Rowling’s Favorite Poem Found in Oz “Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances”

We know more and less about J. K. Rowling than we think. We know, for instance, her favorite book and author, her favorite 20th Century writer, her favorite contemporary writer, and her favorite painting. We know her political leanings, her feelings about Brexit, President Trump, and Independence for Scotland, and we have been told what she thinks about Jonny Depp as Grindelwald and the supposed straight-washing of Dumbeldore. She has a very cute dog. She’s told the world what music she’d take with her to a desert island.

We don’t know, however, her favorite flavor of ice cream, her natural hair color (well, it’s not blonde or red), her plans for Cormoran Strike or Newt Scamander, or even if there will ever be a Lethal White (cue, ‘Over the Rainbow’). We don’t know which assertion she has made about C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia to believe: “Cannot be in the same room with a copy and not pick it up to re-read” or “Never finished it.”

We don’t know her favorite poet. Cormoran Strike? He’s a big fan of Catullus. Jo Rowling? No idea.

This last week, though, while researching a mind-blasting revelation I’ll be sharing with you here soon, a fact that would have changed everyone’s thinking about Rowling as an author back in the Potter Wars and may do the same today (no joke), I stumbled on her favorite poem. It is Walt Whitman’s ‘Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances,’ published in the ‘Calamus’ section of the American poet’s Leaves of Grass.

Three notes about this find: (1) how we know it is Rowling’s favorite poem (and why it took nine years for the revelation to reach Potter Punditry), (2) it’s resonance with the Deathly Hallows epigraphs, and (3) it’s importance for understanding Rowling’s artistry and end-game as a writer.  [Read more…]

The Elder Wand and ‘Fantastic Beasts’: Who is the Death Stick’s Master?

J. K. Rowling tweeted in response to a question about the Elder Wand from a reader that, with respect to mastery of the Death Stick, “Physical possession is irrelevant.”

J.K. RowlingVerified account @jk_rowling Feb 19

I sent this and another tweet about Lethal White out to my list of Potter Pundit friends (just ask if you wanted to be added to said list) and received responses varying from “Not News” to “So What?” My answer to both those reactions is “Fantastic Beasts.”

 We know the end of the five part series of films, i.e., that Dumbledore will best Grindelwald in a duel for the ages despite the black hat being in possession of the unbeatable Elder Wand. Rowling, consequently, has to set up from the start this epic confrontation and mysterious victory with a host of clues about who is really the master of the Wand of Destiny.

 Hence the importance of “Physical possession is irrelevant” which we already knew from the climax of Deathly Hallows, because Harry’s victory over the Dark Lord was consequent to his “mastering” Draco Malfoy who had never touched the Elder Wand. The disarming of Grindelwald posing as Graves at the end of Fantastic Beasts, then, whether he was holding the Elder Wand in the subway or not, means that whoever disarmed him is now its master.

 So, who disarmed Gellert Grindelwald at the end of the first movie?

[Read more…]

Harry Potter by the Numbers: 1,084,170

Your indispensable morning factoid and invaluable follow-on information! Here are the number of words in the Harry Potter novels and comparisons with the word counts of other well-known works.

Quantity is not quality, of course, but don’t make the mistake of neglecting that quantity is one quality — and not an unimportant one. If your spoon at breakfast weighed thity five pounds, you might have had less oatmeal.

So, how many words are there in Harry Potter? More than a million. Via

  • How many words are in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? There are 76,944 words.
  • How many words are in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? There are 85,141 words.
  • How many words are in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? There are 107,253 words.
  • How many words are in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? There are 190,637 words.
  • How many words are in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? There are 257,045 words.
  • How many words are in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? There are 168,923 words.
  • How many words are in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? There are 198,227 words.

The Harry Potter books contain 1,084,170 words

Order of the Phoenix is 1/4 of the total, just a tad short of the first three books’ word counts combined.

More to the point, any class requiring students to read the series before registering is setting a million word point-of-entry.

I’m pretty sure that’s a unique threshold outside of Old Testament studies in Divinity School.


Other Word Counts for Famous Novels as Points of Reference —  Via

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BBC1 ‘Career of Evil’ Trailer Released

Anyone else think that the BBC’s Jeff Whittaker favors Keith Richards?

Anyone else wonder why we don’t get even the hint of a wedding in Massham? of Elin?

Anyone else wish that Robert Glennister, the voice of the audio books, could speak for all the characters in this teevee adaptation, especially for Cormoran Strike?

Should we expect a publication date for Lethal White in the run-up to this release or in the aftermath?

The show will premiere Sunday, 25 February, in the UK (and maybe in the US the next day if our friend in Iraq who has posted them on YouTube in the past follows through). 

Lemmeno what you think of the trailer hints and teases in the comment boxes below! We’ll be writing about Career and Lethal White in the coming week to get you ready.

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…]