Beatrice Groves: The Goblin Problem

As an Orthodox Christian traditionalist and something of a perennialist, ‘Marxism’ is a trigger word for me. Be it the economic Marxism that in the form of Soviet and Chinese communism murdered at least one hundred million people in the 20th Century or the cultural Marxism that has been slowly “marching through the institutions” of universities, media, and government since the advent of the Frankfurt School in the 40’s and 50’s, I have no time for or tolerance of those who believe in ‘Socialism,’ the secular religion of millenialist faith in government and ‘progressive politics’ to cure human ills, or who look at the world exclusively as the stage of conflict between haves and have nots, oppressor and oppressed, the privileged and the disempowered.

I have significant and profound problems with the political right and even Classical liberalism as well, the other side of the materialist/individualist/rationalist nightmare ‘coin’ of our times, but with Marxists, the so-called ‘Hard Left’? I have to struggle to speak of them or with them as rational actors. The crimes of Marxists and the blood of their millions of victims cry out so loudly that the claims and cries of the Woke that they are speaking for “social justice” are nigh on impossible for me to hear.

Why do I make this confession of my traditionalist beliefs about Marxism? Because I have been struggling about how to present two thoughtful essays that Oxford Research Fellow Beatrice Groves has posted on MuggleNet about ‘The Goblin Problem.’ See Part 1: Rowling’s Goblin Problem and Part 2: The Sword Until Recently Known as Gryffindor’s for her as always insightful discussion of the issue.

‘The Goblin Problem,’ in brief, is that Rowling’s goblins seem to many to be transparencies for Jews. Their description and behaviors parallel in ways anti-Semitic caricatures familiar from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Dickens’ Fagin in Oliver Twist, and German National Socialist propaganda. This is bizarre, to say the least, because Rowling is a public defender of Jews in the UK and their struggle against the contemporary wave of anti-Semitism there and around the world. Could she have embedded such a glaringly ugly and demeaning depiction of Jews in her Hogwarts Saga?

Dr Groves argues cogently that this is a complete misunderstanding of the goblins and I think she has succeeded in simultaneously clearing Rowling, explaining the much more challenging and important meaning of the goblins, and presenting this problem, the reflex misinterpretation of her work, as a sign of how difficult this meaning is for readers to grasp in a time when corporate capitalists have all but eliminated craftsmen as a class or social fact. I am an uber fan of Dr Groves’ work and this pair of essays is some of her best work yet.

My problem? Dr Groves presents her case in the language of Karl Marx. [Read more…]

T. M. Doran’s ‘The Lucifer Ego’

I am a serious fan of T. M. Doran’s novels. I have read, enjoyed, and recommended everything he’s published since I stumbled upon his Toward the Gleam back in 2010. You can read my ’10 Questions Interview’ with him  about Gleam here and about his Terrapin here. Doran’s Iota is another excellent read.

When I heard that he had written a sequel to Gleam, consequently, I was all over it. I read The Lucifer Ego when it came out last summer and re-read it today. I recommend it to you for four reasons.

(1) Lucifer Ego is a Thriller-Mystery featuring a Great Trio of Characters — and The Lord of the Rings: Toward the Gleam told the tale of John Hill’s discovery of an ancient manuscript and his struggle to understand what it reports while protecting it from the wicked men trying to steal it. It is a barely disguised historical fiction turning on J. R. R. Tolkien and how he came to write LOTR with a great cast of characters to include C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and even Winston Churchill. We get glimpses of Tolkien, Lewis, and some of the Gleam characters in a few Lucifer Ego brief-flashback chapters, but the adventure in the sequel is contemporary England, France, Bosnia, and Germany and what the three new heroes, a paleoarcheologist, a psychologist, and an Intelligence agent for MI6, have to do to find the ancient manuscript. Hill/Tolkien had left it in a monastery but a mad monk had made off with it…

(2) Doran Can Write: Reading J. K. Rowling for two decades and discussing it with serious readers for almost as long have given me an appreciation of and taste for writers who are writing as much about other stories inside their own works as they are about the stories they’re telling in the surface plot. Rowling does this with her mythological story scaffolding, references to favorite books, and alchemical and Christian symbolism. Doran in The Lucifer Ego is all about texts ranging from Virgil’s Aeneid to The Lord of the Rings, which you’d expect, but also with interior stories characters are trying to figure out (the best being a children’s book called Beakie the Turtle) and a master villain whose psychological super power is creating narratives to manipulate anyone and everyone he meets to do his bidding. Like most good books, repeated reading reveals the careful drops and structuring you miss on the first quick page-turning.

(3) There’s a Message: Doran is someone who gets the spiritual crisis and the philosophical errors that define our age. He doesn’t beat you over the head with the meaning he wants you to walk away with, but, by having the bad guys act on ideas they believe and discuss and by presenting the good guys’ struggle with temptations both with respect to these ideas and their own internal issues, the reader confronts them, too, and, as Doran said in my Gleam discussion with him, 

I desired to expose these crooked ideas while, as Tolkien might have said, respecting the freedom of readers to reach their own conclusions. I wanted the malignant characters in the story to be more than one-dimensional, even if they were unattractive; in this mission, I struggled as Lewis described struggling with The Screwtape Letters. Like Tolkien, Lewis, and Chesterton, I wanted readers holding different beliefs to be able to ponder and reflect on the ideas in the story, while still enjoying a (hopefully) rousing story.

A writer and story craftsman who thinks seriously, presents challenging ideas in his novels, and yet one who respects intelligent readers sufficiently not to have to draw out the moral of the story in painfully obvious fashion — Doran is a keeper. And The Lucifer Ego is worth every minute you give it because of that care and respect, if Iota may be his best book in this regard.

(4) Good News and Bad News: I don’t think someone who hasn’t read Toward the Gleam will get half the enjoyment of the reader who has — which is just one more reason to get a copy of Gleam. The odd thing and good news was that, after reading the first book, I didn’t think a sequel was possible or even desirable. I looked forward to re-reading the book, as I do with everything Doran has written, but I was more than satisfied with the ending. With The Lucifer Ego and its three heroes, I again cannot see how they can continue the story, at least not with the ‘Manuscript that Becomes Lord of the Rings‘ backdrop, but I want very much for there to be more Lyle-Sam-and-Beatrice adventures.

Vampire Batman: Robert Pattinson Confirmed as New Caped Crusader

Holy Hufflepuff Switcheroo, Batman! Rumors have finally been confirmed that Robert Pattinson will be donningImage result for batman the famous Batman cowl in 2021’s The Batman. While there will undoubtedly be hue and cry from every corner, as there always is with the casting of such a culturally important character, Pattinson is both an interesting and a promising choice.

[Read more…]

Mail Bag: Rowling on Draco as Werewolf

Here’s a mailbag item that has been in my drafts folder for sharing since 2015. My response was a little harsh, well, ‘mean and bitter’ might better catch the sense of it, but I share it for your reflection and correction.

John, Professor, Sir,

http://hellogiggles.com/jk-rowling-shut-down-fan-theory/

I’ve never seen that one before. Draco definitely isn’t a werewolf (and Snape’s not a vampire).

I don’t think I remember we had this theory back in the day.

And, for once, this is an elucidation of the text, not some errant addendum.

Still Potter-ing about,

David

My response?

Sad, really. I really wonder why she felt obliged to tweet this. It doesn’t answer the questions serious readers had about the many clues Rowling placed in the books about Snape’s vampiric qualities and Draco’s transformation in Half-Blood Prince. And it’s not an “elucidation of text.” You lost me there.

The better fan theories, based on speculation from canon and tested in conversation at conferences and in internet debates, were not “Draco is a Werewolf” or Snape = Vampire as this article and her tweet suggest. The interesting speculation was that Draco was bitten by a werewolf, probably Fenrir, but not one fully transformed (just as was Bill Weasley) and that Snape’s father was a muggle vampire so, as son of vampire and a witch, Severus was a Half ‘blood-prince‘ and half-blood Prince, but not a real, teeth-to-the-neck vampire needing blood, etc. The two, as with so many Rowling characters, were liminal figures between worlds not conforming to type (and to people’s prejudices). Think ‘Hagrid as Half-Giant.’

If Rowling wanted to close down these conversations, she had her opportunity before July 2007. Now she is just asserting her command of all disputes to protect the Wizarding World and Warner Bros Franchises. 

Which, of course, is her right. I am at least as free, however, to ignore her claims to perpetual authority and updates, especially when she misrepresents the serious reader speculation she is dismissing.

I say this is “sad” because the excellent discussions about the psychological aspects of Snape as vampire and the Malfoys as elitist werewolves have been closed in the minds of many by Rowling’s imprimatur in reverse. Shame on her.

Thank you, David, for sending!

John

Mailbag: Redheads, Rubeus, & Rubedo

A note in my email inbox from this April:

Dear HP Team,

Rubedo: Is it possible that the Weasley family is part of the Rubedo stage along with Hagrid?

I was listening to an old podcast where the guest speaker was lamenting that not much of Hagrid was in the 7th book, and he should have been since he represents “Rubedo”.

However, all of the Weasley family has shockingly RED hair. I would think this intentional. JK Rowling makes a big deal of their red hair throughout the series. If, in fact, they are part of the Rubedo stage, then we do have a significant representation in the final book as they all play a dramatic part, including Percy.

I am curious what your thoughts are on this idea?

Sincerely,

Joy

Three Rubedo notes, Joy!

(1) Rowling said she had to promise her sister not to kill Hagrid in the finale; little sister had threatened never to speak to her again if everyone’s favorite Half-Giant died. As the character with the most obvious ‘red’ name, though, he seemed the most likely character not to survive. The model of Sirius Black dying at the end of the alchemical black book, the nigredo of Order of the Phoenix, and Albus Dumbledore also taking a dive at the end of Half-Blood Prince, the series albedo, made things look real grim for Rubeus in the run-up to Deathly Hallows. We didn’t know about The Presence’s promise to her sister.

(2) But Rubeus wasn’t the only character named ‘red.’ There was Rufus Scrimgeour, right? In Who Killed Albus Dumbledore? (Zossima Press, 2006), I collected the essays and predictions of six Potter Pundits about what had really happened in Half-Blood Prince and what we would learn in Deathly Hallows. Three of us made ‘Live or Die’ predictions for major players in the finale — and all three of us predicted five characters would die: Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix La strange, Rufus Scrimgeour, and, well, Draco and Narcissa Malfoy. All three of us, though, thought that Rubeus would live. We thought Rufus was going to be the Big Red sacrifice and that Hagrid was a red herring. Good for us.

(3) Not to brag, but I was the only one of the three who said Nymphadora Tonks and Severus Snape would die. I also predicted Fred Weasley’s death as well. This might sound like great prescience and insight, but it isn’t. Like Joy, I was thinking alchemically so I thought every red head in the book was possibly marked for a rubedo death; I marked off every one of the Weasleys, to include Fleur, as doomed. I was also the only Pundit who thought Peter Pettigrew would survive. I had some impressive direct hits — and a lot of misses.

Sorry to go off on that nostalgia tangent, Joy, but what a lot of fun the two years between Prince and Hallows were in fandom!

To answer your question at last: YES, the Weasleys as a family of redheads play an alchemical role through the whole series but especially in the two last book. Harry winds up with Ginny after dating Black-haired Cho and White-haired Luna, fRED Weasley dies, Percy rises from a sort-of worse-than-death, separation from his family, and Molly dispatches the witch who killed Sirius in the rubedo climax of the Battle of Hogwarts. They do everything an alchemist expects in a rubedo and, with fRED’s death, satisfying the color scheme formula of the stages in the last three novels.

Thanks for writing!