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!

 

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…]

Beatrice Groves: Trouble in Faerie Land

Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written two posts about Edmund Spencer and Troubled Blood, posts that are now up at her MuggleNet page.

Trouble in Faerie Land (Part One): Spenserian Clues in the Epigraphs of Troubled Blood‘ and ‘Troubles in Faerie Land (Part Two): Shipping Robin and Strike in the Epigraphs of Troubled Blood‘ are up and ready for your perusal and edification.

Spencer Fans should also check out the musings of Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, author of Milton, Spenser and the Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C.S. Lewis Novels, about the Spenser epigraphs used in each of the seven parts of Troubled Blood:

Enjoy!

Cormoran’s Song: “Twenty Thousand Cornish Men Will Know the Reason Why”

On the thread to the post inviting reader discoveries of links between Troubled Blood and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Evan Willis wrote:

The song Strike sings at 808/813, an unofficial anthem of Cornwall, has two names: “Song of the Western Men” and “Trelawny”(!). The connection to Phoenix is great here: the central Prophecy via Cornish Nationalism. My favorite performance of the song is here:

That’s a pretty version, sure enough, but not the way the sung is usually sung, that is, by drunk rugby revellers and pub crawlers. Note in this version that the men sing without reference to notes and invite the crowd to join in the chorus — everyone in Cornwall is taught this song, in English and Cornish, as part of their primary school education:

After the jump, Rowling’s previous mention of the song, the full lyrics, and its importance to grasping Cormoran’s transformation at last into the Cornish giant for whom he was named — [Read more…]

Liminal Women: Mermaids and Swan Maidens in Galbraith’s Strike Novels

Oxford’s Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, returns to HogwartsProfessor today — her third post here in a week! — to offer thoughts in the run-up to publication of Troubled Blood on the Mermaids and Swan Maidens in the Cormoran Strike novels. Enjoy!

In Lethal White there is moment when Britain’s sea-faring history briefly surfaces. Robin enters the rose garden of St Nicholas Church, Deptford and notes that its gateposts are ‘topped with the strangest finials she had ever seen. A pair of gigantic, crumbling stone skulls sat on top of carved bones.’ Robin thinks to herself that they would look at home ‘garnishing the front of a pirate’s mansion in some fantasy film’ (48). But, there is a persistent local legend that the indebtedness is the other way around: not that these finials recall the Jolly Roger, but that the Jolly Roger recalls them. The church’s website notes:

The famous flag of piracy sent shivers down the spine of unfortunate mariners whenever they came across it. But where did the flag originate? Legend has it that the flag was based on the skulls which still stand on the gate posts of St Nicholas’ church.

For centuries an economic and maritime war existed over the domination of the trade routes between Europe and the Americas, Africa and the Indian sub-continent. This battle of supremacy was mostly contested by Britain, France, Spain and Holland. Much of the conflict was acted out by privateers – ships in private ownership and outside the Royal Navy – whose activities were not fully investigated by the national authorities.

The British privateers did not necessarily want to broadcast their nationality when approaching say, a Spanish galleon returning from the Caribbean, particularly if they intended to loot her. So they invented a new flag, one intended to strike fear into the hearts of their victims and also to disguise their true nationality.

These ships were pirates, and many of them would have set off from Deptford – so hence it is thought that they borrowed the skull and crossed bones image from their local church.

This is, sadly, probably just a local tale, based on the link between the widespread, and ancient, Christian use of skulls as memento mori and the Jolly Roger (Though I do wonder if these memento mori skulls might have been in Rowling’s mind when she put up the Twitter header of Harmen Steenwyck’s ‘Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life’ as her Twitter header in Dec 2016, noting (when asked about it): ‘It’s hard to find a header that sums up everything I’m working on at the moment, but this painting comes close! It’s by Harmen Steenwyck’ (Jan 5, 2017)

Rowling would have been writing Lethal White at the time, and perhaps the memento mori skull in Steenwyck’s painting alludes to those church gates in Deptford, and the eye-catching local legend that they inspired the Jolly Roger itself.)

For Troubled Blood Strike will (at least briefly) be relocating to the coast, and given Rowling’s deep interest in folk legends and tales, I expect some Cornish sea-faring legends to appear. The most commonly noted Cornish link throughout the series has been Strike’s drink of choice – Doom Bar – and if this location merits a mention once Strike is back in Cornwall (as it surely might) Rowling may allude to ‘The Doom-Bar’ by Alice E. Gillington. We know from the blurb that Robin will be ‘juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike’ in this novel – and I wonder if Gillington’s Victorian poem about a doomed romance may have caught Rowling’s eye. ‘The Doom-Bar’ relates the story of a woman who gives her lover a keepsake as he sails away across the Doom Bar sands. She remains faithfully waiting for him until one year, when the tide is unusually low, she walks out on the Doom Bar and finds her ring nestling inside a scallop shell. This find brings with it the realisation that her sweetheart was faithless, and he tossed her ring out to sea the very day she gave it to him. [Read more…]