Beatrice Groves: Trouble in Faerie Land3 T’was Duessa Who Did the Dirty Deed!

Oxford University’s Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written the finale of her three posts about Edmund Spencer and Troubled Blood, posts that are all now up at her MuggleNet page, ‘Bathilda’s Notebook.’ Check out Trouble in Faerie Land – Part 3: Searching for Duessa in “Troubled Blood”.

In her capstone post on the subject, Prof Groves does a deep dive into the parallels between the Bad Girl of Spenser’s Faerie Queen, Duessa, and the doppelganger murderer of Margot Bamborough in Troubled Blood. She offers along the way fascinating and brilliant catches on the meaning of Cratylic Names in Strike 5 as well as several Spenser and Elizabethan era fun facts that throw light in the dark corner of the Faerie Queen epigraphs.

Part Three: Searching for Duessa in “Troubled Blood” is both more accessible and rewarding, I think, to the serious reader unfamiliar with Faerie Queen than Prof Groves’ first two posts on the subject,Trouble in Faerie Land (Part One): Spenserian Clues in the Epigraphs of Troubled BloodandTroubles in Faerie Land (Part Two): Shipping Robin and Strike in the Epigraphs of Troubled Blood.’

You do need to read all three, of course, as well as Elizabeth Baird-Hardy’s seven part discussion of the Faerie Queen epigraph bonanza here at HogwartsProfessor, to appreciate the fullness of Rowling’s use of Faerie Queen as mirroring text both above and within Troubled Blood (i.e., the work is never mentioned in Strike5 but it introduces every Part and chapter as well as the work as a whole).

And all this literary detective work has been done within a month of Troubled Blood’s publication! My first post on the relationship of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm and Rowling-Galbraith’s Lethal White, in contrast, was four months out from Strike 4’s publication and Prof Groves did not write about it for almost two years (cf., ‘The Epigraphs of Lethal White: Shipping Strike and Robin’).

It goes without saying that there is a lot of heavy lifting to be done still to get at the artistry and meaning of Troubled Blood, but the Serious Strikers of the world, those who read the novels repeatedly rather than ‘once and done,’ owe a great debt to Profs Groves and Baird-Hardy. Both the speed with which they have written and the quality of the work each has done in bringing to light how Rowling-Galbraith uses Faerie Queen as a support and illuminating backdrop to Troubled Blood will inform all consequent exegesis of the work.

Three cheers!



  1. Joanne Gray says

    Thank you, Prof. Granger, for this well stated and very deserving applause to both Professors Groves and Baird-Hardy for their insightful analysis of Spencer’s Faerie Queen and how it was used to brilliantly inform Galbraith/Rowling’s fifth Strike novel, Troubled Blood.

    Re-reading Troubled Blood, with all of these newly provided literary interconnections in mind, gives me an even greater appreciation of JK Rowling’s literary skills. It’s a marvel how she has interwoven story aspects and characters found in the 16 century Faerie Queen–and the 18th century Ancient Mariner–into the crime/relationship series set in the 21st century! This information has lifted the already very enjoyable Troubled Blood novel up to an even deeper appreciation of the art that went into crafting the novel. (Not to mention also shining a light on the superb level of scholarship found on Hogwarts Professor).

  2. Beatrice Groves says

    That is really lovely to hear Joanne! Thank you so much for your comment.
    I am delighted that our work has deepened your appreciation – and it was, as you can imagine, a fantastic moment, opening Troubled Blood to find that my guess that she’d be using The Faerie Queene for her epigraphs was correct! I’d be very surprised if there is anyone else writing at the moment who is using epigraphs as creatively as she is – and I am not aware of anyone in the history of the novel who has done what she has done in both Lethal White and Troubled Blood by using one epigraphical text the whole way through to create such allusive depth.
    Here’s hoping she stays early modern for the next one – I so enjoyed the epigraphs to both TB and Silkworm – though maybe the youth of the protagonists in Strike 6 means she’ll choose something more recent? Whatever it is, I’m sure she’s going to stick to her playful epigraphs in every Strike novel, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what she does.

  3. Thank you, Joanne! Let me second Bea’s enthusiastic response both for Rowling’s use of our beloved Spenser and of your kind appreciation and enjoyment of our work!

    I also have high hopes for the next round of epigraphs, but I enjoyed these so much that whatever she chooses will really have to be something special to knock Troubled Blood out of contention as my favorite Strike novel and favorite novel-use of epigraphs!

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