That Easter Moment: Eucatastrophe in the new Beauty and the Beast

beauty-and-the-beast-2017Disney’s new live-action adaptation of the classic animated musical Beauty and the Beast has a lot of people talking. Actually, it has me singing. As a young teen in 1991, I had the musical memorized. As I sat in the cinema this past March at age 40, I had to keep one hand over my mouth to keep from belting out lines like, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere…” and “I use antlers in all of my decorating!” It’s now been weeks since I saw the new movie, yet Beauty and the Beast earworms remain. (She writes, muttering, “…don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!”)

So it has us talking and singing. And why not? There’s lots to talk (and sing) about. The new film makes some significant adjustments to 1991’s script and story: new songs, updated lyrics, additional backstory. The changes do more than simply re-heat and re-serve an animated classic. Beauty and the Beast 2017 spins the “tale as old as time” for a modern audience. Three changes interest me the most, the third in a timely way. [Read more…]

Why Moaning Myrtle, Not Wailing Wanda

ChamberLet’s take a break from Lethal White speculations today to talk about something we can be reasonably sure of, namely (ouch), the meaning of ‘Moaning Myrtle’s name. I’m pretty sure that you missed that meaning and that you’ll laugh when you see it.

First, let’s note that Myrtle’s full name is ‘Myrtle Elizabeth Warren.’ Rowling clued us in to that in 2015 in answer to a question from a reader on Twitter.

Forgive me for wondering if this was intentional. There are, after all, other Elizabeth Warrens than the one now representing Massachusetts in the U. S. Senate.  None of the other E. W.s are that famous, of course. Moaning Myrtle being who she is, it’s not exactly the connection you would think a woman with Rowling’s professed politics would make with Senator Warren.

Next, did you know that Moaning Myrtle was ‘Wailing Wanda’ in the first drafts of Chamber of Secrets? Equally alliterative with a bonus resonance with two ‘n’s and three ‘a’s, the question has to be “Why change ‘Wanda’ to ‘Myrtle’? [Read more…]

Guest Post: Mythological Leda Strike – Cormoran, Zeus, Castor and Pollux

Leda 4A Team ‘Guest Post’ by Joanne Gray and John Granger: Mythological Leda

I think that J. K. Rowling chose the name for Strike’s mother with a specific story line in mind. A quick Google search of the name ‘Leda’ means a host of links to the Greek myth about Leda and the Swan.

Leda was a beautiful Queen of Sparta, the ancient Greek city-state totally dedicated to military supremacy. She caught the eye of the King of the Gods, Zeus. [She was not the god’s first or last mortal mate; at any given time Zeus was seducing some poor earthling. Leda seems to be the only woman, however, with whom he used his swan guise to carry out the seduction.]  

Leda 5With both her mortal husband, the King of Sparta Tyndareus, and Zeus, the immortal King of the Gods, as her lovers, Leda gave birth to two sets of twins, one set of sons and one set of daughters. (For a refresher on why the ancients thought this sort of thing was possible read the history of telegony, an obscure rabbit hole on the trail of genetics.) Leda’s two daughters, Helen of Troy via Zeus and Clytemnestra by Tyndareus, were both tragic figures in the Trojan War.

However, her sons will be the ones that concern us here. The twin boys were named Castor and Pollux. Castor was known as a horse breaker and demigod Pollux was known as a boxer. Both were also known for their horsemanship and for their willingness to help those in trouble, especially travelers, guests, and sailors. For much more on these two, see Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia and the discussion therein on A Horse and His BoyCor and Corin in that C. S. Lewis tale are Archenland royalty separated as infants who are Castor and Pollux story ciphers.

Yes, I think Rowling is writing a Castor and Pollux story inside the Cormoran Strike mysteries. Read on after the jump.

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Guest Post: ‘Lethal White’ Deadly Heroin

A Hogwarts Professor Guest Post by Joanne Gray

Lethal White and the Death of Leda Strike: Heroin Hydrochloride

With the announcement that the long delayed and eagerly awaited fourth book of the Cormoran Strike book series would be called “Lethal White”, those who heard the news immediately began to Google the two word title and devour the information on something called, “Lethal White Syndrome.” [See the HogwartsProfessor discussion here.]

As people absorbed the definition of “Lethal White Syndrome” and discovered it was a fatal genetic condition of…American paint horses their initial excitement about a ‘great catch’ about what the next mystery would be about faded a little, even with Rowling’s theme of eugenics. Though this ‘Lethal White’ referred to a fatal condition, it was for a different species than human beings and death-by-genetics not foul play. If this was the heart of Strike’s next murder mystery, how would one go about arresting Mother Nature?

Sometimes finding a good firm wall blocking the easy path you’ve taken, in order to research something, is actually a good thing. In my case it caused me to step back and take a broader view of things. Could ‘Lethal White’ be a reference to a major background element in Career of Evil, the mysterious death of Leda Strike?
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The Luck of the Irish in the Wizarding World

As March winds down to a close, hopefully lamb-like, the month’s traditional decorations of shamrocks and leprechauns begin to come down, and, causing much sadness in mint fans across America, McDonald’s stops selling Shamrock Shakes.  Before we say goodbye to the month of green beer and PBS marathons of Riverdance specials, let’s take a peek at the way in which the Hogwarts saga has, rather like St. Patrick’s Day activities in general, has both celebrated the Irish and reinforced stereotypes and assumptions.

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