Troubled Blood: The Seal and Three Men

In chapter two of Troubled Blood, Strike has a smoke outside The Victory before climbing the hill for another uncomfortable night and early morning wake-up at the Nancarrow homestead. His reflections and cigarette smoking are interrupted by Anna Phipps and Kim Sullivan who ask him to consider taking on the cold case of Margot Bamborough’s disappearance.

Two images are offered repeatedly through this discussion: a seal in the water beneath the sea break and three young men catching a boat-ride. After the jump, I’ll review the times seals and the three drunk youths appear in the text and their probable source in Christian iconography, specifically, images from the life of St Maudez for whom St Mawes, Cornwall, is named. [Read more…]

Shepherd and Biddle: Rowling’s Favorite A-Level Teachers (1998 Interview)

Just when you think that nothing new will be found in the Rowling Archives, a new-old-interview pops up. Here is a 1998 interview with new literary sensation, ‘Joanne’ Rowling rather than ‘J. K.,’ in which she discusses her favorite teachers, the one who prepared her for A-Levels in English and the other who helped with her French. The only reason it is called an “interview” is because Rowling answers the question, “Who were your favorite teachers?” It is, in other words, a testimonial from the Pre-Potter Mania author, not yet hesitant to share personal information with Rita Skeeter, rather than a questions-and-answers back-and-forth. Enjoy!

Lucy Shepherd was one of my English teachers at Wyedean comprehensive, near the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. I became head girl there – possibly the only head girl to be warned about smoking behind the bike sheds.

She was quite young – in her twenties and didn’t look authoritarian, but she had no problems with discipline because she had an aura around her that inspired respect. I had a great relationship with her, but she did not try to be friends or court being liked. In fact, she was rather abrasive, but also dry and funny. Yet she was the only teacher I ever went to with a boyfriend problem, although she would not have been most people’s first choice for a friendly chat.

I still remember the books I did with her for A-level English literature – Tender is the Night [Fitzgerald], Decline and Fall [Waugh]. She gave me a sharp appreciation of what’s good in writing and what makes a book good. [Read more…]

Guest Post: On the Naming Fear & Jinxing in Harry Potter (Pratibha Rai)

Pratibha Rai is an Oxford University graduate and she has been a Harry Potter partisan since 2001. Her research today mostly concerns the sociology of collecting in early modern Europe. She enjoys finding parallels between Harry Potter and history of art. This time last year she shared with us what she discovered about that life-saving short-cut antidote, the Bezoar; today she shares her thoughts on ‘Naming Fear and Jinxing’ in the Hogwarts Saga. Enjoy!

Words have more power than any one can guess; it is by words that the world’s great fight, now in these civilized times, is carried on.”

When Mary Shelley penned this line in her penultimate novel ‘Lodore’ (1835), she was advocating the power of words in the context of bringing about social change. Words do not lifelessly sit on a page but are actionable and combative in “the world’s great fight”. In this martial metaphor, we can assume that words can either be a weapon or a defence – determined entirely by the speaker. This double-edged nature of words is echoed in Proverbs 18:21 from the Bible, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. Nowhere is this more literally true than in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter universe where speaking or not speaking Voldemort’s name is a matter of life and death. In this article, I shall explore J.K Rowling’s passionate interest in the power of words in battle primarily through the active Taboo cast on Voldemort’s name; a device that highlights the role that Fear has over silence and speech. [Read more…]

Troubled Blood Sound Track: Eternal Father, Strong to Save (Joan’s Funeral)

Joan’s funeral service finished with the hymn most beloved of sailors, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” While the congregation sang the familiar words, Ted, Strike, Dave Polworth and three of Ted’s comrades in the lifeboat service shouldered the coffin back down the aisle of the simple cream-walled church, with its wooden beams and its stained-glass windows depicting purple-robed St. Maudez, for whom both village and church were named. Flanked by an island tower and a seal on a rock, the saint watched the coffin-bearers pass out of the church.

O Savior, whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walked upon the foaming deep,
And calm amidst the rage did sleep…

Today, a little music. Tomorrow, some thoughts about the saint and the “seal on a rock.”

Harry Potter Book Collector Challenge: Start Your Cormoran Strike Library Now

Watch the first seven minutes if you want to experience bibliophiliac collector madness without the books.

Really, though, is this supposed to be satire? I certainly experienced it as a hilarious warning against the conjugal conceits of collection and display (says the man who just spent a weekend moving and reorganizing on new shelves his LP library of 7,000 plus albums…).

I wonder how much the re-sale value of this collection has dropped since Harry Potter Fandom, Inc., has collectively cancelled J. K. Rowling. The collector, even if he is a real person rather than an actor as I want to believe, may have felt the need to burn his cache in a bonfire statement of solidarity with those the author has oppressed.

Does anyone out there have the full shelf of Cormoran Strike novels in their various hard and soft cover editions? I wonder how long it will be until Lethal White can be found in Macedonian or Bombyx Mori in Latin… Best to get started now, before Strike Mania captures the world’s imagination and the attention of investor collectors. Please send photos of your collection today for posting here at HogwartsProfessor!