‘The Ickabog’ Structure: Three Notes

If you are like me, the better part of your day during the work week is stopping by TheIckabog.com to read the daily chapter of J. K. Rowling’s “political fairy tale.” Rowling’s twitter feed suggests a large proportion of the children in the world today are reading the story, too, and drawing Cornucopia maps and pictures of the various characters in their excitement about Bert and Daisy’s adventures (and hopes of winning a prize).

Katy McDaniel, host of MuggleNet’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast invited me to join her this Tuesday morning along with special guests John Patrick Pazdziora and Lana Whited, experts not only on the Hogwarts Saga but also fairy tales and children’s literature, to talk ‘Ickabog.’ I have been scratching my head about what I will have to say in this company that isn’t obvious — “‘Beamish’! Oh, my! The boy who kills the Jabberwock! ‘My beamish boy’!” — or dull — “Note, please, the reference to Death of a Salesman in the chapter title ‘Death of a Seamstress’ and doesn’t ‘A Flaw in the Plan’ sound familiar somehow?”

I’ve decided to go all in on structure. For one thing, it’s unlikely the charting work has been done by somebody else already because story scaffolding and sequencing, not to say ‘chiasmus,’ isn’t something taught in most schools. And the slow drip of chapters method in which this story is being told doesn’t encourage an ‘overview’ perspective that pattern discovery requires. And it’s a story very much in progress, right? It’s hard to do more than guess the structure of a work when you don’t have the beginning and end latch to play with.

I’m going to begin with two reasonable guesses, namely, that Rowling will not tell this story in a way that is radically different than the way she has told all her other stories and that this means the story structure will have been carefully planned and will have features of what Mary Douglas called ‘ring composition.’ I’m not going to disregard, in other words, everything we’ve learned about how a Rowling story works structurally from the Hogwarts septology, the Casual Vacancy seven part novel, and the four Cormoran Strike novels in what seems to be despite Galbraith’s denials a seven book series.

Here, then, are my three introductory notes from the top of my head — and from too many hours charting the fifty chapters online at this writing. Let’s talk after the jump about the seven week structure, what it tells us about the story turn and likely ending, and the color coding of the chapters. [Read more…]

Rowling Writes Trans Views Tell All Post; Fandom Divides ‘Team Jo,’ ‘Team Trans’

On 6 June, J. K. Rowling tweeted nine separate times on the issue of transgender people and their rights. I think the most important thread is this one:

Though only a reiteration of her #IStandWithMaya Tweet Heard Round the World from last December, one with special emphasis in each part of the thread that the accusation that she hates transgender people is untrue and unfair, the world that believes with former Vice President Joe Biden that transgender rights “are the civil rights issue of our time” have doxxed her thoroughly. Celebrities as closely tied with her as Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne, and Evanna Lynch have all gone public to affirm that “transgender women are women.” [To my knowledge, Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger have not yet checked in on this issue.]

On 10 June Rowling responded with an essay which was posted on her website, ‘J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues,’ and she has pinned a link to this post to the top of her twitter page (she has been silent on twitter since 6 June). In this essay she reviews the history of her involvement with the transgender issue, the story of her several fat-finger mistakes at the keyboard that led to her being identified as “transphobic” by trans activists online, and of her decision to return to twitter in December after a long hiatus to support Maya Foraster. She details, too, the fallout thereafter, not only the verbal abuse and threats she endured and expected, but also the unanticipated “avalanche of emails and letters” “the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive.” These notes, she writes, [Read more…]

Rowling Blows Up Twitter Once Again; She Doubles Down on Sex and Gender

Read all about it here: J.K. Rowling slammed for defending concept of biological sex: ‘It isn’t hate to speak the truth.’

The short version: Rowling in a series of tweets has repeated and doubled-down on her #IStandWithMaya position from last December that it is not bigotry or hate-speech to insist that transgender women are not biological women.

The twitter-verse predictably has exploded with calls for her beheading mixed in with celebrations of her courage in speaking the truth.

I have three thoughts about what this means that I offer here in haste for your comment and correction:

(1) Another Rowling Vacation from Twitter? After the explosion in December about her insufficient woke-ness, Rowling disappeared for several months. She re-surfaced during the Covid-19 lockdown, it seems in retrospect in order to do what she could in the cause of “saving the NHS.” Her posts took the turn of hyper-political scolding with the Dominic Cummings controversy so perhaps it should be no surprise that the issue of transgender rights has resurfaced as well. Maybe this second doxxing and deep-dipping in the mercurial baths of social media will remind her why she left Twitter in the first place and why she should resume her silence.

(2) The End of the Goodwill Campaign? Rowling re-entered the social media world with a bang; she gave a million pounds sterling to two Covid-19 charities and created a website that is posting in daily chapters her political fairy tale, The Ickabog, all for free. Children everywhere have been reading it and creating drawings to accompany the eventual printed text. Rowling’s tweets the last two weeks have almost exclusively been in admiration of drawings sent to her by proud parents and excited children. If she leaves Twitter, of course, it will mean the end of that wonderful experience for author and illustrators alike.

(3) Goodbye, Fantastic Beasts? It’s hard to imagine Rowling being kept on in any front line capacity with her Newt Scamander film series. The Super Politically Correct actors involved, the ones playing Credence Barebones (Ezra Miller) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) most obviously, however much they have revered Rowling in the past, will have a very hard time reconciling their public personae with Rowling’s statements about transgender women. Warner Brothers, frankly, might be just as pleased to have Rowling give them a novel to adapt rather than have her continue as screenwriter and executive producer.

If this situation leads to Rowling reverting to novelist and giving up the screen-writing, there will be no complaints from this corner.

What are your thoughts about what the latest twitter storm will mean for Rowling’s future as a writer? A gentle warning, in advance; I’m not interested in and will not approve any comments that discuss the transgender issue per se. Please share those opinions on the thousands of fan sites and twitter feeds devoted to that subject. 

 

 

The Ickabog: JKR’s Political Fairy Tale

J. K. Rowling announced today — on a thirteen part Twitter thread with follow-ups and via a website devoted to the work — the publication of her long ago promised “political fairy tale” (which she once wore to a party as a dress), The Ickabog. She says it is not a “Harry Potter spin-off” but a “story about the truth and the abuse of power.”  She asserts, despite its publication being for the entertainment and edification of children affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns, that the tale “isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.” Chapters will be published on a daily basis from today to 10 July at TheIckabog.com; each will be discussed here at HogwartsProfessor.

The first two chapters, ‘King Fred the Fearless‘ and ‘The Ickabog,‘ are available today. Happy reading! Please share your thoughts on the project as well as the first chapters on the comment thread below.

Reading, Writing, Rowling 41: Babbity Rabbity