Seven Guesses of What ‘The Last Cries of Men’ Could Mean as a Title for Strike6

Yesterday Nick Jeffery discovered a potential title for the sixth Cormoran Strike novel, hereafter ‘Strike6,’ by following the trail of trademarks made by an agent of Rowling, Inc. Patricio Tarantino had found the agent’s name when he searched for the trademarking of The Christmas Pig and Nick traced all the agent’s trademarks, two of which were the Christmas Pig and The Ickabog. The most likely of the remaining trademarks for a Strike book title was The Last Cries of Men. See ‘Is Strike6’s Title ‘The Last Cries of Men’?‘ for the details of the discovery.

Nick explains there, too, that the line and possible title is from the 17th Century divine John Donne and his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. Friend of this weblog Beatrice Groves, Research Fellow at Oxford University, is hard at work writing up what we need to know about Donne the Metaphysical Poet — please let her be discussing the alchemy — as well as this specific book, most famous today, alas, because it provided an epigraph for For Whom the Bell Tolls. While we wait for the proper and rigorous treatment, though, join me after the jump for a hasty grabbing at some low hanging fruit. [Read more…]

A Mythological Key to Cormoran Strike? The Myth of Eros, Psyche, and Venus

Tuesday I discussed seven points in Troubled Blood that suggest a Jungian reading of Strike5 and perhaps the entire Cormoran Strike series is what Rowling-Galbraith wants her readers to attempt. As I concluded in that post, I do not think Rowling is necessarily a Jungian herself but her mentioning the Swiss psychologist in the text by name, her repeated references to Jungian signatures in the story-line, most notably archetypes and symbolism, synchronicity-coincidences, and persona-identity, and the embedded ‘True Book’ that seems a story-cipher for Jung’s mysterious ‘New Book,’ individually and taken together are a big push towards interpreting Strike through a Jungian lens.

Today I want to take the second and follow-up step in that effort in the hope that I have succeeded via yesterday’s post in justifying a Jungian approach. In the post that follows, I will review Rowling’s soul-focused artistry and then argue that her Strike novels are in large part her retelling of the myth of Psyche and Eros as the Jungian school understands it, that is, as an allegory of, as Erich Neumann puts it, “the development of feminine psychology.” This post is preface to the third step in my Jung argument, namely, that the Strike series is an “externalization” or allegory of the integration of anima and animus in its male and female character leads.

This second step-post will have four parts: 

  • a discussion of Rowling’s stated beliefs about the soul and how it is the focus of her story-telling,
  • a review of her psychological artistry in Potter and the post Potter novels and screenplays,
  • a synopsis of the Eros and Psyche myth, and
  • a point to point look at the parallels in the story thus far with speculation about novels to come.

See you after the jump! Forty illustrations taken from traditional paintings and statues of Eros and Psyche…

[Read more…]

Troubled Blood: A Jungian Reading

Before we begin any involved job, be it one of building a yurt or considering the work of a given author, we make sure we have the right tools for the job. As we continue our efforts to come to terms with Rowling-Galbraith’s longest and most involved work to date, Troubled Blood, it’s worth the time to ask ourselves if we are using the right tools, the appropriate methods for examining any of her work. In this post I want both to review the evidence within Troubled Blood and Rowling’s interviews that she wants us to be thinking about the interpretative perspective of Carl Jung, legendary psychologist and to suggest the value and limitations of this approach.

I have resisted believing or saying that this a valuable approach in the past for reasons I will discuss in my conclusion. It certainly is an approach others have used before with greater and lesser success.

Gail Grynbaum’s ‘The Secrets of Harry Potter,’ published in 2000 and revised in 2013 was the first, and, though incomplete, remains the best of the truly Jungian readings of the Hogwarts Saga.  Jordan Peterson, perhaps the most famous Jungian today, perhaps even the most influential psychologist, spoke about the archetypal qualities of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in one of his most popular videos. Fandom critics have tried to link Jung’s ideas on alchemy and the Shadow with elements of Rowling’s work (see here and here) and there are a slew of readers who have posted about the Hero’s Journey — Jungian elements via disciple Joseph Campbell — and archetypal characters in her work.

After the jump I offer seven reasons evident in the text of Strike5 for believing that Rowling-Galbraith is highlighting Jung, his signature tools, and suggesting that they are appropriate for a close reading of Troubled Blood. I’ll conclude with three take-home ideas about what this means for Serious Strikers and Potter Pundits, both more and les than you might think.

First, though, the seven reasons to believe Rowling has read Jung or at least wants her serious readers to think of him on their revisits to Troubled Blood. [Read more…]

Nick Jeffery: Beginning at the Beginning A History of ‘Ickabog’ and Christmas Pig

Rowling’s interview comments through the years about her work on a new children’s story just did not add up. She was working on it, finished it, wore it as a dress, had it hidden in the attic, working on it “the last six years,” and then the Covid Cinderella story about bringing it down from the attic… Cynical me, my response was a Cormoranian “Bullocks.” The Ickabog and it’s “all for charity” rollout were the perfect cure, from my view, of Rowling, Inc.’s nightmare of negative publicity consequent to her feminist resistance to transgender over reach.

Nick Jeffery, though, in private correspondence last year suggested to me that the seeming contradictions in Rowling’s Ickabog comments through the years all made sense if there was another children’s story in the works. I dismissed that possibility as stretching charity to fantasy. It turns out, of course, that ‘The Christmas Pig’ may be the story that Nick thought the evidence of Rowling’s testimony suggested had to be out there. In my post Tuesday about ‘The Christmas Pig’ I asked if he would write up his notes on the subject as a Guest Post and he has obliged me with this Guest Post review of the evidence. Enjoy!

Beginning at the Beginning

Origin stories are important. Hardly a newspaper article appeared about Harry Potter in the early years without mention of the penniless single mother writing in cafes. Once adopted, this hook so beloved of copywriters evolved beyond the reality and into writing on napkins and penniless morphed into homelessness.

The genesis of Harry, or at least proto-Harry has also passed into folklore with the boy wizard popping ‘fully formed’ into her head on a train between Manchester and London.

Casual Vacancy didn’t have a wonderful tale behind it. The idea for a vacancy on a parish council happened on an aircraft during a Harry Potter tour, but although the idea of rural local government gives the stories inside shape and purpose it can hardly be called the defining theme of the book. To my mind the vivid characters and charged situations point to personal experience long before Potter.

Robert Galbraith’s origin wrote itself, with anonymous submissions and secret meetings with editors and lawyers sworn to (unsuccessful) secrecy. The unmasking of Rowling by journalistic sleuthing, linguistic analysis and indiscreet lawyers only added to the drama.

In May 2020 J.K Rowling posted on her website an introduction to her new work “The Ickabog”. We don’t know when this introduction was written but it was posted on 26th May 2020. It gave a timeline of when the Ickabog was conceived, and when and how she finally decided to publish. This is the JKR official Ickabog origin story:

  • Read to own children when they were little.
  • Most of first draft completed between Potter Books, intending to publish after Deathly Hallows.
  • Break from publishing after Deathly Hallows.
  • Wrote Casual Vacancy and Cuckoo’s Calling. (5 years 2007 – 2012)
  • Dithering and Ickabog Trademarked, decided not to publish.
  • First Draft moved to attic for nearly a decade.
  • A few weeks ago (March – April 2020?) tentative idea to publish mooted to family.

The earliest mention I could find of the “Political Fairy Tale” is at 44:48 in the “A Year in the Life ” documentary filmed 2006-07 where it is described as currently being written and probably the next thing to publish.

But Beatrice Groves (see ‘The Names of the Ickabog’) and Patricio Tarantino at The Rowling Library both found this earlier reference in the January 2006 issue of the Tattler:

A new children’s book is also complete. It is about a monster and is what Rowling calls a ‘political fairy story’. It is aimed at children younger than those who read Harry Potter: ‘I haven’t even told my publisher about this.’”

Not long after this, during the US Deathly Hallows tour she said she had the first idea for Casual Vacancy.

What is known, then, or be safely assumed about The Ickabog’s origins?

  • If she read the Ickabog to her own children (and it is suitable to 7-9 year olds) then she read it to them from 2010 to 2014.
  • The story appeared on the “Lost Manuscript Dress” at her 50th birthday party in 2015.
  • 19th March 2016 Tweets “I didn’t like it enough to publish it. It’s in a drawer!” 
  • 10th July 2017 CNN interview, the Political Fairy-tale is now on a dress, she doesn’t know if she will publish.
  • 26th January 2020 Troubled Blood completed.
  • 13th May 2020 Tweets she is editing two things with two different editors. 
  • 22nd May 2020 first posts the “Dusty Box” as her twitter header.
  • 26th May 2020 announces Ickabog.

So far this (more or less) fits a coherent narrative.

  • 2007 Story narrative and structure complete
  • 2007 – 2012 first draft completed and committed to paper (perhaps minus the ending) read to own children.
  • 2012 in wake of Vacancy, Strike and Lumos pushed to back burner (the attic).
  • 2015 Pulled down from attic to make design for party dress.
  • 2017 Interviewer finally asks about the Fairy-tale, admits to dress.
  • 2020 COVID!

It was then, only last year, that we were presented with another wonderful story origin for the Ickabog – A tale told to her own children as they were growing up. A decision not to publish, but keep it only for her family, made into a dress and then stored in the attic. After suffering herself from COVID, and seeing families struggle with lockdown and home schooling, she decides to finish the tale, and serialise on-line for free.

The pages are retrieved from the attic, and lovingly illustrated by children from around the world. Another beautiful story to fit with the others.

The one piece that doesn’t fit this is a Q&A post from 30th May 2018 on her website:

I’ve just finished the fourth Galbraith novel, Lethal White, and I’m now writing the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts 3. After that I’ll be writing another book for children. I’ve been playing with the (non-Harry Potter/wizarding world) story for about six years, so it’s about time I get it down on paper.”

This story has been in development from 2012 – 2018, the very period when Rowling was abandoning the Ickabog. She has not (as of 2018) got this story on to paper, but we know in 2015 there was at least enough of the Ickabog to create a dress.

The Q&A post is still live on her website, and if wrong is an unforced error i.e. not in answer to an interviewer. 

If the above refers to the Ickabog then it calls into question, not just the timeline, but also calls into question her motives for releasing it when she did. 

My tentative conclusion last year was that this referred to another story, since delayed or abandoned due to difficulties in the Fantastic Beasts 3 script and Troubled Blood taking creative priority.

On the 13th April 2021 she finally announced ‘The Christmas Pig.’ We don’t know (yet) if this was the book she was developing between 2012-2018, but if it was then the origin story of ‘The Ickabog’ stands a little more secure.

 

The Christmas Pig: New Rowling Story

A change to the Rowling Twitter header, followed by a joking retweet that was erased (and then reposted), ended this morning with the announcement of the 12 October publication of a new children’s story by J. K. Rowling, The Christmas Pig. From the Rowling.com website page:

The Christmas Pig is a heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured toy, and how far he will go to find it.  It’s a standalone story, unrelated to any of J.K. Rowling’s previous work, and is suitable for children 8+: a tale for the whole family to fall in love with.

Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig.  DP has always been there for him, through good and bad.  Until one Christmas Eve something terrible happens – DP is lost.  But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life – even toys…  And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan:  Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…

The Presence returned to Twitter after five months of silence with a change to her header and a retweet, that according to friends in the UK and Argentina was posted then taken down only to appear again. Here are the new header and that tweet:

Three Quick Notes:

(1) Perhaps the most encouraging news is that the first fifty comments made by twitter followers to Rowling’s return to posting included only two references to the transgender kerfuffle vis a vis Maya Forstater’s appeal this month and both were supportive of Rowling’s position. The ‘Welcome Back!’ and ‘We Missed You!’ memes were the rule without exception. I expect that will change as word spreads about The Christmas Pig but this opening salvo sans nastiness is a very positive change for the better.

(2) I don’t think this means Rowling has returned to regular tweeting, in fact, I would be astonished and very disappointed if it did mean this. That her response to Mhairi W went out, came down, and was reposted suggests some real hesitance to re-enter the social media game. I’m hopeful that this tweet to her more than 14 million followers was the exception made to serve the obvious marketing expectation from her publishers rather than a joyful reentry into the nether world of the Twitterati and the Ideological Twits. I think all of her fans prefer new stories, screenplays, and novels, the fruit of her focus on her vocation as author, to her endless and unedifying engagement with social media trolls and tweeters.

(3) I have been sitting on a post about the confusing comments Rowling has made about the genesis of The Ickabog through the years, from its being her next project in 2007 and all but done a few years later to an item in the attic she dusted off for the Covid lockdown pande-mania. I hope that Nick Jeffery will explain in a Guest Post or in the comment thread below how the announcement of this new story creates a reasonable alternative to my pet theory, based on Rowling’s contradictory statements about a children’s story for close to fifteen years, that The Ickabog publication was only rowled out (sic) last summer as a fire break to all the negative transgender controversy publicity, a necessary sop to public opinion to smooth the way for Troubled Blood’s publication in September.

A new story by year’s end! Hurrah!