Elizabeth(s) the Phoenix

The centrality of Elizabethan imagery in Troubled Blood is hard to miss. The  Faerie Queene epigraphs and structuring, already well documented on this site, show the basis of the connection. That this work is meant to parallel Order of the Phoenix is also well documented. I want to suggest that Rowling has clarified much of the meaning of Order of the Phoenix using this imagery, which in turn continues and strengthens a long-running undercurrent in Rowling’s writing: a extensive set of references to 15th through 17th century English ecclesiastical, political, and philosophical history (earlier work directly touching this set of associations in Rowling’s work can be found in this 2009 post).

My core thought here is this: it is not just the one Elizabeth, Elizabeth I, who we are meant to consider. Instead, I think we are meant to focus on the societal and literary impact of four closely intertwined Elizabeths and their associations with the development of English Christianity and esotericism in its many forms. These four are Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Stuart, and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia.

I’ll grant that this is a fairly large claim, and I may be hunting Crumple Horned Snorkacks (if I am, please let me know), but I think there is this strong thread here worth tracing.
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Guest Post: Agatha Christie’s The Clocks – TV Adaptation a Source for Strike?

In 2019 I wrote about Agatha Christie’s 1963 Poirot novel, The Clocks, a send up of the James Bond spy-thriller then in vogue: Agatha Christie’s ‘The Clocks’ or ‘Arabella Figg Meets Hercule Poirot.’ Chris Calderon thinks that the 2009 teevee adaptation of this novel for BBC1’s series ‘Poirot’ has a lot to tell us about the Cormoran Strike series that Rowling may have been plotting and planning at the time.

Make the jump to read the connections he has found between the show and the series! [Read more…]

Troubled Blood: Cormoran Strike’s Journey with Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner

Elizabeth Baird-Hardy and Beatrice Groves have been writing about the Spenserian epigraphs adorning each of Troubled Blood’s seven Parts and all of its seventy three chapters, and, for those few, too-happy few Rowling readers well versed in Faerie Queen this has no doubt been a challenging and rewarding effort in literary exegesis. It is an unstated but key premise to everything we write here, I realized this morning, that Rowling writes and speaks to two audiences simultaneously — to those who read her work for entertainment and inspiration and to those who read her work (to include longer twitter threads as well as her novels and series!) for the text beneath the surface of the text, the narrative undergirding the plot narrative revealing the meaning of narratives in our lives. The Faerie Queen posts are, no doubt, examples of the hidden text within what the Russian Formalists called ‘literariness’ and we owe a real debt to Profs Baird-Hardy and Groves for the slow-mining they do per Ruskin to bring this gold to the light of day.

The problem with this work is that I do not think the overlap portion of a Venn diagram of ‘Readers of Troubled Blood,’ ‘Readers of Harry Potter,’ and ‘Readers of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen‘ constitutes even a very small shared sub-set of serious readers. More to the point, perhaps, in an area proportional Venn diagram in which the three sets of readers are represented in size relative to the number of their living members, the Faerie Queen set, alas, is the smallest of the three — and has virtually no overlap, with the important exception of Profs. Baird Hardy and Groves, with the other sets.

No doubt Rowling labors here to foster interest in Spenser’s epic poem among her faithful as well as her Straussian readers of her public and hidden texts, of her surface and hidden meanings, just as she did with Silkworm’s Jacobean Revenge Drama epigraphs and Lethal White’s chapter heading glosses from Ibsen’s Rosmersholm. But Faerie Queen is by far the biggest ‘ask’ in this regard, one with rewards proportionate to the time and effort necessary to enter Spenser’s realm, and the prompting I have to think that will be the least likely to be taken, even with the encouraging glosses written by Serious Strikers.

What I wish to offer today for your consideration is a much less obvious parallel text within Troubled Blood, one that many more if by no means most Troubled Blood readers have already read and which all could read with understanding in less than an hour. This work, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ when read in parallel with Troubled Blood, highlights essential artistry and meanings of Rowling’s latest, of Rowling’s oeuvre taken as a whole, and even of the references to Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare in Strike 5. Join me after the jump for a deep dive into the parallels between Mariner and the fifth Strike novel, an Estecean interpretive journey through Troubled Blood! [Read more…]

Agatha Christie Pillar Post

Agatha Christie, though Rowling doesn’t like to talk about her as an influence, is perhaps the author with whom she has the most in common. Certainly Christie’s signature ‘big twists’ at the finale are much more akin to Rowling’s Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike novels’ endings than the conclusion of Austen’s Emma which The Presence claims is the target at which she aims in her writing.

Christie famously described herself and her writing as “lowbrow” and Rowling, sadly, would find that label an insult, I think, as she would association with the most popular novelist and writer who ever lived (only Shakespeare’s plays have outsold her detective novels and short stories, and, forgive me, except for the Bard’s plays being required reading in schools — in which Christie’s novels are almost never read — this would not be the case). Take the time to read the posts below, however, and I think it fairly obvious that Rowling has read Christie, studied her even, and kept her names notebook open as she did so.

This post will be filed (and updated as new entries appear) under the ‘Authors Not J. K. Rowling’ Pillar Post.

Agatha Christie: Ginny-Ginevra Source?

Christie’s ‘Appointment With Death:’ Reading Beyond the Ginny-Ginevra Find

Name that Not Quite Legible Book Title! The Mysteries on Rowling’s Book Shelf

Agatha Christie’s Eleven Missing Days

Lethal White: The Moving Finger

Agatha Christie and ‘The Pale Horse:’ Rowling Borrowings from the Master

Christie’s ‘Murder at the Vicarage’ Bellatrix Lestrange’s Debut in Fiction?

Agatha Christie: Murder at the Manor

Agatha Christie’s Last Marple Mystery: ‘Sleeping Murder’ and ‘Duchess of Malfi’

The Duchess of Malfi (1972)

Agatha Christie’s ‘Dead Man’s Folly:’ Moaning Myrtle and The Silkworm

Agatha Christie’s ‘The Clocks’ or ‘Arabella Figg Meets Hercule Poirot’

Christie’s Miss Marple Short Stories: Another Treasury of Rowling Sources?

Rowling, Inc., to Follow Christie Estate Lead and Commission Harry Potter Fan Fiction Under Its Own Trademark Brand?

BBC1 ‘Strike’ News Releases, Reviews Rowling Talks about Mystery Genre

Whodunit? Harry Potter — In the Great Hall — With a Wand!

No Romance in Mystery? What Sayers Wrote

Agatha Christie’s ‘The Clocks’ or ‘Arabella Figg Meets Hercule Poirot’

I have been speed reading various Agatha Christie mysteries of late — the mysteries on my shelf, those Rowling has mentioned as favorites, those visible on her bookshelf, and one whose title suggested a connection with Galbraith’s Lethal White. It’s been a delightful exercise and rewarding; Christie is fun to read both because of her sense of humor and masterfully disarming plot twists and almost every one of her books seems to include a name or plot point that we find in Harry Potter’s adventures or Cormoran Strike’s murder investigations.

There is, for example, the Ginny/Ginevra red headed girl in Appointment with Death, the Mrs Lestrange in Murder at the Vicarage, and the anything-but-attractive-or-likeable Myrtle who dies as a teen girl in Dead Man’s Folly. In Rowling’s favorite ChristieThe Moving Finger, we meet the heroic disabled veteran who, while he re-learns how to walk, tries to figure out a murder that the police believe to have been a suicide. 

Crooked House, Christie’s favorite Christie, includes quite a few pieces from Cuckoo’s Calling, i.e., a bat-shit insane child-of-rich-parents murderer, a child murdered  by being thrown over a quarry’s edge, and the bizarre attempt by the murderer to write a murder mystery story to deceive the investigators, a story which if left unwritten would mean the killer-author’s never being suspected.

And then there are the passages in Miss Marple short stories that give us the Wizarding World’s currency, the Galleon, and the language of flowers Rowling employs so deftly in Harry Potter.

While I await the arrival of titles recently identified on Rowling’s 2000 bookshelf as Christie novels, I pulled down the last Dame Agatha adventure on my shelf that I hadn’t yet read, the Hercule Poirot murder mystery, The Clocks. It had three decent ‘finds’ I will share with you after the jump!

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