“For the Straightforward Path Was Lost”: A Few Starting Notes on The Christmas Pig

To get discussion started on The Christmas Pig, I thought I would post some thoughts, aligned with a few of our keys to interpretation, that I was left with after my first read through. Or, rather, first listen through. The audiobook proved really quite wonderful, with excellent cast and sound design. On any of these points below, consequently, much more can be said. These points are also not in any particular order as they are something of a collection of first impressions. The discussion below will not be spoiler free.
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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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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…]

Troubled Blood Day Of Publication! HogwartsProfessor Posts for Week One!

At last, 15 September has arrived! We should all have our copies of Troubled Blood in hand today or tonight for our first hurried reading of the 944 page delight that it will surely prove to be. I couldn’t be happier or more excited about the discussion to come here in the following weeks!

We have a plan for the very first week of HogwartsProfessor conversation that I hope will make your reading experience and appreciation of Rowling-Galbraith’s artistry and meaning that much richer. Every one of the HogwartsProfessor faculty is signed on for specific tasks specific to their skill set and our concerns here.

I will, for example, be charting each of the novel’s seven parts and sharing my thoughts day by day this first week. Today I will only have to offer a link to the thoughts about Part One that I posted last week; tomorrow I will put up thoughts about Part Two, Thursday, Three, Friday Four, Saturday Five, Sunday Six, and on Monday Part Seven. As time allows, I will try to untie clues as I go along to see if a relatively slow careful reading in keeping with Rowling-Galbraith’s characteristic narrative delayed release and misdirection allows the reader to figure out the hidden story before or as soon as Strike does. I’ll definitely post my predictions about the mystery’s resolution after charting Part Four on Friday; in the first four books, the villain has been revealed in the story center. Wish me luck — and, please, do not email me spoilers until next Monday night. Thank you in advance for that!

Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, author of Milton, Spenser, and the Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C. S. Lewis Novels, will be continuing as a series her first post about the Spenser epigraphs that head each Part and chapter of Troubled Blood, a series in parallel with my Part-by-Part, day-by-day reading. Is Robin a second Britomart? Deputy Headmistress Baird-Hardy, Spenser scholar in residence, will give us a running record of the most in-your-face of Rowling’s literary allusions.

Louise Freeman has taken on the yeoman task of putting up and monitoring four different posts on the comment threads of which we hope readers will share the links and echoes they discover between Troubled Blood and previous works of Rowling-Galbraith. It is a public hypothesis and treasured theory of HogwartsProfessor that the author is writing a series that is not only a seven part turtle-back ring composition itself but one in parallel with the Harry Potter equivalent numbers (see ‘Three Things Every Harry Potter fan should know about Cormoran Strike‘ for more on that). The four posts will be on Troubled Blood and (1) Career of Evil, (2) the other Strike novels but especially Cuckoo’s Calling, (3) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and (4) the other Harry Potter novels but especially Philosopher’s Stone. You are all invited, begged really, to share the links you find on these four threads as you read Troubled Blood and then as you re-read it.

Professor Freeman, too, as our resident psychology professor, licensed behavior analyst, and expert on the psychological qualities and content of imaginative literature, will be writing a review of the reviews of the book with respect to the inevitable controversy about Rowling’s depiction of any character outside heteronormative boundaries. I confess I’m really looking forward to reading that next week when I’ve finished the book and my seven Part-by-Part posts! No one gets the writer or this issue more profoundly than Louise Freeman, and, though I suspect I’ll disagree with her (that’s just the nature of our relationship!), I know she will disabuse me of several delusions I have on the subject and I will learn quite a bit along the way.

Evan Willis has written the most challenging ideas about Rowling-Galbraith’s hermetic understanding and use of mythology. See his ‘The Mythic Context and Hermetic Meaning of Cormoran Strike‘ for an introduction to that perspective on Rowling’s work. He returns to share his thoughts about Troubled Blood and whether Strike 5 upsets or confirms his take on Rokeby, for example, as the principal Hermes figure in the series.

You are invited to join me and Professor Baird-Hardy in our One-Part-per-Day reading and reflection if you think you can hold off on the straight-through reading binge. The more the merrier! Thank you, though, in advance. if you wish to join us, for not posting about Parts we have not yet read or posted on. Spoilers rather ruin the test of whether Rowling-Galbraith’s internal structure and external story-echoes are sufficient to solve the mystery alongside Strike and Ellacott.

That’s a lot, I know, but we’ve waited a long time for today! Here are the first entries in the series that Elizabeth Baird-Hardy and I will be writing and links to the four Parallel Discovery Posts by Louise Freeman — Enjoy!

Day One, Part One: Charting the First Seven Chapters of Troubled Blood

Day One, Part One: The Spenserian Epigraphs of the Pre-Released Troubled Blood Chapters

Parallels Between Troubled Blood and Career of Evil

Parallels Between Troubled Blood and Other Strike Novels, Especially Cuckoo’s Calling

Parallels Between Troubled Blood and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Parallels Between Troubled Blood and Other Potter Novels, Especially Philosopher’s Stone

New Tarot Themed Twitter Header

J. K. Rowling has gone silent on her Twitter feed for almost a year now, the few tweets and re-tweets that have been posted are Rowling, Inc., promotions and show little of her signature panache. She has, however, changed the Twitter header more than once, most recently on 23 November, Cormoran Strike’s birthday. The new header is three cards from the Thoth Tarot Deck; Lindsay at Pools of Venetian Blue, a very Serious Striker, alerted me to the change and was the first to post about the cards and her interpretation remains the best I have read: check it out here.

I have asked Evan Willis to share his thoughts, and, end of term responsibilities allowing or concluding, he will write up and post about this most esoteric of subjects here soon. Does it mean as Lindsay suggests that Cormoran is over Charlotte? Or something deadlier?