Agatha Christie and ‘The Pale Horse:’ Rowling Borrowings from the Master

I bought a copy of Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse because (1) there is no other author with whom J. K. Rowling has more in common in terms of sales, personal life, and writing choices (did you know, for instance, that Christie wrote six books under a pseudonym?), (2) Rowling has expressed her great admiration for Christie as a mystery writer, especially for the Queen of Mystery’s sense of humor, and (3) previous forays into the Christie oeuvre – I’m thinking of Appointment with Death and The Moving Finger, books Rowling says she loves — have yielded some fascinating parallels and likely name-lifts. Dolores Gordon-Smith, noted mystery thriller writer, for example, noted that the young, spirited red head girl in Appointment has the name Ginny-which-is-really-Ginevra.

Those are good reasons for reading any of the almost seventy Christie whodunnits. I chose The Pale Horse specifically because of the flood of white horse notes scattered throughout the fourth Cormoran Strike novel, Lethal White, and all of Rowling’s pointers to its importance in her twitter notes and public comments pre and post publication (for a review of all that, go here, here, and here). White horses are also a theme of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, the play from which every chapter epitaph is taken and which play’s events and meaning the story in Lethal White parallels in significant ways.

If that weren’t enough, Robin and Cormoran even talk about the pale horse versus the white horse in Lethal White. While referencing the Ibsen play obliquely (the actor playing the Cormoran part may have had it on his mind…), we get the direct link to the last book of canonical Christian scripture, albeit with the usual layman error in its name, on the drive back to London after the group interview at Chiswell House (chapter 44, p 378):

“White horses,” [Cormoran] said. “Isn’t there a play where white horses appear as a death omen?”

“I don’t know said Robin, changing gear. “Death rides a white horse in Revelations (sic), though.”

“A pale horse, Strike corrected her, winding down the window so that he could smoke again.

“Pedant.”

“Says the woman who won’t call a brown horse ‘brown,'” said Strike.

Join me after the jump for the three reasons any serious reader of J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith will be delighted by reading Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse! [Read more…]

Nabokov’s Pale Fire: Summary, Analysis, and Harry Potter Borrowings

Many previous posts have traced some of the influence of Vladimir Nabokov on the works of J.K. Rowling. In an attempt to supplement those posts, I will provide a summary of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, along with a brief interpretation. By tracing the plot elements of the book, I hope to demonstrate some of the common techniques of writing common to Nabokov and Rowling. I will conclude with a brief list of elements, whether of direct plot, symbol, or structure, that I see as borrowed by J.K. Rowling from Pale Fire.

[Read more…]

Shakespeare, ‘Greats’

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Crimes of Grindelwald: Shakespeare!

Image result for crimes of grindelwaldBack in the summer, as we were speculating on the then-forthcoming new Fantastic Beasts film, I pondered the possibilities that loomed for our next installment in the magizooilogical adventures of Newt Scamander and his associates, especially as those possibilities connected to Shakespeare’s textbook comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now, after seeing the film and taking a week to process my thoughts, I’m delighted to kick around some of the ways in which the film fulfilled and challenged the Shakespearean conventions I hoped to see taking center stage in this segment of the five-film series: Alchemy, Character Pair-ups, and the use of Humors and Elements. All of these are central to many of Shakespeare’s plays, including the romp through the fairy-haunted forests of Athens, and are crucial to the latest adventures from the Wizarding World. Join me after the jump as we take a look at each of these factors, in reverse order this time, to see how the link between these two performance-focused texts helps us understand where our story is heading. [Read more…]

Beatrice Groves: Shakespeare, Kipling, and Rowling’s Crimes of Grindelwald

Beatrice Groves is a Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, where she teaches classes on early modern literature and drama, Shakespeare in particular. She is also a Potter Pundit of the first rank; her Literary Allusion in Harry Potter is the most exciting, edifying, and enlightening contribution to Potter studies that I’ve read in many, many years. Prof Groves speaks to Harry Potter fandom in addition to this book through a variety of fan sites, large and small; see her discussion of magical plants on TheLeakyCauldron, her Bathilda’s Notebook page on MuggleNet (my favorite there? Literary Allusion in Cormoran Strike), and the three ‘Harrowing of Hell’ Guests Posts here at HogwartsProfessor. She is a frequent guest on Kathryn McDaniel’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcasts and is as charming ‘in person’ on that medium as her remarkably accessible and profound writing suggests she would be.

Prof Groves has just finished another landmark series at her MuggleNet platform, ‘Bathilda’s Notebook,’ this one a three part discussion of Rowling’s debts and embedded allusions in Harry Potter and Crimes of Grindelwald to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill, Stalky & Co., and ‘The Man Who Would Be King.’ All are chock full of her discoveries — who knew, just for example, that the Headless Hunt, Regulus Black, and the Deathly Hallows symbol are hat-tips to Kipling? If Literary Allusion in Harry Potter has a failing, it is that Dr Groves does not mention literary alchemy in her brilliant chapters on Shakespeare in that book; she more than compensates in these three weblog posts by sharing her thoughts on literary alchemy in Shakespeare, Kipling, and the Crimes of Grindelwald film released this week.

Here are links to these posts I know you will enjoy, either as appetizers for your experience of the new movie or as after dinner treats post viewing!

“It’s Just Like Waking Up, Right?”: “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Kipling, and Shakespeare’s Midsummer Dreaming

“The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Kipling, and the Origins of the Deathly Hallows Symbol

The Alchemical Symbolism of the Deathly Hallows in “The Crimes of Grindelwald”