Farewell to our Beloved Keeper of The Keys–Robbie Coltrane

As book people, we here at Hogwarts Professor sometimes find ourselves at odds with the movie people when texts are adapted for the screenRobbie Coltrane, Hagrid in Harry Potter, Dead at 72. Casting is a frequent bone of contention, as we sometimes disagree with the way a film company plans to depict a character (although, unlike Anomie, we are strictly non-violent and limit our dissatisfaction to snarky comments). Yet, there are other times when a character is so perfectly cast as to align exactly with the image many of us had in our heads when reading the book. While good makeup and costuming can certainly transform an actor into a fitting vision of the character on the page, there is more to becoming a perfectly cast actor. Sometimes, something truly beautiful happens, and an actor truly embodies the literary character in a way that is nothing short of magical. Robbie Coltrane, who passed away October 14, was just such a brilliant fit. While he had an impressive career and garnered many awards, he is most widely known and beloved as Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter film adaptations, and he will be sorely missed. [Read more…]

Ink Black Heart: Tell Tale Heart

Hearts are everywhere in Strike6. As mentioned yesterday, the epigraphs before each of the book’s seven parts is about the heart organ, passages from Gray’s Anatomy. The hero of the cartoon ‘Ink Black Heart’ is Harty, a black-hearted character that is not good, even evil, but working on his issues. The opening epigraph of the book and many if not most of the 107 chapter epigraphs from Victorian Era women poets mention the heart as spiritual faculty. Inside the story-line we learn that cartoon Harty is combatting the mind and the will, which is straight up psychomachia. If that weren’t enough, one character is hospitalized with a heart attack and Strike himself has all the symptoms of someone with an incipient ‘coronary event.’

I predicted this idea of the heart would be the essential Christian symbolism of the novel.

I will be astonished if Ink Black Heart does not in large part depend, then, at least with respect to its symbolism, on the Estecean and hesychast understanding of ‘heart’ as the spiritual organ and vessel within the human person. Harry Potter the character in that series was the ‘heart’ of the soul-triptych there and the literary alchemy was about the enlightenment or illumination of his leaden heart, the sacrificial love of his mother being key to the boy’s victory over the Dark Lord, the shadow who worked to achieve immortality by a psychopathic disregard of others.

This is the heart and soul of English High Fantasy and much of the other literature post Coleridge, a teaching that Lewis has from Barfield as well as the Bard of Ottery St Mary, that Tolkien had through Newman and the fathers at the Birmingham Oratory, and that Nabokov has from Dodgson-Carroll, the Cambridge Platonists, and his training in iconography. Nabokov like Rowling was no churchman but, as with her other influences, his work and hers delivers a powerful spiritual message that is simultaneously and more importantly an imaginative experience of transformation all but essential to overcoming the obstacles to spiritual life today.

Look for the enlightened heart as well as the ink black ones in the albedo of Strike 6, the alchemical stage in which the transformation revealed in the rubedo crisis actually takes place.

I look forward to reading your thoughts about the heart, literal and metaphorical, in Ink Black Heart.

Rowling Reads Ink Black Heart Chapter

Ink Black Heart: Jung or Shakespeare?

Rowling describes herself as an “intensely spiritual person,” her core belief is in an “eternal soul,” and her obsession is with “mortality and morality.” Psychomachia, the soul’s preparation for death and eternal life in the spirit, consequently, is what she writes. Look for it in Ink Black Heart.

But what kind of spiritual exteriorization do we find in Strike 6? Is it Shakespearean allegory, the dynamic of a man and woman, each soul being spirit to the other, or a Jungian anima-animus integration for psychic unity and integrity?

In Cormoran Strike, unlike the Hogwarts Saga’s soul triptych, this is represented as a Shakespearean soul-spirit male-female pairing a la Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Desdemona, and Antony and Cleopatra in which each is a suffering soul to which the other is spirit. Robin, who plays the part of Psyche or ‘soul’ to Strike’s Anteros and Castor in the mythological drama (see 5 below), is the smaller bird for the most part to her partner the sea-giant Cormorant, but also is Una or spirit to his Red Crosse Knight.

Given the heavy Jungian pointers in Troubled Blood (see ‘Troubled Blood: A Jungian Reading’ for that), it will be tempting to read Ink Black Heart  as a Jungian might — and perhaps this is exactly what Rowling is hoping we do. The psychomachia can be a Jungian anima-animus allegory of archetypes and I will be reading Strike6 with one eye focused on seeing if this is where she goes.


Ink Black Heart: Alchemical Albedo

Rowling is a writer with the hermetic formula solve et coagula tattooed to her right wrist. It’s there as a reminder that her personal and professional aim is self-transformation and re-invention in her own life and to foster the same in the reader’s experience of her stories. She does this in large part through her deployment of alchemical sequences and symbolism, most notably the black-white-red stages of metallurgical alchemy. Strike’s agony in Troubled Blood was his dissolution or nigredo akin to Harry’s in Order of the Phoenix. The events of Ink Black Heart will be the ablutionary albedo or ‘white stage,’ in which he will be cleansed of delusion and prepared for the final chrysalis and revelations of the rubedo or ‘red stage.’

True or False? Has Strike 6 proven to be an alchemical brew filled with the albedo standards of “swans, albedo standards, silver, moonlight, water, rain, snow, and booze galore”? Something else hermetic — or not at all?