The Significance of Knitting in the Harry Potter Series

John’s recent post on the Silver Doe reminded me that I haven’t shared my Chestnut Hill College Harry Potter Academic Conference talk here yet. It includes an element that I don’t think John has ever mentioned before: the fact that the scene includes Harry first putting on, then taking off, then putting on again “all the sweaters he owned.” Unless Harry decided to make room for some of Dudley’s cast-offs in his original, not-magically-extended rucksack, we have to conclude that most, if not all of the sweaters he owned at that time were hand-knit by Molly Weasley.  You can hear more about that, and the other knitters in the series, in the video below. Enjoy!!

Who’s Getting Through All the Annabel’s?

I do almost all of my reading for pleasure by audiobook these days, to make use of my 60 minute commute every workday. As such, I think I have heard the Cormoran Strike series more often than I’ve read then.

In general, I’m a fan of audiobooks. After all, as story-tellers, humans have been telling and listening to stories much longer than they’ve read them. And when you have a narrator as good as Robert Glennister, who can show us Yanks a bit about what the regional accents in the U.K. sound like, it makes for a great production.

But there is an occasional glitch. On my last listen through The Cuckoo’s Calling, I got a surprise from this passage, which I have reproduced below, with the original spacing.

The telephone rang. Robin picked up the receiver. To Strike’s surprise, she immediately affected a very stilted Australian accent.

“Oy’m sorry, shiz not here…Naoh…Naoh…I dunnaoh where sheiz…Naoh…My nem’s Annabel…”

Strike laughed quietly. Robin threw him a look of mock anguish. After nearly a minute of strangled Australian, she hung up.

“Temporary Solutions,” she said.

“I’m getting through a lot of Annabels. That one sounded more South African than Australian.”

“Now I want to hear what happened to you yesterday,” said Robin, unable to conceal her impatience any longer. “Did you meet Bryony Radford and Ciara Porter?”

Strike told her everything that had happened, omitting only the aftermath of his excursion to Evan Duffield’s flat.

I had always assumed, reading the text, that the line in bold above was said by Strike. This is one of the first times we see him explicitly teasing her, for her rather lame efforts to impersonate a fictional temp every time her former agency calls. Apparently, she does not do international accents well. 

But, Glennister reads this line in Robin’s voice, making it sound like Robin is the one doing a little self-deprecating humor. A minor difference, to be sure, but as we see the relationship between Strike and Robin grow closer, the teasing is a sign of a increasing comfort and familiarity. Strike intends to convey that, given Robin’s inability to do consistent or believable accents, Temporary Solutions was going to conclude he was “getting through” multiple secretaries weekly, all of different nationalities, and all (what a coincidence!) named Annabel.

To my surprise, most of the people in the read-along group seemed to agree with Glennister that it was Robin’s line, and therefore that she was the one “getting through” a variety of Annabel personas. But, to me, not only is it funnier as Strike’s line, but the line break after “‘Temporary Solutions,’ she said.” indicates that the speaker has changed. If Robin had continued to speak, there should be no line break, just like there is none between “longer.” and “‘Did…'”.

So, am I crazy to think this was a narrator’s error here?

Oh, well. At least he wasn’t calling her “Isla.”

Hogwarts Tournament of Houses Nominated for Producer’s Guild Award: But was it in the right category?

The nominees for the Producer’s Guild Award for Best Children’s Programming were announced last Tuesday, and included a Hogpro favorite, the Harry Potter Hogwarts Tournament of Houses. Other nominees included Animaniacs, The Muppets Haunted Mansion, See Us Coming Together: a Sesame Street Special, and Waffles & Mochi.

It is interesting to me that the show was included in the Children’s Programming category. Yes, it was a child-friendly series*, shown on the Cartoon Network along with HBO, but all save one of the contestants were adults. Arguably, the highest level of star power was generated by the distinguished host, Dame Helen Mirren, and Hogpro’s own David Martin, both of whom are septuagenarians. While we know the program was a major hit in the ratings, I am willing to bet the average audience member was well in their 30’s. I am even more certain that was true of the studio audience. This brings up the oft-debated question: are the Harry Potter books best considered children’s books, or something else entirely?

Of course, the quiz show was more about the movies anyway. But regardless, this nomination is evidence of the continuing all-ages appeal of the Wizarding World. We’ll find out March 15th who won. Personally, I think the inclusion message of the Sesame Street special gives them an edge, but you never know.

* As a studio audience member, I don’t mind telling you that there was a bit of snickering and banter when a male contestant requested to play the “Engorgio” game that was judiciously edited out, presumably for the sake of the Cartoon Network audience

Will The Ink Black Heart Reveal the Circumstances of Strike’s Medal?

Troubled Blood cleared up one oft-mentioned part of Strike’s history: the two times he had met his biological father. We can hope that, as the series progresses with the eagerly anticipated The Ink Black Heart, to hear more about Strike’s history.  One possibility, mentioned by Joanne Gray way back in April, before we even knew the title, was that we might finally learn the circumstances under which Strike was decorated for bravery.

The medal was mentioned in all three of the first Strike books, but relatively little is known about it, including its current location. We have never seen or heard of the medal being in Strike’s attic flat or the boxes of items Strike brought from Charlotte’s, which makes me think it is on display in either Lucy’s or Ted’s home. I know I won’t have trusted Charlotte not to destroy it, given her hatred of his Army career. And we know that it is a source of tremendous pride for his family. Jack drew a picture of Uncle Cormoran getting his medal on his homemade birthday card for Strike in The Silkworm.

Many people, Robin among them, who met Cormoran Strike after his Army career assume the medal was awarded for his heroism in the IED explosion that cost Strike his leg. That certainly seems to be Carver’s impression in The Cuckoo’s Calling.

“He’s ex-SIB,” threw in Wardle, from beside the filing cabinet.

“I know that,” barked Carver, raising wiry eyebrows flecked with scurf. “I’ve heard from Anstis all about the fucking leg and the life-saving medal. Quite the colorful CV.”

Strike doesn’t bother correcting him. It is not until Career of Evil that we learn the medal was awarded for something entirely different, during his conversation with Robin about the significance of his missing leg.

“There’s nothing heroic about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“You’re a decorated veteran.”

“I wasn’t decorated for being blown up. That happened before.”

“You’ve never told me that.” She turned to face him, but he refused to be sidetracked.

So, we know the medal was for bravery, and, if Carver is to be believed, (not a given), for saving someone’s life, and well before he dragged Anstis to the back of the vehicle in the IED explosion. However,  Strike seems to actively avoid talking about the circumstances under which he earned it. So, what could the circumstances be?

We’ve heard mentions of Strike traveling all over the world during his Army career: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Bosnia, Nairobi, Cyprus, Germany. One of the more interesting mentions is from Bosnia, where a faulty cell phone data dump triggered a series of mishaps that almost got a good friend killed in Mostar.  Could the heroics of this mission have been the reason for the medal, as well as leaving Strike with an ongoing mistrust of electronic mapping devices?

We also know that Strike has a particularly hair-trigger temper regarding any mention of child sexual abuse: hence the punching of Brockbank and the drunken dinner party argument. Not that this is an unreasonable response to such a crime, but it is at odds with his “you can’t save everyone— there are kids being abused all over” attitude of Career of Evil. Could the event have involved busting a child porn or sex trafficking ring? We know he worked on a case like that in Kosovo– which is not far from Bosnia.

Additionally, we know he has another godson out there besides Timothy Cormoran Anstis. Could this child be the son of a different colleague that he saved, or worse, failed to save? Or a child trafficking victim he rescued?

Finally , when was the medal awarded?  Strike was in the army about 15 years, from shortly after Leda’s death in late 1994 until the IED explosion in May-September 2007, and then for about 18 months more, while he was hospitalized and recovering. I have speculated that it was awarded in his mid-20’s, that Nick and Ilsa were invited to the ceremony, and reunited there, each dumping their current partners and marrying a year later.

Surely, even if they did not attend the ceremony, Nick and Ilsa know the circumstances of the medal. It is curious that they have not yet told Robin, and that she has not asked. I guess she’s still too fixated on Charlotte. Dave Polworth presumably knows, and likely Hardacre and Anstis, along with Strike’s blood relatives. Will one of them spill the beans to Robin?

Here’s hoping for answers in The Ink Black Heart.

Evanna Lynch Denies “Rift” Between JK Rowling and Harry Potter Cast

Evanna Lynch, the actress J.K. Rowling said “was Luna Lovegood” spoke about the Harry Potter Reunion special, and rejected the idea that there was any major “rift” between the author and the actors that became stars in her work. She does, however, speak of “difficult conversations” between the cast and the author and expresses hope for “healing.”  I encourage readers to view her full statement. 

As someone who considers many of JKR’s tweets to be both misguided and hurtful to the transgender community, but who nonetheless appreciates the brilliance of her writing and intends to keep reading it, I find Ms. Lynch’s approach refreshing and comforting. It is not clear who the “us” is that she doesn’t want to “keep fighting”– her fellow cast members and JKR or JKR and the wider Twitter community, but she is clearly, as the anchor puts it, a peacemaker, who states that she, and her castmates have “great love and respect” for Ms. Rowling, despite disagreement with her views. 

Ms. Lynch is a woman of strong opinions herself, as a vegan and an animal activist. She has been open about how both correspondence with her favorite author and the Harry Potter books helped her recover from a serious eating disorder. I am happy to hear that she, at least, does not believe Ms. Rowling’s limited involvement with the reunion special is the result of any type of “cold shoulder.” If, as Ms. Lynch suggests, JKR is “busy writing books,” maybe we’ll have The Ink Black Heart in hand that much sooner.