Flips, Pentagrams and Expanded Playlists: Why did the tone we expected in Book 5 wind up in Book 6?

We have a lot of hypotheses about why we got such a nigredo-laden book in Strike 6.  They are:

  • 5-6 flip: which supposes that Troubled Blood was originally planned as Book 6, and The Ink Black Heart as Book 5.
  • The Pentagram model: which has the first five books completing the alchemical cycle and the start of a new one in Book 6.
  • The Extended Playlist model: Proposed recently by Kathleen, it suggests Galbraith is splitting the last 2, or possibly 3,  books of the 7-part series into two parts. Under this model, The Ink Black Heart would be either part 6a or 5b.

I’m going to outline some of the evidence I see for 5-6 Flip based on one audiobook listen of IBH. As a refresher, recall that this model predicts 1) Career of Evil parallels, instead of or alongside parallels to The Silkworm 2) Order of the Phoenix parallels, instead or alongside those to Half-Blood Prince and 3) nigredo elements, instead or alongside albedo. Interestingly, though, one of the strongest pieces of evidence is none of these, but rather timeline- and calendar-based.

One thing has always puzzled me.  Lethal White ended in mid-September 2012.  Troubled Blood began in August 2013, almost a full year later. This was the second year-long time jump in the series. There were two good reasons for the year-long jump in the middle of LW:  1) Book 4 absolutely had to be set in the 2012 Olympics and 2) no one wanted to read about a full year of Robin trying to make herself love the Flobberworm, develop panic attacks and feel emotionally distant from Strike.

But why jump a full year between LW and TB? It would have been awesome to see Robin’s early days with Max (and Wolfgang! Sniff!), the curry nights with Nick and Ilsa, Robin’s friendship with them developing (and the dirt they dished on Charlotte), the start of the match-making attempts and the series of incompetent temps that culminated in the the decision to hire Pat. OK, we’d have to see the Flobberworm be a jerk for a year, but the rest would be worth that. Instead, that is all explained after the fact. Obviously, the historical floods of 2014 were important to the story, but as has been stated multiple times, you expect lots of rain in albedo, not nigredo books. Why not tell the nigredo story in that missing year and save the floods for albedo?
That may well have been the original plan. The Ink Black Heart started in October (2014) and finished in June (2015).  Roll the dates back 2 years (Oct 2012-June 2013) and you have a story that fits quite neatly into that missing year.  This, I think, is good evidence that the IBH story was originally meant to be told in that time period.
Second, I can definitely see the Ink Black Heart cartoon as a “text-within-a-text” as stated in Beatrice Grove’s excellent prediction post. But, to me, it doesn’t fit as well as Talbot’s True Book as an analog to either Bombyx Mori, or the Prince’s doctored text. First, those were all actual books. Second, our heroes didn’t wind up actually reading scripts or viewing the cartoon in search of clues to the killer; they instead had to search Twitter and chat rooms for what the fans were saying about the show. That gave it a very different feel to me, and had them examining many different people’s words and the social interactions embedded within the conversations, not the solo narrative of the text. The only person to seriously watch the cartoon was Robin, when she was studying for her moderator’s test, and she didn’t even get to take that.
So, if The Ink Black Heart fits into that missing year, and the main mystery element is a less satisfactory match to the books of The Silkworm and the Half-Blood Prince, are there the decaying skeletons of Career, Order and nigredo buried in the text?  More after the jump! [Read more…]

Beatrice Groves: Ink Black Corvids: Magpies, Alchemy and Ink Black Heart

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a Hogwarts Professor Guest Post: Ink Black Corvids: Magpies, alchemy and Ink Black Heart. Join me after the jump for Prof. Groves’ delve into all things crow and Cormoran. This is the second of three posts by Beatrice in the run up to publication day. [Read more…]

Podcast on ‘The Alchemical Harry Potter’

From the podcast blurb on AudioBoom:

Emily and Katy talk with Dr. Anne Mamary (Monmouth College) about her anthology The Alchemical Harry Potter: Essays on Transfiguration in J.K. Rowling’s Novels (McFarland 2021). We talk about the power of the Potter books and films, and how they not only express alchemical themes but also work a kind of alchemical magic on readers and viewers.

Anne explains that alchemy is a way to transform not only metals but also the alchemist and our entire worldview. Although we could look at nature from a modernist perspective, requiring the neutrality of the experimenter and presuming a mechanical model of the universe, alchemy requires being open to the enchantment within nature and our deep connection to it. Not all historical alchemists were Christian, but often a notion of religious or metaphysical transformation emerges through alchemical explorations of nature. Anne explains that alchemy posits that the heavenly exists within the earthly, that the sacred can be found everywhere, and we live in an enchanted world that is not just a world of machines. She sees this approach pervading the Hogwarts curriculum and the Harry Potter novels as a whole.

Pentagram Predictions III: Troubled Blood as Alchemical Twin to Deathly Hallows

This is the last, at least for now, of my Pentagram Predictions Posts.  As I stated in the introduction to this series, this model has a serious weakness; a 5-part structure messes up the Parallel Series theory: the idea that the Cormoran Strike books are written in parallel to the 7-part Harry Potter series. My tentative solution is to propose that JKR/RG wrote Troubled Blood not just as a counterpart to Order of the Phoenix, but as a combined counterpart to the last three Potter books. In that case, we should be able to see not only echoes to Order of the Phoenix, but to Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows.

Fortunately for me, two-thirds of this post has already been covered. Hogpro regulars were expecting OotP links, and started compiling a list in a Placeholder Post as soon as Troubled Blood was published. Then, I was struck by the number of parallels for Half-Blood Prince that seemed to be in Troubled Blood, starting with the common “Blood” in the title. This is part of what let me to speculate that TB might have been originally planned as the 6th book in the series. You can find the rationale behind that idea, and the list of Half-blood Prince connections here. 

I’m not going to try to recap every OotP and HBP connection to TB here, but refer readers to the earlier posts.  (Read the comments, too, as some of the best ideas came from our readers!) I also want to stress that Troubled Blood is not the three Potter novels in sequence; there is no moment when TB ceases to echo OotP and starts being more like HBP. Rather, we see themes and echos of all three books woven throughout the text.  Lethal White had a specific storyline connection to Goblet of Fire; “Unpleasant government minister in charge of pulling off a successful major sports event is murdered by the son that he got out of jail early” could be a Cliff Notes plot summary for both books. For Troubled Blood, I see more isolated thematic and character echoes. For example:

  • Anna’s leading = Trelawny’s prophecy:  Both OotP and TB were set into motion when a medium went into a trance and made a prediction to a skeptical listener.
  • Talbot’s “True Book” = The Prince’s Potions text: Both are old volumes, covered with handwritten notes suggesting atypically approaches to problem-solving. Harry and friends spend most of the book wondering who the Prince was; Robin and Strike have to figure out what Talbot was actually thinking, and who the mysterious “Schmidt” was.
  • Witness interviews = Pensieve memories. In both HBP and TB, the protagonists are depending on decades-old memories to answer the current questions, and review a series of them over the novel.  Hence the long, narrative monologues by characters like Gloria Conti and the Bayliss sisters, rather than the typical Q and A of an interview.
  • Charlotte’s texts = Harry’s mental link to Voldy: Unwanted communications in both TB and OotP let our hero know what their nemesis is thinking. At one point, the connection alerts the hero that someone is near death, and he saves their life. The connection is cut at the end.
  • Steve Douthwaite = Horace Slughorn: the cowardly figure who tried to rewrite his past to hide a guilty secret and had to be strong-armed into revealing it.
  • Disaster at Madame Puddifoots = Dinner Party from Hell:  Valentine’s Day just never quite works out right, does it?

Interestingly, some characters do double-duty, pointing us to both OotP and HBP.  For example:

  • Saul Morris = Delores Umbridge and Cormac McLaggen.  I think JKR was misdirecting us a bit by introducing a grouchy older lady as the new agency secretary; my knee-jerk reaction was “aha—  Umbridge counterpart.” But Delores, our least-favorite toad-faced DADA teacher turned out to have her homolog in the handsome new sub-contractor Morris; notice how the names rhyme? Saul Morris arrives at the agency with a similar level of arrogance that Umbridge brought to Hogwarts: undercutting Robin’s authority in the same way Umbridge undercut Dumbledore’s, while sucking up to Strike in the same way Delores did to Fudge. Just as Harry would not tell Dumbledore about Umbridge’s hand-cutting quill because DD was away a lot, concerned with more important matters, Robin did not tell Strike about Morris’s inappropriate texts, because she did not want to add to his worries in St. Mawes. Just like Umbridge was foolish enough to insult the centaurs, Morris was foolish enough to “joke” with the woman who fought off the Shacklewell Ripper by grabbing her from behind. Both found themselves physically trounced, then run out of the “castle”–and not a soul was sorry. Morris also reminds us, more directly, of the vain and womanizing Cormac McLaggen of HBP; even playing a similar role as the target of a little fake holiday “dating” our brainy heroine does to save face after being dumped, and which prompts some jealousy in her actual love interest.
  • Joan Nancarrow = Sirius Black and Dumbledore. Joan, like Sirius, was a surrogate parent to Strike, and he certainly felt guilt, not for causing her death but for not being as attentive to and appreciative of her as he should have been. As Dumbledore was weakened by Voldemort’s potion, Joan was weakened by chemotherapy. Like Dumbledore, Joan had an elaborate funeral, a non-traditional burial and a beautiful white container for her earthly remains.

But what of Deathly Hallows? Can we find echoes of that book in Troubled Blood? Find out after the jump.

[Read more…]

The Pentagram Idea: What if Cormoran Strike was Originally Intended as a Five-Book Series?

Several days ago I floated a new idea on this side:  5-6 Flip, the possibility that Troubled Blood was originally intended as the sixth book in the series, which would explain why, in addition to the expected connections to Career of Evil and Order of the Phoenix, we also see a lot of parallels with The Silkworm and Half-blood Prince. This is illustrated most clearly if Bill Talbot’s old notebook is considered the analog to both the Bombyx Mori manuscript and the Prince’s doctored potions text.

John’s post on Sunday about the asterisk model of ring composition (which, I will freely admit, I’ve always had a hard time getting my head around; hence my tendency to search for turtle-back structures) made me think of something different. At the time the Cormoran Strike series would have been first conceptualized, and the plan to publish under a pseudonym hatched, JKR’s other major project would have been the Fantastic Beast screenplays. That franchise was initially announced as a film trilogy, but quickly grew to a five-parter (though disappointing proceeds may yet knock it back to three). We have no idea how long JKR intended to stay incognito, or how the series would have sold if the Robert Galbraith disguise had lasted longer, but there was no guarantee the book series was going to endure for seven volumes. What if, instead of a planned seven-novel arc, JKR originally planned for a 5-parter, like Fantastic Beasts?  Connecting the dots for a 5-part cycle gives neither a turtle-back or an asterisk, but a pentagram.  You know, exactly what was scribbled all over Bill Talbot’s police notes in Troubled Blood. 

Aha!  Another model that generates testable predictions!  Let’s see what some of the predictions, and pitfalls, of this model are, after the jump. [Read more…]