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Guest Post by Beatrice Groves Part 2: The Beast Within: Shakespearean Clues in Strike

As promised, here is part two of Bea Groves’s brilliant look at the clues hidden in the very walls of the watering holes visited by our favorite Denmark Street detective! Enjoy, and please join the conversation in the comments!

In yesterday’s post I discussed @zsenyasq’s find of a Leda mural at the Rivoli Bar in the Ritz, and noted that if Strike does comment on this image, it will not be the first time he has been paying attention to symbolic images in drinking establishments.

Strike visits The Tottenham early in the opening novel of the series and ‘examined the painted panels on the ceiling; bacchanalian revels that became, as he looked, a feast of fairies: Midsummer Night’s Dream, a man with a donkey’s head’ (Cuckoo’s Calling, 49-50). The painted roundel is indeed a little difficult to decipher and it seems highly likely that we see in this description of Strike’s dawning comprehension, Rowling’s own realisation of their Shakespearean source as she looked at these scenes – either as she scouted London in preparation for writing Cuckoo’s Calling, or perhaps earlier, drinking in this pub when she was herself a temp in Denmark St. [Read more…]

Guest Post #3 – The ‘Harrying of Hell’ The Harrowing in Philosopher’s Stone and Deathly Hallows (Beatrice Groves)

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of the just published Literary Allusion in Harry Potter finishes off her discussion of the thematic axis of the Hogwarts Saga, Stone-Goblet-Hallows, with a brilliant revelation of the shared Christian symbolism in each of the beginning, central, and final Harry Potter novels. It is Part 3 of 3 Guest Posts Professor Groves will share with us to celebrate the publication of her wonderful book. 

The ‘Harrying of Hell:’ The Harrowing in Philosopher’s Stone and Deathly Hallows — Part 3 of 3 Literary Allusion Guest Posts

As noted in my previous blog-post, a deepening of the Christian symbolism in Harry Potter is visible along the Stone-Goblet-Hallows story axis, as early events gain in significance as they are repeated through the series. This is likewise the case in the topic explored in this concluding post: the echoes of the Harrowing of Hell within Harry Potter. There is a comic harrowing in Philosopher’s Stone, a brief echo of this scene in Goblet of Fire and then a final fulfilment of this harrowing imagery in Deathly Hallows.

The Harrowing of Hell is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. It was a particularly popular part of the Christian narrative in the medieval period and describes how – between his death and resurrection – Jesus enters hell, frees its captive souls and defeats the powers of darkness. It is depicted in the medieval dramatisations of salvation history (known as the mystery cycles) as well as stained glass, manuscript illuminations and poems such as Langland’s Piers Plowman. And it is part of the medieval aesthetic of Harry Potter’s world that its imagery of the triumph of good over evil draws on the harrowing.

It might be natural to assume that ‘harrowing’ refers to Christ ‘ploughing up’ hell – a verb which the Oxford English Dictionary vividly describes as ‘to break up, crush, or pulverize with a harrow.’ The OED claims, however, that the ‘harrowing’ of hell comes instead from the verb ‘harry’ – which means ‘to lay waste, sack, pillage, spoil.’ This is obviously pleasing for the current discussion as it means we could talk of the ‘Harrying’ (rather than the ‘Harrowing’) of hell.

But it also means that the name does not point to the destruction of hell but its despoliation: the crucial narrative event is the freeing of captives. The climactic harrowing of Deathly Hallows – discussed at the end of this post – is anticipated by earlier, comic examples which focus precisely on this aspect; moments in which Harry is freed by his wizarding friends from the hell that is his life with the Dursleys. [Read more…]

Guest Post: ‘Stone, Goblet, Hallows:’ The Series Axis in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows (Beatrice Groves, Part II)

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of the just published Literary Allusion in Harry Potter sent us this 4th of July present yesterday as an Independence Day gift (no hard feelings in the UK). It is Part 2 of 3 Guest Posts Professor Groves will share with us to celebrate the publication of her wonderful book. 

‘Stone, Goblet, Hallows:’ the Series Axis in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows — Part 2 of 3 Literary Allusion Guest Posts

This post – following on from my previous exploration of mirrors and riddles – argues that repeated themes across Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows show an increase of significance as the series progresses. This blog entry is a response to John Granger’s contention that the first, central and final novels of Harry Potter form the ‘story axis’ – the three novels whose interrelation is most telling – and it will explore a number of pieces of evidence for this theory. Among these are Christian echoes in Rowling’s story and this post will bring together some evidence for the plausibility of finding Christian ideas within the series. A final post (to follow next week) will conclude this exploration of the ‘story axis’ by arguing for a new link to the Christian story that occurs comically in both Stone and Goblet but whose latent symbolism is only finally realised in Hallows.

Of the many Stone-Goblet-Hallows links (and all those discussed below – and many more! – have been helpfully tabulated in John Granger’s Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle [2010]) there are a number in which something that was a fairly simple part of the plot in the opening novel, becomes more reflective in the central novel, and freighted with new significance in the final novel (seven is the most magical number, after all). Live dragons, for example, appear only in these novels and Granger notes that they pass through a life-cycle as they do so: baby Norbert in Stone, the nesting mother dragons of the Triwizard tournament and finally, the escape on the ‘ancient of days’ Gringotts dragon.[1]

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Guest Post – ‘Mirrors, Paper, Stone:’ Literary Links and Riddles in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows (Beatrice Groves)

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of the just published Literary Allusion in Harry Potter sent us this 20th Anniversary Celebration present yesterday. It is Part 1 of what we hope she’ll share with us in the coming days (Thank you, Prof Groves!). Enjoy!

‘Mirrors, paper, stone:’ literary links and riddles in Philosopher’s Stone, Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows

The anniversary of the publication of Philosopher’s Stone seems an auspicious moment to look at some of the connections between the first, middle and last Harry Potter novels. As Rowling has noted, echoes between the opening and closing novels are particularly clear, and she has said of a number of plot points: ‘that was closing a circle.’ At the publication of Goblet of Fire she likewise noted the central novel’s pivotal position: ‘it’s literally a central book, it’s almost the heart of the series, and it’s pivotal’. As has been convincingly demonstrated by John Granger and J. Steve Lee the series forms a ‘ring’ or ‘chiastic’ structure in which the first novel is paired with the last, the second with the sixth and the third with the fifth, leaving the fourth novel as the ‘pivot’ around which the pattern turns. John Granger, in particular, has argued for ‘the central place of the Stone-Goblet-Hallows axis’[1] to the series and this blog-post will look at two examples – mirrors and riddles – in which Goblet acts as fulcrum for crucial moments in the opening and concluding novels.

The mirror-writing around the Mirror of Erised – Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi (Philosopher’s Stone, Chap 12) – is a message about reading carefully. If you read the riddle attentively it will enable you to discover what Harry is really seeing. The literary tradition of magic mirrors (noted by David Colbert in 2001[2]) which lie behind the Mirror of Erised are also surrounded with messages about careful reading. Britomart, the female knight-hero of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1590/96), sees her heart’s desire, likewise, when she looks into Merlin’s mirror in Book 3 of Spenser’s epic poem. The narrator notes how such magical mirrors are common ‘in bookes hath written beene of old’ (3.2.18). Spenser was a great admirer of Chaucer and he refers, in particular, of the magical mirror in Chaucer’s ‘Squire’s Tale’ (an unfinished story which Spenser will write a continuation for later in the Faerie Queene). In Chaucer, too, the magical mirror is connected with book-learning as its properties are ‘knowen’ by those ‘that han hir bookes herd’ (l.235) (Chaucer’s original readership, like Rowling’s original readership, were used to ‘hearing’ rather than reading their books). [Read more…]

Beatrice Groves: Easter Eggs on J.K. Rowling’s New Website – Part 2

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a Hogwarts Professor Guest Post follow up looking at the one of J. K. Rowling’s favourite authors – E. Nesbit. Join me after the break for the a more in-depth look at the writer highlighted as an Easter Egg in the J. K. Rowling’s Stories website …

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