Beatrice Groves – The Hallmarked Man

J. K. Rowling has revealed the title to Strike 8 whilst sharing her appreciation for her visit to Sark:

This was followed later by a change in header, very quickly identified by Pools of The Strike and Ellacott Files as an early 20th century hallmarked silver Neff. A decorative sailing ship used as a container in grand dining rooms from the 13th century onwards.

Beatrice Groves, Research Fellow and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a Hogwarts Professor Guest Post: The Hallmarked Man. Join Dr Groves after the jump for an exploration of hallmarks, saints and Sark!

Yesterday, 15 March 2024, J.K. Rowling announced on Twitter that the title of Strike 8 will be The Hallmarked Man. This is a pun on the phrase ‘a marked man’ (the title of quite a few existing thrillers) and while there are hallmark cards and hallmark movies, it is pretty clear that the pun refers to the marks that have been stamped onto precious metals since time immemorial. These marks – the origin of the metaphorical usage of ‘hallmark’ (‘this has all the hallmarks of a great novel’) – are a sign that the metal has been judged by an independent tester and found to be ‘up to the mark’ in terms of its purity.

The Wikipedia article on hallmarks has a number of delightful facts – such as that for English hallmarks the ‘year of marking commences on 19 May, the feast day of Saint Dunstan, patron saint of gold- and silversmiths.’ St. Dunstan is, incidentally a fascinating character, who worked as a silversmith in scriptorium of Glastonbury Abbey and is thought to have drawn one of the very first self-portraits – a magnificent 10th century image of Christ with a small monk kneeling at his feet. One Dunstan metal-working myth tells of how:

Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s foot when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s cloven hoof. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.

I do hope our ‘Hallmarked Man’ will be called Dunstan and I will on the look-out for a lucky horseshoe…

Hallmarks have a long history: ‘there is evidence of silver bars marked under authority of the Emperor Augustinian around AD 350—and [hallmarks] represent the oldest known form of consumer protection’ and a tempting etymology given another Strike 8 header:

In 1300 King Edward I of England enacted a statute requiring that all silver articles must meet the sterling silver standard (92.5% pure silver) and must be assayed in this regard by ‘guardians of the craft’ who would then mark the item with a leopard’s head. In 1327 King Edward III of England granted a charter to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (more commonly known as the Goldsmiths’ Company), marking the beginning of the company’s formal existence. This entity was headquartered in London at Goldsmiths’ Hall, from whence the English term “hallmark” is derived.

The Goldsmiths’ Hall is situated fairly near the Freemason’s Hall which turned up as Rowling’s twitter header at the end of January – and I’m beginning to wonder if The Hallmarked Man might have a wider pun embedded in his name? I have written on Masonic symbolism in Deathly Hallows here and on the some of the links between Freemasonry and alchemy here – but there is also a more basic link between these two ‘Halls’, in that both link back to craft guilds. In some myths of the founding of the Freemasons they trace their origins back to the master masons who built Solomon’s Temple – and a ‘Hall’ is where medieval craft guilds, such as goldsmiths and masons, met.

The Goldsmith’s Hall defines a hallmark thus:

  • Is a set of component marks applied to articles of the precious metals gold, silver, platinum or palladium.
  • Means that the article has been independently tested.
  • Guarantees that it conforms to all legal standards of purity (fineness).
  • Guarantees provenance by telling us where the piece was hallmarked, what the article is made from, and who sent the article for hallmarking. 

The Hallmarked Man, therefore, fits with Rowling’s long-term interest in literary alchemy and the symbolic potential of precious metals – in particular gold. I have written about alchemical symbolism in Strike before (see here) but there is some way to go before it takes on the role it carries in Harry Potter (see, for example Alchemical Weddings in Harry Potter and Beyond and Happy Golden Birthday to the Philosopher’s Stone) and perhaps this title is a sign that alchemical symbolism will be taking on more importance in Strike 8?

But in particular I was immediately struck by the fact that Rowling has used a name similar to ‘hallmark’ (in its role as a guarantor for the purity of gold) before: the name of the Goldstein sisters.  Goldstein is a name which Rowling put to the forefront in Fantastic Beasts, but which had been playing in her mind for a while, being the name of a very minor character in Hogwarts: Anthony Goldstein.[1] It is a German Ashkenazic name meaning ‘Gold stone’ – probably referring to ‘chrysolite or topaz, which was used as a testing stone by alchemists.’[2] The Goldstein sisters, therefore, point towards alchemical symbolism both in the obvious way in which they are the ‘gold’ sought by both Newt and Jacob, but also – more subtly – because their name points directly to an alchemical process of testing: the heroes of these stories, like knights of old, will be tested on their quest. The title of The Hallmarked Man is certain to refer directly to the case, but it may have a symbolic resonance for Strike likewise – as it did in Cuckoo’s Calling.

Rowling’s Twitter announcement provided a bit of symbolism along with the name of Strike 8, as the hallmark shown on her bracelet displays the coat of arms of Sark.  The coat of arms shows the two lions (also found on the flag) derived from the crest of Normandy, as the Channel Islands were once part of the Duchy of Normandy. They were brought into the orbit of the English crown in 1066, when England become one of the possessions of William, Duke of Normandy, but – unlike other parts of the Angevin empire – they were not surrendered to France under King John and they remain a Crown Dependency. For serious Strikers that leonine imagery is tempting – is this a sign that in this novel, finally, we’ll be finding out more from Rokeby? As Strike Fans noted when the Wombwell lion appeared as a header: ‘a lion is the astrological symbol for Leo, and Robin’s googling in The Cuckoo’s Calling told us all that Jonny Rokeby’s birthday is 1 August 1948, making him a Leo.’ I love the idea that Rowling was planting clues back in inconsequential seeming moments of Cuckoo’s Calling and am crossing my fingers! Although I fear that the Sark header may just turn out to have been a holiday red-herring, lions are important symbols in hallmarks too, so things may still be pointing in this direction. And if the Channel Islands and metal-working do come together in The Hallmarked Man Strike-Robin shippers may be pleased to know that there is a distinctive type of cup available on the Channel Islands:

A typical artifact of Channel Islands silver is the “Presentation Cup”. These cups, commonly known as christening cups, [are] of a type rarely seen in Britain… Occasionally these cups have two set of initials engraved on the bowl and, following the French custom, may have been “marriage cups

***

[1] On Twitter, 15 Aug 2015, Rowling confirmed that Tina and Queenie’s surname was Goldstein and that they were related to Anthony: replying to this question with ‘Yes (but distant).’

[2] Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press – on-line

Comments

  1. Rowling has now given emojis for the title! Patricio at The Rowling Library asked – and she has responded with chains, DNA and skull. This is an interesting play on the idea of hallmarking – of DNA as an inherent ‘hallmarking’ of the human body by which it can be traced and identified. It might relate to the finding of a long-dead corpse?

    @jk_rowling
    #TheHallmarkedMan⛓️🧬💀
    Quote
    The Rowling Library
    @rowlinglibrary
    ·
    Mar 15
    Replying to @jk_rowling
    Can we get emojis for the title as we had with “The Ink Black Heart” 🖤 and “The Running Grave” 🌊🪦, please? 🙏
    9:48 AM · Mar 16, 2024

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