Christmas Pig’s Chapter Thirteen

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Rowling has read aloud more than one chapter of The Christmas Pig. I learned today from The Rowling Library, our most dependable source for news about The Presence herself and about Rowling, Inc., that she had been filmed reading Christmas Pig‘s thirteenth chapter, ‘The Night for Miracles and Lost Causes.’ The reading above is from the The Rowling Library YouTube channel.

You might think this is no big deal and that would be understandable. Serious Potter Pundits, though, would raise an eyebrow at the mention of chapter 13. This is because Irvin Khaytman, author of Dumbledore: The Life and Lies of Hogwarts’s Renowned Headmaster and who writes at as ‘hpboy13,’ long ago revealed that Rowling always drops an essential event and clue about the finish in the thirteenth chapter of her books. For a detailed review of his argument on this score with respect to the Potter books, go here. In brief, he says:

In the Potter books, Chapter 13 is always a turning point. Two things always happen in Chapter 13. First, we learn about a magical item or specific type of magic that ends up being the “how” of the central mystery. Second, we are misdirected with a false suspect, but (with hindsight) we actually find evidence of the real culprit. In the first four books, there is a third element: Draco Malfoy gets bested by Harry and co.

This is brilliant work, frankly, and I have to think it was discussion like this on fan sites about the villain always appearing on Halloween in the first four books that had Rowling abandon the plan for the last three. It’s obvious that our noting that the killer in each Strike novel appears in the center chapter, often in some kind of disguise, has not become sufficiently well known because she has persisted through Troubled Blood.

I don’t know if Mr. Khaytman has explored the Strike books’ chapter 13s; his work on the Strike novels has not as a rule been as insightful as his exploration of patterns in the Hogwarts Saga was (though, disappointing as articles like this one might be, that’s to judge at a very high standard — hpboy13 and Beatrice Groves are the staff writers at Mugglenet worth reading, full stop). If he has not explored the Strike chapter 13s, I hope one of our serious readers will look for a pattern.

I bring all this up only because Rowling chose to read The Christmas Pig’s chapter 13, ‘The Night for Miracles and Lost Causes.’ It is the beginning of Jack’s adventures in the Land of the Lost though it takes place entirely in his bedroom. In this chapter, the seven year old boy learns that his beloved toy DP is in the Land of the Lost, about the Loser, and that on this night, Christmas Eve, if he is brave enough, he can enter a world known only to small Things, big Ideas, and human capacities that have been lost. He accepts and, in the next chapter, shrinks and gets lost after a run-in with Toby-Cerberus.

At the very end of chapter 13, however, the Christmas Pig delivers his “one condition” for helping Jack, a condition he does as a ruse to fool the boy about his real aim. “The old Matchbox car began to say something, but the Christmas Pig threw him a nasty look and the car fell silent” (46). We’re not told what he’s done until DP spills the belly beans on the Island of the Beloved (229-230). The marker, though, is dropped in chapter thirteen, just as Mr. Khaytman’s theory predicts it would be.

Though not a turning point in the sense that we use that phrase in our discussions here of ring composition, Christmas Pig‘s chapter 13 certainly is a big shift in the story, in which we learn of and about the world we will soon enter. To repeat myself, I hope a HogwartsProfessor reader will either find what hpboy13 has written on this subject about Casual Vacancy, The Ickabog, and the five Strike novels or, if he has not written that up, that our serious reader will take a look and write us a Guest Post on the subject. The pattern is clearly more than a tick or one-off restricted to Harry Potter.

The Christmas Pig: Amateur AudioBook

The audiobook version of J. K. Rowling’s The Christmas Pig available via Audible is a delight. I have listened to it on an almost endless loop since October and have yet to tire of the ensemble cast, the special effects, the music, or the narration. Jim Dale and Robert Glenister work their magic as solo readers and each is a marvel who has brought fresh appreciation of Rowling-Galbraith’s work each time I listen; the audio version of Christmas Pig, though, because it is supported by a full production company is almost the equivalent of ‘hearing it staged,’ the story appears so vividly in the mind’s eye. If you haven’t listened to it yet, as I say to readers of Cormoran Strike who are unfamiliar with the Glenister interpretations, “You really don’t know the story until you’ve listened to it.”

I understand, however, that many people do not care to join Audible, an Amazon outfit (which is to say, “one more tentacle of the octopus devouring all commerce and bookstores especially”), and do not have the Galleons on hand to buy the ensemble cast production straight up. I wonder if libraries have copies yet on CD or mp4 players for the blind. Regardless. today I found a place online where, with just a little patience and flexibility, anyone can listen to the whole book for free. Links to that after the jump! [Read more…]

The Faerie Queene and The Christmas Pig

One of the most wonderful features of Troubled Blood, at least for those of us who are devoted to Edmund Spenser, is the Faerie Queene subtext woven throughout Robin Ellacott and Cormoran Strike’s year-and-a-bit-long investigation into the cold case of Margot Bamborough. With the publication of The Christmas Pig, it’s clear that J.K. Rowling’s Faerie Queene theme was not a one-shot effort, but evidence of Spenser’s prominence in her compost pile of influences. In addition to the wonderful connections to Scripture, Dante, and my longtime favorite, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Christmas Pig uses the Spenser template beautifully to weave an accessible, yet remarkably effective, allegory that is completely different from the latest Strike adventure while still drawing from the deep and powerful well of Spenser.

[Read more…]

Christmas Pig 3: The Quadrigal Reading

This is the third post in a series about Christmas Pig as understood through the lens of sacred art as defined by the Perennialist school. All five are about Rowling’s latest book as the crystallization and condensation of the artistry and meaning of all her work to date. The first post, ‘Jack, Jones, Peter, and John,’ introduced the idea of Rowling’s writing intentionally esoteric and spiritual art, an idea explained in terms of her given name and the conflict of Peter and John throughout her oeuvre and in Christmas Pig especially. The second part of the series, ‘Dante, Sacred Art, and the Symbolism of the Tree and Its Angels,’ advanced the thesis that Rowling is best understood as a writer of extra-liturgical sacred art a la Dante, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Lewis with an exegesis of the tree and angel symbolism of Christmas Pig.

The next few posts will introduce the traditional, which is to say ‘theocentric,’ literary concepts of the Quadriga and Psychomachia, Rowling’s use of exteriorization with respect to objects and characters, and the symbolism of the Heart with the specific argument that the author of Harry Potter, Cormoran Strike, and The Christmas Pig equates a mother’s unconditional and sacrificial love as the Logos love of the God Who is Love (1 John 4:7-12). Any one of these subjects, of course, could be a book of its own so this will be a survey by necessity but a rich one I hope.

Join me after the jump for a deep dive into Rowling as a writer of soul and Spirit allegory for the edification and transformation of her readers. Today, the Quadrigal or Four Horse Chariot reading. [Read more…]

Whence Holly’s Hatred in Christmas Pig? The Symbolism of the ‘Broken Angel’

I’m trying to get the next piece in my traditional reading of Christmas Pig done but am taking a break from the Four Chariots or ‘Garden’ interpretation to share another piece of head-canon or fan-fiction I’ve written. The first was about how the Christmas tree fell over the first time; my guess was that Holly pulled it down to cover her tracks when Toby the Dog ate the Toilet Roll Angel she’d replaced with her own ornament.

Today I want to take a shot at explaining the mysterious rage Holly feels about little boy Jack and her disproportionate response to being called a Loser by her younger step-brother. Why does she lose all her self-control and poise, the signatures of an accomplished gymnast, when a whiny kid gives her the ‘L’ sign?

I’m guessing based on things we’ve learned in Cormoran Strike and what we know of Rowling’s biography that it comes down to Holly thinking Judy Jones caused the break-up of Natalia and Holly’s dad’s marriage. And that her condition is exteriorized in the story not only as Bully Boss the Fist but as Broken Angel. Join me after the jump for how I got there. [Read more…]