Guest Post: The Father in Running Grave

Spoilers ahead! The subject is taken from a brief mention of a play two characters in London attend, an event in the excerpted Running Grave chapters released last week. If you don’t want to know about that, go no further.

Running Grave, Chapter 9

If you are like me, you let the reference to the play, The Father, in the extended excerpt that was briefly available to readers last week (available now only via screenshots like the above) skip right past you. I had not heard of the play or the movie adaptations so there was no ‘hook’ to catch my attention.

Lana Whited, though, one of the very few members of the Royal Society of Rowling Readers to have made significant contributions to Potter Punditry in all three of its critical generations, doesn’t need hooks; she knows that such asides in a Strike novel are almost surely meaningful. She sent me a brief note this morning about it and I asked her if I could share it here as a Guest Post. Enjoy!

While I definitely don’t consider myself to be a “Serious Striker,” I am intrigued that the play Robin and Murphy are seeing is Florian Zeller’s The Father, and when I looked up that title, I discovered some interesting, potentially meaningful facts. The original play is Le pere, which won the Molière prize for best play in 2014 and is part of a trilogy. The other two plays are (as you might guess) Le mere and Le fils. Le pere was first performed in September 2012 and ran in the West End of London in 2015. There is a French film adaptation called Floride and a 2020 film (directed by Zeller) called The Father with Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins. The 2020 film won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Hopkins won for Best Actor. 

The main character in Zeller’s play apparently has lost a daughter named LUCY in the past (to an accident, apparently) but doesn’t always recall that she is dead as his dementia progresses. Based on descriptions I’ve read, the plays’ themes seem to concern whether a person can trust their loved ones, which sounds very familiar to those of us who have read the preview chapters. There’s an adaptation of The Son on Netflix, the third play to be written (about 2018). In addition, the main character is Pierre (anglicized as Peter and also Peter in the Netflix film), which may invoke John’s “John and Peter” theory nicely. 

This is all new information to me this afternoon, and I’m still processing it. But clearly the name of the play, like virtually every other detail in Rowling’s work, functions like a hyperlink to various associations that may turn out to be relevant.

Dr Whited is Professor of English & Director of the Boone Honors Program at Ferrum College and editor of The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon (2002), the first published collection of critical essays on the Hogwarts Saga, of Critical Insights: The Harry Potter Series (2015), and the long-anticipated third-generation (‘Generation Hex’) anthology The Ivory Tower, Harry Potter, and Beyond, to be published later this year. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading her insights, check out The ‘Beasts Within’ of Fantastic Beasts: ‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes).’

Running Grave’s Extended Excerpt: First Thoughts of Elizabeth Baird Hardy

Earlier today I posted the news of the second excerpt from Running Grave that has been released by Rowling’s publishers. Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, Deputy Headmistress of HogwartsProfessor, shared her first notes about the eleven chapters we have now and I pass them on to you, post haste. If you do not want to learn anything of the story until its publication on 26 September, now would be your moment to stop reading; if you’d like to read the eleven chapters first (good idea!), it is still available via this link or was when I started writing (note: this link has been disabled and I have not yet found an alternative that includes the ‘new’ five chapters); if you’re ready to read Elizabeth’s insights, scroll down and enjoy!

Strike Seven: First Thoughts on the First Bits of Running Grave

Now that we have access to the first 160 pages (or 200, depending on your device and its use of the app) of The Running Grave, it’s time to start breaking down what we have or don’t and to continue our predictions for the rest of the book to follow in just a smidge over two weeks!

I’d like to share my first observations after a hasty read of the new text (I keep fearing that link will die). Of course, we’ve had a taste of the first chapters for some time, but this new chunk is a respectable addition.  Even with a promised complete book length of 961 pages, the preview is a nice bit and gives us some fodder for what is to come, so here are a few of my thoughts, some of which are fairly prosaic, but others of which may bode much for the future in two weeks: [Read more…]

Running Grave Excerpt Re-released on AppleBooks; 11 Chapters and Prologue

Early on 7 September, the seventh Cormoran Strike-Robin Ellacott novel, Running Grave, was given its second running start for readers who cannot wait for its full publication in 19 days. Unlike the first excerpt released on Amazon via the book-page’s ‘Look Inside’ feature, this one includes the full opening epigraphs (Hello, Dylan Thomas!), the complete table of contents — a Prologue, Nine Parts, and an Epilogue — and, remarkably, five more chapters, the first eleven of the nineteen in Part One.

You can read it via this link.

A reader and Serious Striker, PercyL, shared this information on a comment thread there following my post about the Amazon release, an initial and briefer excerpt that disappeared without explanation several days after its equally mysterious appearance. I expected this new release to be old news by the time I finished work late yesterday, but only TheRowlingLibrary had reported it and even that announcement was via a re-tweet without comment. I cannot tell if the usual klaxon-horn voices in Strike fandom and social media are blissfully unaware of the release or studiously avoiding its discussion; even more bizarre for such a drop, none of the wire services or search engines I have checked are carrying news of the new excerpt on Apple.

I will be writing about the second excerpt later today on the Substack HogwartsProfessor site for subscribers (it’s free!) and I’m hoping that Elizabeth Baird-Hardy will share some of her first thoughts here. There will, of course, be spoiler alerts for those who want to know nothing about Running Grave before it is officially published on 26 September.

One bon mot, though, safe even for those who do not want to hear any plot points or speculation derived from the opening chapters: in offering eleven of the Part One’s nineteen chapters, Galbraith has shared the Part One ‘turn’ in chapter ten and the first turtleback lines between chapters nine and eleven. That turn’s pivotal moment is a remarkable pointer to what will be the primary reveal or twist in the novel’s last Part and about Strike’s essential transformation. Strike 7 promises to have its rings within rings…

New Cover, New Substack Posts, and a Journey to Wales

Since our last posting here at the HogwartsProfessor weblog, Rowling, Inc., has released the cover for The Running Grave with the attendant story tease and summary, the HogwartsProfessor Substack site has been active with posts on a variety of exciting topics, and I have confirmed my reservations (and packed) this week for a trip to Swansea University in Wales, a journey I begin in just a few hours. Here are a few notes for those of you who stop by our old haunts before I leave for the airport.

The Strike 7 Cover and Story Blurb

I read about the cover and tease release via and had these three thoughts about the images chosen:

(1) The yellow or gold touches suggest the end of literary alchemy and the dawn at the end of Deathly Hallows

(2) The Cromier pier location in Norfolk we have seen before in Rowling twitter headers and is a fit with the locale described in the teaser paragraphs.

(3) The picture itself is reminiscent of an oriental pagoda, Torii, or paifang, a point of spiritual passage, entry way, or gate. I’m hopeful that this hint is a pointer to the psycho-spiritual content of the seventh book with its I Ching epigraphs.

I’d also note that a a fan had tweeted a mock-up of this scene as a cover for the upcoming novel months ago.

This is either a remarkable coincidence or suggestive that the marketing team responsible for promoting Rowling-Galbraith mysteries is especially attentive to the series’ social media mavens. Perhaps a little of both?

About the teaser paragraphs, I was only reminded that discussing them at any length here or elsewhere is to become an unpaid adjunct member of said marketing team. I have played that role for as long as I can remember writing about Rowling’s incipient releases — and think I’ll pass on speculating about what it may mean this time.

In brief, the Agency is headed to Norfolk, Robin is going undercover into a religious cult, and Strike has plenty to reflect on with respect to his childhood experiences nearby; who needs to prime the pump of pre-publication sales any more than that exciting story-line? I very much look forward to reading Strike7 in September and writing then about its Deathly Hallows echoes, ring structure, alchemical notes, prophetic epigraphs, and mythological backdrops — if any of those elements appear.

HogwartsProfessor Substack Posts

Since my last update here at the beginning of last month, the HogwartsProfessor staff have been very busy over at the Substack site writing about The Running Grave and related topics.

Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, our resident movie and Hunger Games expert, shared her insights about the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes trailer. I am not a fan of movie adaptations as a rule and those made of Suzanne Collins’ novels were especially ironic and bad; Prof Hardy’s notes were very encouraging, however, and I suspect on the strength of her arguments I should go the theater on the day of release.

Nick Jeffrey wrote two posts, one on The Black Dog in English literature with special attention to Rowling’s use of the image, and another this morning on literary mimics, parodists, and satirists, ‘The King’s Canary,’ that discusses both a Dylan Thomas work that may have been the model for Owen Quine’s Bombyx Mori and a contemporary writer that seems determined to say unkind things about The Presence, albeit covertly in story. Each Jeffrey post rewards the time invested in reading them several fold with pleasure and valuable information available nowhere else.

I wrote about the choice of the I Ching as the source of epigraphs in Strike 7. I happened in a series of synchronous discoveries, the most notable in a grocery store storage room, to stumble on a Jungian commentary on and translation of the Oracle by Rudolf Ritsema and Stephen Karcher, which book pointed to a very promising possibility of why Rowling-Galbraith chose to ‘go there’ for her Running Grave chapter headers.

I began what will be a series of posts about the soul’s journey to perfection in spirit depicted in allegory in Rowling’s work, with a review of the several attempts that have been made to read the Hogwarts Saga as a retelling of Prudentius’ poem, Psychomachia. This introductory post will be followed soon by one exploring the choice of the name ‘Prudence’ for Strike’s half-sister, a Jungian analyst with whom he seems certain to be meeting in the early going of Running Grave, an encounter that may parallel the opening chapter of Deathly Hallows and the death of Charity. Will Prudence in ‘Running Grave’ Suffer a Fate Similar to Charity’s in ‘Deathly Hallows’? A Look Back at a Neglected Aspect of Psychomachian Allegory in Harry Potter

That series was put aside by the advent of Evan Willis’ theory about why the Cormoran Strike novels will be a ten book series. In anticipation of this effort, I laid out why I thought the Parallel Series Idea suggested strongly that Rowling’s detective fiction, if indeed it is a ten book set, is best thought of as seven in number with three add-ons not especially important to the integrity of the ring cycle. I included in that post my best guess about who will die in Running Grave the way Dobby did in Deathly Hallows and who will pay the part of Kreacher. If Running Grave is ‘Deathly Hallows 2,’ What Strike Series Characters will Play the Parts of Dobby and Kreacher?

Evan Willis’ post, Why the Cormoran Strike Novels Are a Ten Book Series, exploded my PSI-generated idea of seven + three with a brilliant numerological exposition and exploration of Rowling’s artistry and meaning. In brief, he argues that the two mythological backdrops to the Strike series, ‘Castor and Pollux’ and ‘Eros and Psyche,’ both involve the parting of the principal players before their eventual reunion and that this will be what happens in the Strike novels post Running Grave with their return to one another only in Strike 10. He explains that Rowling’s parallel series work will continue in Strike 8, 90, and 10, albeit with Casual Vacancy, The Ickabog, and The Christmas Pig as her standards or foils. The geometric figure he invokes as Rowling’s guiding structure for the first and second set of ten books written in parallel is the tetractys.

Willis’ synthesis of sacred geometry, alchemy, mythology, hermetic symbolism, tarot, I Ching, and Rowling’s parallel writing is, frankly, the most exciting and boundary-stretching bit of Rowling analysis in many years. I wrote a post in response (and in admiration) to explain the tradition of numerological symbolism in the English Greats, to note that Running Grave will reveal whether Willis has hit a grand slam or struck out in his swing for the fences (his structure-based predictions are that specific), and to share an alternative ten point symbol that may be used in Strike 7 as an echo of the “triangular eye,” the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. Is Tetractys Theory the Best Explanation of Why the Cormoran Strike Series is Ten Books in Length?

Please join us over at the HogwartsProfessor Substack site for extraordinary posts like these!

Trip to Swansea University in Wales

In two hours, I depart from Oklahoma City for Dallas and then London. God willing, I will wind up Wednesday in Wales for the graduation ceremonies at Swansea University. I have been given a pair of Guest Tickets, one of which will be used by my host, Nick Jeffrey, and the other is available for you to claim. Drop me a note in the comment boxes below if you’re interested and will be in the area!

I am being interviewed by the University’s alumni office for a write-up in their magazine; I hope the story angle will be about my scholarship rather than than my age, which is of course well above the average new PhD’s, my Walter Mitty existence as a Potter Pundit, or (egad) Rowling’s controversial, not to say “radioactive,” status. I promise to provide a link to the story should it ever be published online.

I remain hopeful that my thesis will be published one day as well. Until then, I’ll share tomorrow over at the Substack site a keynote talk I gave at St Andrews University on my first trip to the UK more than ten years ago now. Be sure to subscribe — it’s free — so that will come directly to your inbox! The World Turned Inside-Out and Right-Side Up: Harry Potter has More to Teach Us about Literary Criticism than Literary Criticism does about Harry Potter.


Rowling-Galbraith Commits to Ten Book Series, NOT Seven, for Cormoran Strike

Yesterday in the announcement of The Running Grave’s publication date at, readers were given two statements in hard print that the series will be not seven books long, not an indefinite number, but ten in length. First:

THE RUNNING GRAVE will be the seventh title in a planned series of ten, the first six of which have all been Sunday Times and international bestsellers. The Strike series has been praised as ‘the work of a master storyteller’ [Daily Telegraph], ‘unputdownable’ [Daily Express] and ‘a blistering piece of crime writing’ [Sunday Times]; with Strike and Robin dubbed ‘one of crime’s most engaging duos’ [Guardian].

Then, much later in the piece:

‘It’s been brilliant to see the enormous success of the Robert Galbraith books over the past ten years and an honour to publish them. With over 11 million copies sold in the English language to date, the story of Strike and Robin has captured readers’ imaginations and, like so many others, I can’t wait to see what happens to them over the course of the final four books in the series.’ David Shelley, Group Chief Executive, Hachette UK.

After that announcement went global, Rowling sounded much more tentative about the ten book endpoint in a tweet to a reader who asked if Strike’s series would end as Harry’s did at the seven book mark:

Three Quick Notes: [Read more…]