Guest Post: On the Naming Fear & Jinxing in Harry Potter (Pratibha Rai)

Pratibha Rai is an Oxford University graduate and she has been a Harry Potter partisan since 2001. Her research today mostly concerns the sociology of collecting in early modern Europe. She enjoys finding parallels between Harry Potter and history of art. This time last year she shared with us what she discovered about that life-saving short-cut antidote, the Bezoar; today she shares her thoughts on ‘Naming Fear and Jinxing’ in the Hogwarts Saga. Enjoy!

Words have more power than any one can guess; it is by words that the world’s great fight, now in these civilized times, is carried on.”

When Mary Shelley penned this line in her penultimate novel ‘Lodore’ (1835), she was advocating the power of words in the context of bringing about social change. Words do not lifelessly sit on a page but are actionable and combative in “the world’s great fight”. In this martial metaphor, we can assume that words can either be a weapon or a defence – determined entirely by the speaker. This double-edged nature of words is echoed in Proverbs 18:21 from the Bible, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. Nowhere is this more literally true than in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter universe where speaking or not speaking Voldemort’s name is a matter of life and death. In this article, I shall explore J.K Rowling’s passionate interest in the power of words in battle primarily through the active Taboo cast on Voldemort’s name; a device that highlights the role that Fear has over silence and speech. [Read more…]

Troubled Blood: The Acknowledgments

Troubled Blood: The Acknowledgements’ is a HogwartsProfessor commissioned (“explicitly requested”) Guest Post. Its author, Nick Jeffery, is a longtime and frequent contributor to this website both in the post comment threads and as Go-To-Person for questions the staff here have about Rowling-Galbraith. It is a delight to welcome him to the Faculty Lounge to share his findings about all those named in the Troubled Blood Acknowledgement Page and about a few not mentioned as well. Enjoy!

I confess that one of the first things I do when faced with a new Robert Galbraith mystery is to immediately flip to the last pages. Not to spoil the mystery, or even to see how far the Robin-Cormoran relationship will develop, but to peek at the acknowledgements and its glimpse into the private world of J. K. Rowling’s still astonishing life.

Of necessity there were no acknowledgements in Cuckoo’s Calling lest the pseudonym be exposed but every book since has a page that lists her thanks in sometimes plain and sometimes intriguing language.

Join me after the jump to take a look at the acknowledgements in Troubled Blood. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Will Troubled Blood Have A Spenserian Story Scaffold?

Chris sent me this speculative post before the seven chapter preview of Troubled Blood was available on Apple Books — and it holds up rather well in light of Strike 5’s first Part. The idea that Spencer’s Faerie Queene will play an outsized role in understanding Troubled Blood, a possibility first suggested here by Nick Jeffery when the Strike 5 title was announced, was certainly confirmed by the preview in which Faerie Queene passages begin the book and each chapter!

A Spenserian Story Scaffold for Troubled Blood?

By ChrisC.

After giving it some thought, the best “working idea” I’ve got about Strike 5, Troubled Blood, has to do with its story scaffolding. My theory is best put in the form of a question. “What if Rowling were to pattern Troubled Blood, at least in part, on Book 1 from Spenser’s Faerie Queene?” There’s a lot to examine on this topic, so why not join in after the jump?

[Read more…]

Guest Post: Pictures from St Mawes

Good friend of this weblog, Lesley Stevens, just happened to be on a ‘staycation’ this week in Cornwall. She stopped by St Mawes, took some lovely photographs of The Victory and other key locations we visit in the Troubled Blood seven chapter preview released last week, and sent me this kind note. Enjoy!

Good morning, John. 

I trust all is well with you. 

Unwilling to travel abroad this year, we are currently enjoying a ‘staycation’ in Cornwall. 

After a much looked forward to visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan yesterday, we took a diversion on the way back to our holiday accommodation to visit the costal town of St Mawes for obvious reasons. 

We had hoped to lunch at the Victory Inn but unfortunately they were not serving food. I did take a photo of the outside however and also a few photos of the beach, sea wall and the ferry stop most of which are to be found on the Strike fan site on the Internet, but the beach photo I took illustrates the location of the Victory to the sea wall (look for the sign amongst the roof tops) which I thought might be of interest. 

We also drove down Hillhead Road which I understand to be the location for Aunt Joan and Uncle Ted’s cottage.

This is a one way steep twisting road which runs in the direction from the top of the hill to the sea front with vehicular access from the top of the Hill only. In the future, I can imagine it would be tricky to film in this street, however there were some pretty cottages with front gardens overlooking the sea which might with a little tv wizardry make for an easier location for Strike and Lucy’s chat.

I also picked up a local tourist guide which has maps of the town and the Roseland peninsula in which it is located and which I thought may be of interest as the plot unfolds and if locations are mentioned. 

Anyway, today here in Cornwall, the weather is as Strike remembers: 

Strike remembers how the rain is different in Cornwall, remembering how it “lashed like whips” against the windows of the spare bedroom of his Aunt and Uncles house. 

We are staying in our holiday cottage avoiding the rain and reading (thank you for the Hogwarts Professor post on the first seven chapters of Troubled Blood and the Beatrice Groves pillar post, perfect reading for today) and playing board games … much to the disappointment of our dog Trowser who can’t see the problem in going out at all ! 

Kind regards, 


Thank you, Lesley, for the kind note and for the wonderful photographs! I have reproduced here as many as the WordPress blogging software allows — and add this ‘thank you’ paragraph, both to express my gratitude and in order to include The Victory foto you mention taken from the seawall. Your being in St Mawes this week reminds me of Prof Groves’ trip to the White Horse Inn while reading Lethal White; I hope you are able to enjoy the first seven chapters of Troubled Blood while you’re in St. Mawes!

Guest Post: Ickabog Notes & Predictions

Written by David Martin on Sunday, July 5th, 2020, five days before the end of The Ickabog will be published.

A few comments about the Ickabog story so far:

When contemplating the venality and cruelty of the Cornucopian government, it may be well to remember that Rowling worked as a translator in the London office of Amnesty International for a while. She spoke of the nightmares that work gave her in her Very Good Lives address at Harvard.

Cornucopia seems to have the same level of technology as England in about 1800. The clock Bert watches while waiting for his mother to return has a minute hand. Cooking is done on stoves rather than in fireplaces. There is (or was at the start of the story) regular postal service in the kingdom. On the other hand, they are still using quills and all lighting is by candles and flaming torches. They don’t even have gas lights yet. Only Basher John has keys at the orphanage. Apparently Ma Gunther does not have duplicates. (Basher John, like Hagrid, is a “keeper of the keys.”) This suggests that metal working was not yet advanced enough to make duplicate keys common for locks.

The absence of newspapers strikes me as odd. There is also no mention of a town crier. How do people get the news?

One of JKR’s tricks is to not mention something, such as the name of Barty Crouch’s son. We are not told why Lady Eslanda is living in the castle. What is her backstory?

As in Harry Potter, the good guys read books (especially Lady Eslanda) and write letters. The bad guys seem to avoid reading and writing. Lord Spittleworth has a library, but it is dusty. Further, Lord Spittleworth seems to be in several ways at war with letters. He reads (censors) all the King’s mail and blocks the mail from outside Chouxville. Spittleworth and Flapoon rely a lot on messengers and face-to-face conversations, just as the Death Eaters did.

A lot of this story revolves around food. The towns are described in terms of what food they create. The names of the towns seem to link to food:

  • Chouxville: “Choux” is the French word for cabbage. (It is also used in the phrase “mon petit choux” as a term of endearment.)
  • Kurdsburg: Curds are the “soft, white substance formed when milk sours, used as the basis for cheese.” (Wikipedia)
  • Baronstown. I have no idea about what Baron has to do with meat. Any ideas?
  • Jeroboam. A “jeroboam” refers to either a 3-liter bottle of Champagne or Burgundy or a 4.5-liter bottle of Bordeaux. Biblically, Jeroboam was the first king of the northern Kingdom of Israel who ruled somewhere around 920 to 901 B.C. (Taken from
  • And of course, the name of the country itself – Cornucopia – suggests an abundance of food.

Ma Gunther’s orphanage is terrible in part because of the food. The children are half-starved when rescued by the Ickabog. Maybe expressing wealth and poverty as having or lacking food is just a way of making those two conditions more understandable to young children.

On the other hand, the name of the river – Fluma – is very close to the Portuguese word “fleuma” which means phlegm. Recalling chapter five of Prince, this would not be the first time Rowling has played with that word.

Thinking about possible fictional antecedents for the Ickabog’s situation of guarding its many offspring, two creatures come to mind:

Now some rash predictions or guesses about how the story will end:

  1. There will be a final battle in which Captain Goodfellow slays Lord Spittleworth.
  2. Lord Flapoon will not be killed. He, the Dark Footers, and Ma Gunther will be sent to the dungeons where they will have to live on cabbage soup.
  3. The money stolen by Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon will be recovered and used to rebuild the country.
  4. King Fred will be dethroned.
  5. Lady Eslanda will discover something important in the library – something old. Her discovery may show that King Fred is not the rightful king and/or that Cornucopia should have a different relationship with the Ickabog. Perhaps there was an ancient treaty?
  6. Several couples will live happily ever after:
  • Lady Eslanda and Captain Goodfellow.
  • Bertha Beamish and Dan Dovetail.
  • Daisy Dovetail and Bert Beamish.
  • Martha (whose last name we’ve never been told) and Roderick Roach. (Maybe)
  1. The Ickabog will be given the right to live in peace in the Marshlands, to collect or cultivate mushrooms.

I look forward to seeing in just a few days how Rowling will, in all likelihood, surprise all of us again with an unforeseen revelation at the end of the story.

  • David Martin of Hufflepuff

Please Share Your Predictions for the Coming Week in the Comment Boxes!