Guest Post: The Meaning of ‘Scamander’

From long-time friend of this blog, Lancelot Schaubert, a big find! Newt’s last name is taken from classical Greek mythology and may point to the number of his coming confrontations with Grindelwald and how the magizoologist may eventually help Dumbledore defeat him. Enjoy!

Newt Scamander, Xanthos, and Achilles

My bride and I started a new book club with our neighbors in Brooklyn called Western Canonball (iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher) where we read through classic literature that’s either new to us or that we read so long ago we’ve forgotten most of it. This brought me across Hesiod’s Theogony for the first time and a new encounter with The Illiad where the name Scamander – as in Newt Scamander – emerged.

Scamander in Greek mythology went by the name Xanthos: a river God. The gods called him Xanthos and men called him Scamander and in the triadic system, that seems to indicate that Xanthos is the consciousness, the god, behind the river and that Scamander is the manifestation, both the man in the Trojan war and the river that flows from Mount Ida straight over the plain that lies before Troy and then it merges as a tributary of the Hellespont. We’ll come back to the river in a minute, but let’s focus on Scamander the man:

The latter part of Scamander’s name comes from the greek word andros like St. Andrew which means “of a man” or “manly” or the thing that comes from manfulness, “courage.” But the first part “scam” doesn’t come from some word for a con man, but rather from either skadzo which means “to limp or stumble” or from the Greek skaios meaning “left-handed” or “awkward.” A limping man or an awkward man is precisely what Newt Scamander is. [Read more…]

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Five-Part Series Review and Round-Up:Three Take Aways

HogwartsProfessor has posted ChrisC’s thoughts about the literary and mythological roots of Jonny Rokeby and Charlotte Campbell the last five days. Here are my three take-away thoughts on the subject, and, after the jump, there is a one-stop round-up of links to the five parts of the series. Thank you, ChrisC, for your Guest Posts!

(1) The Duke Ellington-Doctor Faustus Link is an Over Reach. Fun, though!

I love a literary puzzle, right? And Rowling is a puzzle writer. Check out this brief passage about Robin from Career of Evil:

Quite suddenly, she experienced one of those jolts of excitement with which she had become familiar since starting work for Strike, and which were the immediate reward of looking for a tiny piece of information that might mean something, nothing, or, occasionally, everything. (p 90, cf., pp 249, 402)

 I think what Brian Boyd describes in Nabokov as the “magic of artistic discovery” which that author goes to great effort to bring to the reader is perhaps the single greatest link between Rowling and the “writer I really love.” Robin’s excitement about finding a clue, the secret entry to what really happened, is a parallel with what we are supposed to be doing and feeling as readers engaged in a contest with author and text to discover the greater reality not yet visible in the plot details and character musings.

Having said that, moving from a picture of Jonny Rokeby and Duke Ellington (and other men) and then making a link between the character Rokeby and Marlowe’s Faust because Ellington once wrote a score for Orson Welles’ Faust just won’t work.

For one thing, despite the reference provided via an embedded link, it’s doubtful Ellington wrote a musical score for Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. The 1950 Welles event in Frankfurt for which Ellington wrote music, ‘An Evening with Orson Welles,’ was not Marlowe per se but the actor’s “own version of ‘Faust’ (based on material by Marlowe, Milton and Dante).” It was a variety hour for servicemen including songs by Eartha Kitt — one with her playing ‘Helen of Troy perhaps a nod to Faust– rather than a production of the Marlowe drama per se— which play was not a musical, right? [Read more…]

Guest Post: Who is Jonny Rokeby? Pt 5

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Part 5: Potential Plot Points By ChrisC

This whole series of rokeby posts is premised on the idea that J.K. Rowling means us to the see the character of Jonny Rokeby in her Cormoran Strike novels as a latter-day Faust character.  Through unpacking a number of inter-locking symbols within one single scene, at least a case has been made that she wants her readers to view the father of Cormoran Strike in a way that owes its style to the literary alchemy tradition of the Renaissance and to Marlowe’ Doctor Faustus, specifically.

In the final essay of this series, let’s look at what all this symbolism could mean in terms of both plot and genre.  Won’t you join me after the jump for one more walk on the wild side?

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Guest Post: Who is Jonny Rokeby? Pt 4

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Part 4: Helen of Troy By ChrisC

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships

And burnt the topless towers of Illium?

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss –

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus.

This is not the first time an echo from ancient Greek mythology has been discussed on this site.  A while back, Joanna Gray and John Granger collaborated on an essay about the mythological allusions in the relation of Cormoran Strike to his mother Leda.  Helen of Troy came up in the course of that feature, however its main focus was on Strike as a combination Aeneas/latter half of the ancient family team of Castor and Pollux. Mythological Leda Strike: Cormoran, Zeus, Castor, and Pollux,

However, if Jonny Rokeby is meant to be seen as a post-modern Doctor Faustus, then it is time to bring Pollux’s sister Helen into the spotlight.  To understand the reasons why, and how come even that isn’t quite what it seems, meet me after the jump on the wrong side of the street.

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Guest Post: Who is Jonny Rokeby? Pt 3

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Part 3: Puppet or Puppeteer? By ChrisC

In the previous two posts of this five part series (see here and here to catch up), I’ve been examining the character of Jonny Rokeby based on a careful reading of the clues provided by J.K. Rowling from a specific scene in The Silkworm, her second Cormoran Strike novel, in which the rock star appears. Not in person — just a photograph on the wall in which he is pictured with Duke Ellington and other music legends.

So far, I’ve been willing to trust my judgment calls in terms of the subtle hints and clues the author has been willing to give us in a photograph prominently displayed in that scene.  I can see Rokeby as a Doctor Faustus stand-in. When it comes to the figure of Mephistopheles, though, the other key figure in Marlowe’s drama, I feel obliged to be more cautious. 

It has been speculated by John Granger here at and on the ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcasts at MuggleNet that Rokeby, though he has yet to appear in person in the first three books, is meant to be the Big Bad of the Strike series. The prevalent theory is that Rokeby is responsible for the murder of Leda Strike and possibly for the explosion that took away the leg of his own son in a failed attempt on C.B. Strike’s life in Afghanistan.

Why? Leda knew something that the rock star doesn’t want known and Rokeby assumes she told her oldest boy this secret before her death (or that Strike is clever enough to learn himself when investigating his mum’s mysterious demise). John has even suggested that Rokeby may not really be Corm’s daddy but that he accepted paternity to buy Leda’s non-disclosure.

This could all be true, and if so, then perhaps this essay isn’t strictly necessary.  However, I am working the assumption in this series that Ms. Rowling means for us to see Rokeby as a Faust figure.  This character type can be portrayed as Prof. Moriarty is in the Sherlock Holmes stories; Marlowe’s Faustus is both well learned and a conniver.  However, a problem starts up once the character of Mephistopheles is introduced into the mix.

Please join me after the jump for my attempt to tackle the puzzle of just how Rowling may portray the principal villain: as a puppet or as puppeteer?

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