t-u-w-w-w-w-y. Spelling ‘Newt Scamander story’ leaves a-a-a-e-e-e-f-f-h-i-k-l-m-n-n-n-n-o-o-o-o-r-r-s-t-u-w-w-y-y.

There is only one ‘c’ so ‘Cormoran’ and ‘Career of Evil’ together is not possible. There aren’t any ‘b’s so ‘Robin,’ Fantastic Beasts, and Albus Dumbeldore are out. The solo ‘c’ also precludes ‘Scamander’ and ‘Jacob.’ The solo ‘k’ means ‘Kowalski’ is a non-starter. ‘Tina’ works but the absence of a ‘g’ or a ‘q’ means ‘Queenie’ and ‘Goldstein’ won’t work, not to mention ‘Gellert’ or ‘Grindelwald.’

It’s supposed to be about the novel’s topic, though, right? So forget Warner Brothers; we’re talking Career of Evil.

Working with the remainders from ‘Cormoran Strike mystery, ‘Leda’ works as does ‘death’ but not both. Jonny Rokeby is impossible (and he no-shows Career). Shanker, Whittaker, Laing, Brockbank, Digger Malley – all fail.

Love to hear your ideas!