Reading, Writing, Rowling 45: Alchemical Weddings in Harry Potter and Beyond

No, I have not returned to podcasting at MuggleNet! This podcast was recorded before The Ickabog show but that one was edited and posted first before the text of the “political fairy tale” was taken offline. Enjoy!

From Laurie Beckoff’s introduction at

Why did Ron and Hermione, Remus and Tonks, and Bill and Fleur end up paired together? Literary alchemy holds the symbolic answers. Katy and John talk this month with Elizabeth Baird Hardy (Mayland Community College) and Beatrice Groves (Oxford University) about the alchemical pairings of elements that reveal themselves in the Harry Potter series and beyond.

‘Harry Potter, Death, and the Christian Experience’ Franciscan Friar Casey Cole

Hat tip to Christina Semmens, author of ‘Say Yes to Holiness!

Reading, Writing, Rowling 44: Ickabog! John Granger’s Last MuggleNet Podcast


From Laurie Beckoff’s write-up at MuggleNet:

In this month’s episode, Katy and John talk with Harry Potter scholars John Pazdziora (University of Tokyo-Komaba) and Lana Whited (Ferrum College) about our first analyses of The Ickabog, which was released in installments from June to July 2020. The slow release has allowed fans of Harry Potter once again the delights of speculating about what will happen next, and we have captured that spirit in our conversation recorded after Chapter 51 was posted.

Lana Whited points out the connections with “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” while John Pazdziora shows how they fit within the French conte tradition that combined fairy tales with social criticism. Following both those traditions, The Ickabog lures the reader into a politically sharp and often violent tale. We discuss what the fairy tale theories of Bruno Bettelheim tell us about how children process gruesome stories. The third-person omniscient, even parental, voice of the narrator serves a purpose in talking readers through the difficult experiences of the Cornucopians.

And a whole lot more! This was one of my favorite conversations in my entire run as a LeakyMug podcaster, from the original ‘Potter Pundits’ segments at Leaky Cauldron with James Thomas and Travis Prinzi to the fifty plus MuggleNet Academia shows with Keith Hawk to being the guest-in-residence at Katherine McDaniel’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling,’ also at MuggleNet.

One of my favorite conversations — and it is also my last podcast at MuggleNet. I am leaving and will not be working with the “#1 Wizarding World Resource” until they retract both their in-house and public assertion that J. K. Rowling is a transphobe (and that as such The Presence represents a danger or is “committing harm” to fandom members) and their attempts to ‘cancel’ her. I left on good terms both with Professor McDaniel and Kat Miller, the MNet Creative and Marketing Director, no bridges burned, but it was time for us to acknowledge we disagree on essential matters and our relationship needed to change to reflect that disagreement.

The good news? Well, watch this space for an announcement of something new and exciting at HogwartsProfessor! Until then, enjoy this fascinating discussion about The Ickabog with John Patrrick Pazdziora and Lana Whited — yes, it’s dated (we didn’t know the ending!), but, believe me, this show will long be a reference point in Ickabog scholarship (and there are quite a few laughs wedged in with the “A ha!” moments).

Monuments in The Ickabog: Commentary on Today’s Headlines?

The fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.

-Albus Dumbledore, Order of the Phoenix, Ch 37.

The US concern with the removal of Confederate monuments has jumped across the pond, with statues of Edward Colston. Robert Baden-Powell, Robert Milligan and even Churchill destroyed, vandalized or targeted for removal in the United Kingdom. As a resident of Charlottesville, VA, a city still reeling over the violence of the Unite the Right rally three years ago, I have a particular interest in the campaigns to remove these statues, most of which were erected as acts of aggression against the Black community during the height of Jim Crow, not as efforts to preserve heritage or teach history. Whether the motivation behind the original erection of the British statues was similarly tainted, I can’t say, but J.K. Rowling is undoubtedly aware of the controversy.

I managed two correct predictions in The Ickabog, first that Bert and Daisy, described as like-siblings early on, would become true step-siblings when their widowed parents marry, and the second, that the statue of the fictional hero Nobby Buttons would be replaced with one of the genuinely heroic Ickabog, who dared to make peace with his enemies.  Rowling made masterful use of both good (the Potter Family Monument, which touched and encouraged Harry in one of his darkest moments) and bad (The Fountain of Magical Brethren, see above) monuments in Harry Potter.

Interestingly, Rowling chose to destroy the Fountain of Magical Brethren, but Nobby’s statue, arguably a worse example– an outright lie that helped deceive the nation of Cornucopia into complying with the unfair tax, and inspired more lies–including a fake girlfriend for the non-existent young hero, was instead relegated to a museum, along with other artifacts of the Dark Age of Spittleworth, so that citizens can remember and learn from their history. Granted, she had particular reasons for the Brethren’s demise: the decapitated wizard saved Harry, (and its head portkeyed him back to Hogwarts) the witch restrained Bellatrix, the centaur took a Killing Curse and the elf and goblin summoned help.  But, in the midst of her other recent Twitter controversies, Rowling found time to tweet out some special praise for young Ali, the artist who created this lovely illustration of the Nobby statue. Could the statue’s relegation to a museum–where the truth can be told, not to honor  person depicted (who, in this case, doesn’t actually exist) , but to explain why the deceptive statue was erected in the first place–be Rowling’s way of commenting about what she thinks should be done with controversial monuments today? If so, I’d like to hear more of that from her on social media, and less of other topics.

Of course, sometimes a little graffiti, whether on the Berlin Wall or a Confederate memorial, can add to the meaning.  I would be remiss, as an MBU prof, not to plug this children’s book written by one of our alums and her daughter, whose dancing at the Lee Monument in Richmond has been on of the iconic images of the current movement.



Louise’s First Look at Troubled Blood Cover and Synopsis.

It’s been a banner week. Not only does The Ickabog wrap up in characteristic JKR style, but Robert Galbraith releases the cover and summary blurb for the next in the Cormoran Strike series, Troubled Blood. We can already see the predicted echoes to Career of Evil. I think we can count on a more gruesome story. I’ll also take a look back at my earlier predictions and see how this new information requires adjusting them.

First the cover:  dark, befitting the book pegged as the nigredo of the series, with the title in blood-red letters.  The dial (which does not seem to have the Roman numeral XX on it, unlike the teaser video on Twitter) presumably refers to the astrological/tarot element promised in the book.  Some have theorized that this represents the Hampton Court Clock Tower.  I love the lamppost, but am a bit disappointed to see figures that look more like the TV Robin and Cormoran than the book.  Where’s Strike’s pube hair? 

Onto the blurb:  

Already we can see some echoes to the third book of the series, which featured a psychopathic serial killer giving lots of unwanted attention, to put it mildly, to the Titian-haired Temp.  Career of Evil was also a look back at the past, with Strike forced to confront two past cases–one successful, one not– as well as his loser stepfather.  Here we, go back even further, to an unsolved disappearance, which, as astute Twitterers have already pointed out, occurred the very year of Cormoran’s birth.  Coincidence?  Will his digging into events in his hometown that occurred the year of his birth lead him to address a few of the questions of his own past?  Including the fact that neither Cormoran’s birth nor a DNA test broke up Jonny Rokeby’s marriage.  This could lead to connections to Order of the Phoenix, where Harry has to confront the meaning of a prophecy referring to his own birth. 

Other intriguing elements.  I am tickled pink that the mystery starts in Cornwall when Cormoran is visiting family– I have wanted to meet Uncle Ted and Aunt Joan for some time now. The missing woman, on the other hand, has a surname that suggests she is from the north–  specifically, Bamburgh, a tiny village on the coast of Northumberland (about 2 hours north of Robin’s home town of Masham) and home to a famous castle and mysterious sword.  Is this site destined to join the White Horse of Uffington as a stop on the Strike fan pilgrimage tour? 

Cornwall, in addition to being home to Ted and Joan, was also the home and burial place of Pamela “Pixie” Coleman Smith, illustrator of the world’s best known tarot deck, and the subject of a recent biography. It is also the site of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, which apparently includes a tarot reading machine, pictured above. Expect Cormoran to visit there—  I hope he brings Robin with him!

It’s hard to believe Cormoran and Robin will spend too much time on the road, though, with all they have goingon in London. It looks like the agency is thriving but The Flobberworm is being his difficult self regarding the divorce. I am still pulling for Robs to get her half of their flat proceeds sale. And who, pray tell, is the “unwanted male” paying her attention? The only one who has expressed interest in her so far is Spanner, and he seems nice enough to take a hint.  Could the belligerent and hard-drinking Tom Turvey be trying to avenge himself on Matthew by pursuing Robin? 

I don’t see how some of my other predictions:  the return of Whittaker, the emergence of Strike’s baby brother Switch (unless he is part of the family reunion in Cornwall–could he be seeking out his mother’s relatives after all these years, with Strike persuaded to go meet him?), an educational setting, and the death of either Shanker or Vanessa are going to work their way in, yet.  But, at 944 pages, a third longer than Lethal White and twice as long as the first three books in the series, there is plenty of room for sub-plots. 

One final note:  the missing woman is named Margot, a variation of Margaret.  So is Daisy, heroine of The Ickabog.  Any particular reason JKR would be particularly fond of that name? 

Counting down to September 15th.