Cormoran Strike: The Silkworm

Pillar Post Place Holder for Sidebar Listing

Cormoran Strike: Career of Evil

Pillar Post Place Holder for Sidebar Listing

Cormoran Strike: Lethal White

Pillar Post Place Holder for Sidebar Listing

Lethal White: The Swan Symbolism

Even the relatively casual reader of Robert Galbraith’s fourth Cormoran Strike mystery, Lethal White, is struck by the imagery of the swans in this novel.

The story begins — its first words — at the Cunliffe wedding reception with a photographer trying to get a picture of the newlyweds that includes two swans in the pond behind them. The swans stubbornly refuse to come together, but, as soon as Robin rises to separate herself from Matt (with the intention of looking for Cormoran), they swim side by side. The clueless father of the groom observes, “You’d think the buggers were doing it on purpose” (p 3).

The story ends — its very last words — with “twin swans,” a return to the beginning as evident bracketing:

Head bowed against the rain, [Robin] had no attention left to spare for the magnificent mansion past which she was walking, its rain specked windows facing the great river, its front doors engraved with twin swans. (p 647)

Brad  Bellows told us, in a comment attached to Evan Willis’ post on the hermetic and mythological meaning of Lethal White, that “the paired swans Robin fails to notice in the final line, actually exist, on Swan House, built in 1876 by R.N. Shaw, overlooking the Thames.” Mr Willis in that post had suggested this might be Jonny Rokeby’s home in keeping with his theory that, per Leda and the Swan/Zeus mythology, that Strike’s mysterious paternity, the pairing of his super-groupie mother with the other-worldly rock-star, explains why Rokeby remains off-stage but ever-present. The myth holds that Leda has twins, two sets of twins actually, with two fathers for each set; Castor and Pollux are the off-spring of Leda with the swan who is Zeus and with the king of Sparta, her husband. Robin and Cormoran, great driver and former boxer, are the novel’s stand-in for Castor the horseman and Pollux the pugilist. [See the discussions of this mythology and the Strike mysteries in the Gray/Granger and Willis posts on the subject.]

While the predominant symbolism of the story is white horses, which occur so frequently that Strike remarks on it and Billy Knight laughs about it (pp 394, 496), white swans occur often enough, not only as the story’s framing brackets but in references to individual birds on signs (see Robin’s noting and overlooking the Swan pub sign on pp 56 and 166), that we are obliged to consider their meaning beyond markers of Leda mythology in which the books are set. Swans, as you might expect in a Rowling novel, have an alchemical meaning as well, one that we will explore after the jump.

[Read more…]

Lethal White and NHS: Rowling Speaks

The fourth Cormoran Strike novel, Lethal White, included as an almost continuous backdrop references to the NHS in character names, the Olympics opening ceremony, hospital visits, long lines, and private medical care. I discussed this in Lethal White: Ghosts of Aneurin Bevan? Lorelei Bevan, Dodgy Doc, and the NHS’ and concluded that Rowling was presenting the glorious NHS as a socialist project in a state of near collapse.

Today Rowling released the following statement to The Daily Mail in support of their holiday program that signs up citizen volunteers to work in NHS hospitals, ‘Harry Potter Author J. K. Rowling Supports Daily Mail Christmas NHS Volunteer Campaign’:

 ‘The NHS is one of our country’s most cherished institutions, one that we can truly be proud of.

‘Despite the constant pressures and constraints, it never ceases to amaze me just how much work and time all those involved dedicate to continuing to make this organisation function, let alone excel.

‘And now, a new army of volunteers have stepped forward. The thousands who are giving up their time to help the NHS through the Helpforce campaign should be applauded.’

I suspect some readers will think this statement of support for the NHS proves I was wrong about what Galbraith’s portrayal of the NHS in Lethal White reflects about the “cherished institution.” I think she couldn’t have said anything that more clearly underlines my suggestion that the author, while admiring the dream of NHS founders and workers, acknowledges that it is a failed dream in many respects. Read the whole article for the reasons the volunteers are needed and for the problems the NHS cannot address with ‘civilian’ help. Not enough medical staff and not enough beds…

Let me know if and why you agree or disagree by clicking on the ‘Leave a Comment’ link up by the post headline. I look forward to reading your thoughts.