‘The Ickabog’ Structure: Three Notes

If you are like me, the better part of your day during the work week is stopping by TheIckabog.com to read the daily chapter of J. K. Rowling’s “political fairy tale.” Rowling’s twitter feed suggests a large proportion of the children in the world today are reading the story, too, and drawing Cornucopia maps and pictures of the various characters in their excitement about Bert and Daisy’s adventures (and hopes of winning a prize).

Katy McDaniel, host of MuggleNet’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast invited me to join her this Tuesday morning along with special guests John Patrick Pazdziora and Lana Whited, experts not only on the Hogwarts Saga but also fairy tales and children’s literature, to talk ‘Ickabog.’ I have been scratching my head about what I will have to say in this company that isn’t obvious — “‘Beamish’! Oh, my! The boy who kills the Jabberwock! ‘My beamish boy’!” — or dull — “Note, please, the reference to Death of a Salesman in the chapter title ‘Death of a Seamstress’ and doesn’t ‘A Flaw in the Plan’ sound familiar somehow?”

I’ve decided to go all in on structure. For one thing, it’s unlikely the charting work has been done by somebody else already because story scaffolding and sequencing, not to say ‘chiasmus,’ isn’t something taught in most schools. And the slow drip of chapters method in which this story is being told doesn’t encourage an ‘overview’ perspective that pattern discovery requires. And it’s a story very much in progress, right? It’s hard to do more than guess the structure of a work when you don’t have the beginning and end latch to play with.

I’m going to begin with two reasonable guesses, namely, that Rowling will not tell this story in a way that is radically different than the way she has told all her other stories and that this means the story structure will have been carefully planned and will have features of what Mary Douglas called ‘ring composition.’ I’m not going to disregard, in other words, everything we’ve learned about how a Rowling story works structurally from the Hogwarts septology, the Casual Vacancy seven part novel, and the four Cormoran Strike novels in what seems to be despite Galbraith’s denials a seven book series.

Here, then, are my three introductory notes from the top of my head — and from too many hours charting the fifty chapters online at this writing. Let’s talk after the jump about the seven week structure, what it tells us about the story turn and likely ending, and the color coding of the chapters. [Read more…]

Rowling Blows Up Twitter Once Again; She Doubles Down on Sex and Gender

Read all about it here: J.K. Rowling slammed for defending concept of biological sex: ‘It isn’t hate to speak the truth.’

The short version: Rowling in a series of tweets has repeated and doubled-down on her #IStandWithMaya position from last December that it is not bigotry or hate-speech to insist that transgender women are not biological women.

The twitter-verse predictably has exploded with calls for her beheading mixed in with celebrations of her courage in speaking the truth.

I have three thoughts about what this means that I offer here in haste for your comment and correction:

(1) Another Rowling Vacation from Twitter? After the explosion in December about her insufficient woke-ness, Rowling disappeared for several months. She re-surfaced during the Covid-19 lockdown, it seems in retrospect in order to do what she could in the cause of “saving the NHS.” Her posts took the turn of hyper-political scolding with the Dominic Cummings controversy so perhaps it should be no surprise that the issue of transgender rights has resurfaced as well. Maybe this second doxxing and deep-dipping in the mercurial baths of social media will remind her why she left Twitter in the first place and why she should resume her silence.

(2) The End of the Goodwill Campaign? Rowling re-entered the social media world with a bang; she gave a million pounds sterling to two Covid-19 charities and created a website that is posting in daily chapters her political fairy tale, The Ickabog, all for free. Children everywhere have been reading it and creating drawings to accompany the eventual printed text. Rowling’s tweets the last two weeks have almost exclusively been in admiration of drawings sent to her by proud parents and excited children. If she leaves Twitter, of course, it will mean the end of that wonderful experience for author and illustrators alike.

(3) Goodbye, Fantastic Beasts? It’s hard to imagine Rowling being kept on in any front line capacity with her Newt Scamander film series. The Super Politically Correct actors involved, the ones playing Credence Barebones (Ezra Miller) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) most obviously, however much they have revered Rowling in the past, will have a very hard time reconciling their public personae with Rowling’s statements about transgender women. Warner Brothers, frankly, might be just as pleased to have Rowling give them a novel to adapt rather than have her continue as screenwriter and executive producer.

If this situation leads to Rowling reverting to novelist and giving up the screen-writing, there will be no complaints from this corner.

What are your thoughts about what the latest twitter storm will mean for Rowling’s future as a writer? A gentle warning, in advance; I’m not interested in and will not approve any comments that discuss the transgender issue per se. Please share those opinions on the thousands of fan sites and twitter feeds devoted to that subject. 

 

 

Of Barred Owls, Poetry Projects, Postal Birds and Ickabogs: Pandemic Writing.

It’s been an eventful couple of months, to put it mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted by semester, my summer travel plans (including my work with the Global Autism Project, now postponed to 2021) and may yet lead to other major changes in my life. But, as with every crisis, there are always silver linings. One, of course, is the online publication of J.K.Rowling’s fairy tale, The Ickabog. But, she’s not the only one using writing to make the pandemic a bit easier to bear. 

My university hosts an annual Doenges Scholar, who, this year, was Poet Laureate Emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera. Sadly, the pandemic cost the students the opportunity to work with Sr. Herrera in person, but, with the help of a Spanish and an English professor, the university held an online seminar during our three-week May Term. The major creative product of the class was a community poetry project, centered around what the class called CoVIDA, or “the life that emerges out of this COVID-19 moment.” The students did not limit the project to their own writing, but solicited poetry from the wider community, asking for writing about the themes of community, celebration, conocimiento (ancestral knowledge), resilience, and healing.  

I certainly encourage you to check out the full project at the link above.  However, since my contribution had a Harry Potter connection, I thought I would share it here. 

Who Cooks for You?
That wintry morning, the call we were expecting came. A barred owl stopped at my brother’s window, to ask Who cooks for you—and remind him of our father’s laughter, long silenced, now freed, to a place we couldn’t hear. So the owl passed the message along.   My father’s stories were of Reddy Fox and William Green Hill Jenny Wren and Polynesia, the birds of wisdom. The owls’ names were their calls: Too-too and Hooty. He never knew Hedwig, but he’d have liked her, Even though Mr. Lofting wrote of postal birds first. If he sent his son an owl, his daughter would understand, Oh, Sweet Bird.   Who cooks for you—a gift, as if someone is watching. Laughter and intellect, memory and magic linger in the woods, And continue in the stories.

More about the poem, and story connections, after the jump.

[Read more…]

The Ickabog: JKR’s Political Fairy Tale

J. K. Rowling announced today — on a thirteen part Twitter thread with follow-ups and via a website devoted to the work — the publication of her long ago promised “political fairy tale” (which she once wore to a party as a dress), The Ickabog. She says it is not a “Harry Potter spin-off” but a “story about the truth and the abuse of power.”  She asserts, despite its publication being for the entertainment and edification of children affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns, that the tale “isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.” Chapters will be published on a daily basis from today to 10 July at TheIckabog.com; each will be discussed here at HogwartsProfessor.

The first two chapters, ‘King Fred the Fearless‘ and ‘The Ickabog,‘ are available today. Happy reading! Please share your thoughts on the project as well as the first chapters on the comment thread below.