Beatrice Groves – Scaramouche’s Fandango in Ink Black Heart

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: Scaramouche’s Fandango in Ink Black Heart. Join me after the jump for Prof. Groves’ look at music as metaphor, scaffold and clue in Rowling’s Ink Black Heart.

Scaramouche’s Fandango in Ink Black Heart

Music is an important undercurrent to the Strike books, forming a crucial context for Strike’s parentage, childhood and psychology. As Rowling has noted:

“Denmark Street fits Strike like a glove, because, obviously, his parentage. He comes from in some ways from Rock ‘n Roll Royalty but he’s never lived that life, and yet he’s gravitated to Denmark Street. And Robin might be calling him on that at some point in the future.

“It is an iconic street. And it is a place he clearly feels at home, though I’m not sure he’s ever thought that through. Because he grew up being dragged around concerts by a passionate Rock fan and a groupie.  So, you know, to live, to operate out of a place where the buskers are constantly playing is, this is home to him, yeah.

“But I love Denmark Street. You know, I know it of old and used to live quite near there and it’s just one of those iconic places that I hope isn’t about to disappear though I fear, I fear for its future.”

I had to miss all the fun a week or two back at the Ink Black Heart Q&A as I was away watching Cursed Child (though I’m sure getting Nick to ask my questions got a far superior hit rate than I would have achieved!). But I did take the opportunity to call in at Denmark St round the corner and take a few shots. I suspect Prudence will likewise pay a call here in Strike 7 and – with her own musical moniker – I wonder it might be she, rather than Robin, who will be calling Strike out on the place he’s chosen to make his home.

Music is one of the places where Strike’s personal arc intersects with the individual plots of each book – most clearly in Career of Evil. But music also provided a major clue in Troubled Blood – and it does so again in Ink Black Heart. Claudia M. has written a great piece on the music in Ink Black Heart (in the September edition of The Rowling Library Magazine) and notes that Anomie’s allusions to the Beatles and Queen are drawn from ‘his father’s taste in music (so that Anomie listens to  them ‘possibly because he hasn’t got a…’ choice).’

Queen plays an outsized role in the presentation of Inigo – who enters the room to the strains of ‘The Show Must Go On’ causing Strike to muse ‘that Inigo’s entrance into the room had been highly contrived, perhaps even down to the grandeur and melancholy of the song still playing’ (295). Queen lyrics play throughout the chapter, ending with a joke: ‘there was a short, nasty silence, in which Robin rather missed Freddie Mercury’ (299). It is a moment of Rowling’s trademark comic misdirection which should work to remind us to look out for Queen clues – and it made me wonder to what extent humour marks out true clues from red herrings in Strike? The Strokes are a red herring – Kea Niven is not Anomie – and their music, unlike Queen, is presented without humour…

There is a subtle clue about why Anomie might have been listening to quite so much Queen despite the soundproofing in his house – an odd detail which might alert us to the fact that there is something important about the soundscapes of this house. It holds two clues in fact: both that Gus has been listening to his father’s music (which is where he takes the name ‘Scaramouche’), and that no-one else has been listening to quite how much he does, or doesn’t, play his cello. This is a one-way traffic enabled by the combination of soundproofing and bugging. The latter of course, has turned up before in Rowling’s work (in the implicit pun of Rita Skeeter listening in to private conversations as a bug) – but there is a clever clue about its relevance here when Lepine’s Disciple suggests that a teenager takes revenge on his parent by ‘bugging her bedroom’ (445). If Gus is Anomie he must be bugging his parents, as Strike points out:

‘And as they’ve soundproofed the upper floor—’

‘He could’ve bugged the upstairs.’

‘Come on—’

‘If he’s Anomie, he’d bloody bug the upstairs!’ said Strike.     (311)

It is easy to miss but there is also a Gus-is-both-Anomie-and-Lepine’s-Disciple hint when the novel brings these two instances together:

LonelikGrl: lol how do u know


Anomie: got u all bugged

‘“Got you all bugged”,’ said Strike. ‘Who mentioned bugging recently?’

‘You,’ said Robin. ‘You said if Gus Upcott was Anomie, he’d be bugging the upper floor of his house.’

‘No,’ said Strike, who’d just remembered. ‘It was a bloke on Twitter.

Lepine’s Disciple.’     (578)

Strike’s ‘no,’ of course, is misdirection: Lepine’s Disciple mentions it because he is Gus Upcott.

The character ‘Scaramouche’ turns up in Chapter 82 – a name that will have had pretty much everyone who read it humming a line from a strong contender for the greatest song ever written: ‘Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango!’ (For an interesting interpretation of these lyrics, see here). Bohemian Rhapsody, indeed, has a nice intersection with the thorny problem of managers/agents which is one aspect of ‘The Ink Black Heart’ story: ‘Queen’s first manager rejected Bohemian Rhapsody. He refused to release it as a single. So Queen sacked him, hired a new manager, and went on to become one of the most famous musical acts in history.’ Anomie feels personally rejected by Edie, but he might also be carrying some additional resentment from her professional rejection of his mother, as Yasmin suggests:

And just, maybe, it would’ve made all the difference to Anomie’s life, and his family’s lives, if Edie could have been a bit more supportive of the game? And let Anomie share in her good fortune, you know? Because she hadn’t paid his —  (538)

The non-payment of Katya is mentioned regularly, so I thought this was a massive clue (but thought the missing word was ‘wife’ rather than ‘mother’….). The Queen reference in Scaramouche’s name is another link with the Upcotts – and this time only Gus fits the bill (as Flavia would have been too young, and Katya & Inigo too old to be in Club Penguin – if, as we assume, Zolton and Scaramouche are one and the same).

When I heard Scaramouche’s name, however, I was not only struck by the Queen reference, but I was sure that he was Anomie – for a reason that is (oddly) never mentioned in the novel.

Robin does a quick search on the origin of the name:

Scaramouche,’ she said aloud, once she’d read an article about stock characters in Italian Commedia dell’Arte. Scaramouche was a clown: cunning, boastful and fundamentally cowardly, an odd name to choose if you were trying to persuade young women into sex. (949)

But the oddity of the choice is itself a clue for there is a reason for a fan of ‘The Ink Black Heart’ to choose the name Scaramouche – and why it is perfect for the future creator of Drek’s Game.

I was already rather fond of the word ‘Scaramouche’ before meeting it in Ink Black Heart because a while back, reading a book from 1579 (entitled A Christian exhortation taken out of the Holy Scriptures) I came across this sentence: ‘the enemy is at hand… he dresseth his scaramuches againste vs’. This reference predates the first Oxford English Dictionary citation for scaramouch – ‘a cowardly and foolish boaster of his own prowess’ (1662) – by almost a century. (And, in case you’re wondering, that’s what counts as a buzz for English academics.) (This citation is also interesting re: Anomie’s choice of this moniker as it suggests that scaramouches are not merely cowards and boasters but the devil’s minions.)

The reason I thought that Rowling was using the name as a clue for the creator of Drek’s Game however, is that Scaramouche is a masquerade character, just like the Plague Doctor on whom Drek was modelled. And not only this, his mask is almost identical – likewise identifiable by its comically distended nose


Named after a character from the commedia and also known for covering only the upper half of the face, the Scaramuccia was a black velvet mask distinctive for the thin, pointed and disproportionately extended nose that served to emphasize the character’s typically vainglorious yet cowardly personality. A roguish adventurer and swordsman who replaced Il Capitano in later troupes, he usually serves a master who is not of a high social scale.

A half-mask with a ghoulishly exaggerated nose, Dottore Peste differs from the Scaramouch in that its nose is conventionally not only wider but also curved downwards like beak, and whereas the latter mask covers the cheekbones, the Plague Doctor only covers the forehead.

I think Rowling only revealed Scaramouche so late and has Robin wait over a hundred pages before making the quick search for the origins of his name – as well as leaving out this crucial fact about masquerade character – because both the Queen connection and the mask reference were such strong clues. Taken together they suggest that Drek’s Game’s creator is a young man living in the Upcott’s house.

A full list of all Beatrice Groves’ writings and podcasts can be found in the Beatrice Groves Pillar Post.


  1. Kurt Schreyer says

    Fascinating. I particularly love the affinity between Scaramouch and Dottore Peste which I was not expecting. I do hope you let the OED know of your brilliant find (1662!)

  2. Thank you Kurt! And yes I have let them know 🙂

  3. Kelly Loomis says

    Fascinating. I love the incredible detail Rowling uses in her books. I know nothing about literature and many of the references Rowling uses but I enjoy reading HogPro to hear about them after the fact. Pointing us to the use of comedy for misdirects is also a great clue for us going forward. I always miss these when reading – her tactics work with me! Thanks Beatrice.

  4. Thanks Kelly – that is lovely to hear! Yes, I think the comic misdirection is a really useful clue – but even though I was specifically looking out for it this time, I still didn’t catch the comic clues the first time round! Her tactics work even when one knows they are there… 😉
    The main ones I noticed were this one, the one about the dog on Hampstead Heath and the one about the Ladykillers (which I wrote up in my previous post on ‘hits & misses’). I’d like to hear about any others people spotted!

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