Will The Ink Black Heart Reveal the Circumstances of Strike’s Medal?

Troubled Blood cleared up one oft-mentioned part of Strike’s history: the two times he had met his biological father. We can hope that, as the series progresses with the eagerly anticipated The Ink Black Heart, to hear more about Strike’s history.  One possibility, mentioned by Joanne Gray way back in April, before we even knew the title, was that we might finally learn the circumstances under which Strike was decorated for bravery.

The medal was mentioned in all three of the first Strike books, but relatively little is known about it, including its current location. We have never seen or heard of the medal being in Strike’s attic flat or the boxes of items Strike brought from Charlotte’s, which makes me think it is on display in either Lucy’s or Ted’s home. I know I won’t have trusted Charlotte not to destroy it, given her hatred of his Army career. And we know that it is a source of tremendous pride for his family. Jack drew a picture of Uncle Cormoran getting his medal on his homemade birthday card for Strike in The Silkworm.

Many people, Robin among them, who met Cormoran Strike after his Army career assume the medal was awarded for his heroism in the IED explosion that cost Strike his leg. That certainly seems to be Carver’s impression in The Cuckoo’s Calling.

“He’s ex-SIB,” threw in Wardle, from beside the filing cabinet.

“I know that,” barked Carver, raising wiry eyebrows flecked with scurf. “I’ve heard from Anstis all about the fucking leg and the life-saving medal. Quite the colorful CV.”

Strike doesn’t bother correcting him. It is not until Career of Evil that we learn the medal was awarded for something entirely different, during his conversation with Robin about the significance of his missing leg.

“There’s nothing heroic about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“You’re a decorated veteran.”

“I wasn’t decorated for being blown up. That happened before.”

“You’ve never told me that.” She turned to face him, but he refused to be sidetracked.

So, we know the medal was for bravery, and, if Carver is to be believed, (not a given), for saving someone’s life, and well before he dragged Anstis to the back of the vehicle in the IED explosion. However,  Strike seems to actively avoid talking about the circumstances under which he earned it. So, what could the circumstances be?

We’ve heard mentions of Strike traveling all over the world during his Army career: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Bosnia, Nairobi, Cyprus, Germany. One of the more interesting mentions is from Bosnia, where a faulty cell phone data dump triggered a series of mishaps that almost got a good friend killed in Mostar.  Could the heroics of this mission have been the reason for the medal, as well as leaving Strike with an ongoing mistrust of electronic mapping devices?

We also know that Strike has a particularly hair-trigger temper regarding any mention of child sexual abuse: hence the punching of Brockbank and the drunken dinner party argument. Not that this is an unreasonable response to such a crime, but it is at odds with his “you can’t save everyone— there are kids being abused all over” attitude of Career of Evil. Could the event have involved busting a child porn or sex trafficking ring? We know he worked on a case like that in Kosovo– which is not far from Bosnia.

Finally, we know he has another godson out there besides Timothy Cormoran Anstis. Could this child be the son of a different colleague that he saved, or worse, failed to save? Or a child trafficking victim he rescued?

Finally , when was the medal awarded?  Strike was in the army about 15 years, from shortly after Leda’s death in late 1994 until the IED explosion in May-September 2007, and then for about 18 months more, while he was hospitalized and recovering. I have speculated that it was awarded in his mid-20’s, that Nick and Ilsa were invited to the ceremony, and reunited there, each dumping their current partners and marrying a year later.

Surely, even if they did not attend the ceremony, Nick and Ilsa know the circumstances of the medal. It is curious that they have not yet told Robin, and that she has not asked. I guess she’s still too fixated on Charlotte. Dave Polworth presumably knows, and likely Hardacre and Anstis, along with Strike’s blood relatives. Will one of them spill the beans to Robin?

Here’s hoping for answers in The Ink Black Heart.

Encanto: Soul Triptych Magic

Encanto | Disney Movies Disney’s animated films are known for being enchanting. Whether we are taken deep into the forest to the castle of a Beast or swept off to the glorious savannahs of Africa, these films can take audiences somewhere, somewhen that is magical. In its sixtieth animated feature, Encanto, Disney again brings the enchantment, like the title indicates, as it presents the story of a non-magical girl trying to help and heal her magical family. Like a squib in a house of wizards, Maribel Madrigal is unable to communicate with animals, lift buildings, or control the weather (all abilities her family members possess), but she comes to understand that families and love are not about those kinds of gifts. In part, since the story is set in Columbia, the film relies beautifully on the tradition of magical realism. However, it also relies nicely on a very specific literary structure that we have often visited here: the soul triptych. Join me after the break for a look at the way in which the number three (and twelve), along with a familiar triune structure helps Encanto weave its spell. And yes, we will talk about Bruno!

[Read more…]

Rowling, Ring Writing, & Maternal Love

In the review of what I’ve written about ring composition that I have done while writing the next post in my Perennialist series on Christmas Pig, I found this bon mot from Rowling about her writing to close a circle in her Harry Potter series with respect to a mother’s love.

It is on the DVD extra for The Deathly Hallows 2 titled ‘The Women of Harry Potter,’ text available at Hypable.com. Rowling made an extraordinary point about Narcissa Malfoy’s protecting Harry from the Dark Lord in the Forest being “the closing of a circle” in which, just as a mother’s love saved Harry from the Dark Lord at story’s start, so it did at story’s end.  This reprise she said was a “quite conscious echo.” 

Join me after the jump for all that. [Read more…]

New Year’s Day Request for Feedback

Happy Russian New Year! It is 1 January on the traditional Church Calendar, and though the liturgical New Year in the Orthodox Church is 1 September (old style) and until late in the 18th Century ‘Lady Day’ or Annunciation was the beginning of the new year in the UK and its colonies, many people, especially Slavs in my experience, celebrate today as the day of resolutions, inaugurated habits, and a personal dawn.

That being the case, despite my being anything but a Slavophile, I’d like to open the comment boxes to HogwartsProfessor readers to share their feedback about our posts, our formatting, our focus, our quirky lines of sight, whatever. Help us start the New Year with a better idea of what our readers want to read and hear about. I’m especially hopeful that one and all will share suggestions of topics, books, and authors you’d like us to explore — and if we could find a volunteer to help us pull together the pieces we have assembled for a podcast at long last, that would be the best.

So it’s ‘Open Microphone Night’ all day at HogwartsProfessor — How are we doing? What can we do better? What would you like to read more about? Less about? And, oh, yeah, who do we email to jumpstart our podcast adventure in the New Year? Thanks in advance for your feedback, requests, and help!

Evanna Lynch Denies “Rift” Between JK Rowling and Harry Potter Cast

Evanna Lynch, the actress J.K. Rowling said “was Luna Lovegood” spoke about the Harry Potter Reunion special, and rejected the idea that there was any major “rift” between the author and the actors that became stars in her work. She does, however, speak of “difficult conversations” between the cast and the author and expresses hope for “healing.”  I encourage readers to view her full statement. 

As someone who considers many of JKR’s tweets to be both misguided and hurtful to the transgender community, but who nonetheless appreciates the brilliance of her writing and intends to keep reading it, I find Ms. Lynch’s approach refreshing and comforting. It is not clear who the “us” is that she doesn’t want to “keep fighting”– her fellow cast members and JKR or JKR and the wider Twitter community, but she is clearly, as the anchor puts it, a peacemaker, who states that she, and her castmates have “great love and respect” for Ms. Rowling, despite disagreement with her views. 

Ms. Lynch is a woman of strong opinions herself, as a vegan and an animal activist. She has been open about how both correspondence with her favorite author and the Harry Potter books helped her recover from a serious eating disorder. I am happy to hear that she, at least, does not believe Ms. Rowling’s limited involvement with the reunion special is the result of any type of “cold shoulder.” If, as Ms. Lynch suggests, JKR is “busy writing books,” maybe we’ll have The Ink Black Heart in hand that much sooner.