Christmas Pig 3: The Quadrigal Reading

This is the third post in a series about Christmas Pig as understood through the lens of sacred art as defined by the Perennialist school. All five are about Rowling’s latest book as the crystallization and condensation of the artistry and meaning of all her work to date. The first post, ‘Jack, Jones, Peter, and John,’ introduced the idea of Rowling’s writing intentionally esoteric and spiritual art, an idea explained in terms of her given name and the conflict of Peter and John throughout her oeuvre and in Christmas Pig especially. The second part of the series, ‘Dante, Sacred Art, and the Symbolism of the Tree and Its Angels,’ advanced the thesis that Rowling is best understood as a writer of extra-liturgical sacred art a la Dante, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Lewis with an exegesis of the tree and angel symbolism of Christmas Pig.

The next few posts will introduce the traditional, which is to say ‘theocentric,’ literary concepts of the Quadriga and Psychomachia, Rowling’s use of exteriorization with respect to objects and characters, and the symbolism of the Heart with the specific argument that the author of Harry Potter, Cormoran Strike, and The Christmas Pig equates a mother’s unconditional and sacrificial love as the Logos love of the God Who is Love (1 John 4:7-12). Any one of these subjects, of course, could be a book of its own so this will be a survey by necessity but a rich one I hope.

Join me after the jump for a deep dive into Rowling as a writer of soul and Spirit allegory for the edification and transformation of her readers. Today, the Quadrigal or Four Horse Chariot reading.

The Quadriga

As a segue from the second post in this series, it’s fitting to begin with how Dante, the prototype of the author as sacred artist, wanted his books and specifically The Divine Comedy to be read. He wrote his friend  Cangrande that he wanted his allegory of the soul’s journey from the Dark Forest to the Beatific Vision to be read at four levels: in brief, the surface, moral, allegorical, and anagogical. These four levels of meaning are not literary head-games divorced from reality and experience but mirror reflections both of existence and the capacities of knowledge we have as human beings.

In Convivio (The Banquet), II:1, Dante said his poetry had diverse meanings and “they may be understood, and they must be explained in four senses.” Cangrande was told in this regard, the “sense” of the Commedia “is not simple,” but “polysemantic, that is of many senses.” “The first sense is that which comes from the letter, the second is that of that which is signified by the letter. And the first is called the literal, the second allegorical or moral or anagogical” (Letter to Cangrande, paragraph 7; Marchand, trans.). Coomaraswamy said the poet here “applies to his own work the Scholastic principle of fourfold interpretation” (Coomaraswamy 2004, 104), a reading Guenon asserted whose “diverse meanings cannot in any way contradict or oppose each other, but must on the whole complete each other, harmonizing the parts within the whole as constituent elements of a unique synthesis” (Guenon 1996, 1-2).

Cangrande was no doubt familiar with the “polysemantic” or multi-layered means of reading which Dante described because it was the rule of scriptural interpretation, the so-called ‘PRDS’ or ‘Garden’ four leveled reading pervasive in the Medieval era which persisted through the Reformation and the birth of the modern, which is to say, “the death of the traditional view.”

The reason we have these four layers of literary interpretation and understanding is that traditionally scripture was read this way, beginning with Hebrew interpreters of the Old Testament in the 2nd Century, if certainly Plato’s Cave Allegory points to a very similar perspective. The acronym for these four layers in Hebrew and Aramaic was P-R-D-S (frequently ‘PaRDeS’ or “Garden” in Hebrew): P standing for pashat or ‘simple,’ R for remez meaning ‘hint,’ D for drash meaning ‘search,’ and S for sod or ‘hidden.’ ‘Quadriga’ is derived from the Latin equivalent of the Greek τέθριππος or ‘four horses,’ a “contraction of quadriiuga, from quadri- : four, and iugum : yoke.” It is a biblical hermeneutic but that is only a consequence of the tool’s derivation from the four dimensions of reality and human knowledge. 

The surface and moral levels correspond to sensible reality and the allegorical and anagogical to the intelligible realm, the greater reality seen through the sensible levels or surface story. The surface story reflects knowledge had directly from sense perception, the moral our ‘good or bad’ ‘fight or flight’ opinion, the allegorical our capacity to see the law or form beneath the surface data and perception, call it ‘logic’ or ‘science,’ and the anagogical our ability to become knowledge, gnosis, rather than having it, which is to say, wisdom or sanctity. A much longer explanation of these correspondences can be found here at HogwartsProfessor; my book, Harry Potter’s Bookshelf, was written in four parts explicitly connected to reading the Hogwarts Saga at these four levels. A chart of these relationships is helpful:


Almost all literary criticism today is restricted to the surface artistry and moral meaning. This is a function of the nominalist perspective that defines our historical period and the consequent atmosphere of skepticism of any truth or reality that is not derived or perceived as measurable quantities of matter and energy, i.e., the sensible (‘visible’ in the chart above). Hence the reflex litmus strip testing of works like Troubled Blood and Fantastic Beasts by popular and academic critics to gauge these stories’ representational conformity to the Zeitgeist puritanism with respect to diversity, inclusion, and equality. The political, to include the politically correctness that passes for morality in our materialist times, is today’s ceiling of reality, the Summum Bonum, if you will, and the acquisition of power, consequently, the goal of postmodern man; this in radical contrast with all previous civilizations, East and West, for whom the world-transcending and world-creating Absolute and our ability to commune with God were the beginning and end, the arche and telos of human life.

I believe that today’s low-ceilinged worldview that denies the spiritual realm, or, as bad, which equates that with the psychological, is in error and contrary to all human experience, especially in reading the best fiction. If there is no allegorical drama or anagogical meaning in it, a poem, play, or story is only diversion or entertaining distraction, one more confirmation of the delusion of ontological flatness that is in the air or miasma we breathe as postmoderns. Flannery O’Connor wrote along just these lines about the Quadriga and the need for anagogical depth in literature in her ‘The Nature and Aim of Fiction:’

The kind of vision the fiction writer needs to have, or to develop, in order to increase the meaning of his story is called anagogical vision, and that is the kind of vision that is able to see different levels of reality in one image or one situation. The medieval commentators on Scripture found three kinds of meaning in the literal level of the surface text: one they called allegorical, in which one fact pointed to another; one they called tropological, or moral, which had to do with what should be done; and one they called anagogical, which had to do with the Divine life and our participation in it. Although this was a method applied to biblical exegesis, it was also an attitude toward all of creation, and a way of reading nature which included most possibilities, and I think it is this enlarged view of the human scene that the fiction writer has to cultivate if he is ever going to write stories that have any chance of becoming a permanent part of our literature (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, 72-73).

Is Rowling aware of this? Though it explodes the commonplace that as an unusually accessible writer she cannot be writing anagogical texts of note, I think it self-evident that she is an intentional sacred artist in the tradition of mythic story telling from Homer and Aeschylus to Dostoevsky, Nabokov, and Lewis. Her obvious and detailed hat-tipping to Dante, the Quadrigal author par excellence, in Harry Potter and Christmas Pig, not to mention her Spenserian wizardry in Troubled Blood, her continuous use of mythological story frames that are edifying psycho-spiritual allegories, and her embedding the four-level interpretation of the Deathly Hallows symbol inside the Harry Potter finale and of Talbot’s ‘True Book’ in Strike 5 testify to her deliberate artistry to reveal and invite readers into, as O’Connor put it, “the Divine life and our participation in it.”

Dante and O’Connor after him makes a distinction between “the allegory of the theologian” and “the allegory of the poet” which switches the sequence of the two allegorical meanings before the anagogical and inserts “typological” for “moral.” I’ll be using only the “allegory of the poet” or traditional PRDS four levels of reading here rather than the Thomistic breakdown. Which goes something like this, level by level:

The Surface Story is what the book-marketing snippets tell you about it: “Christmas Pig is a Hilarious and Engaging ‘Good versus Evil’ Christmas story of a Little Boy’s Adventure in Dreamscape to Rescue and Retrieve His Beloved Toy Pig — It’s a Tale the Whole Family will Love!” I suppose, too, the summary opinion of accredited serious readers about the book’s literary antecedents and intertextual references could be described as a surface reading, too, so long as those reviews don’t touch on the deeper meanings of Collodi’s Pinnochio, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s ProgressDante’s Commedia, Carroll’s Alice books, and Dickens’ Christmas CarolA Heart Warming Coming-of-Age Story and Hero’s Journey redolent of beloved classics in children’s literature and Yuletide moralizing. If you’ve always wished for an update and re-imagining of Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, run don’t walk to the local bookstore — Covid lockdowns allowing — to purchase your copy of The Christmas Pig!”

It’s tempting to dismiss the surface story meaning and reading of it exclusive of its other layers as superficial. The judgment is correct — the reading is cosmetic by definition — but one cannot neglect the story’s initial layer because all the others are embedded in it; if the cake frosting is repugnant to the reader, he or she has no point of entry to its riches beneath, behind, and within the sugary surface. Rowling’s stories as a rule work as well as they do and appeal to audiences of all ages, creeds, and nationalities because her characters are credible, engaging, and lovable and their dilemmas demand our imaginative attention.

As Ruskin explained in Anatomy of Criticism, the mythic dimension of any story can only be delivered after enough realistic detail has been provided for the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief. The first of Christmas Pig‘s seven parts, consequently, our point of entry to joining Jack on his fantastic otherworldly journey in the Land of the Lost, is fourteen of the story’s fifty eight chapters, almost a quarter of the story, and free of any hint of magic or myth until Jack wakes up in his bedroom late on Christmas Eve. It’s done so well and at sufficient length that we are more than willing to accept the appearance of talking toys and Jack’s decision to go with CP into a world of which he’s had no idea existed to find his beloved friend, DP.

Moral Aspect — The entry into the allegorical levels, ‘allegory’ originally alieniloquium meaning ‘one thing speaking for another,’ begins with the jump in human understanding from sense perception to a judgment of whether it is safe or dangerous, good or evil, moral or immoral, the realm of human opinion. As noted, this is pretty much the stopping point of contemporary criticism, the assumed end of goal of the story, “what it is really about.” In The Christmas Pig, though I have not found any criticism to date that does this yet, I have to assume this reading will be psychological and sociological.

From this view, Christmas Pig, while being a holiday story everyone can enjoy is primarily for (a) children and parents in blended families, and (b) anyone grieving for the loss of a physical object to which they are emotionally bound. That latter group, of course, could be expanded to include readers who mourn the death of a beloved person because Rowling is explicit and emphatic in the story that “loss” is the equivalent for Things  “to what humans call death” (161, 229).

In these readings, Pig depicts the struggle of a child in a family in which one or both parents were previously married and not the biological mother or father to one or more of the children to recover from neglect or abuse of an absent or present parent and from the bullying of an older step-sibling. Jack’s trip to his imaginary world to find a toy his cruel step-sister tossed out of a car window and its happy ending — the boy’s satisfaction even delight with his toy’s replacement, his reconciliation with his step-sister in light of his new understanding that she is struggling with emotional problems, too, and his discovery that it is not a betrayal of the old to love the new, a lesson as applicable to his step-father as to his toy — are a story in which the grieving learn alongside the boy that love conquers death and those things and people we have loved never die or truly leave us.

I have to think child psychologists and parents in families re-shaped by divorce will love the book and that they have every reason to do so. The only problem with this interpretation is if it excludes the spiritual realm beyond and informing the psychic sphere. For that much more important meaning, frankly, however healing and comforting the moral aspect of Christmas Pig is read as a psychological or sociological text, we need to move on to the greater depths beneath the surface story.

Allegorical Level — In the sense of one thing standing for another, as Dante wrote, all three of the sub-surface meaning are allegorical. The allegorical level per se, though, is one of direct correspondence and representation in story figure or event, and Christmas Pig has three tit-for-tats I think most readers who are believing Christians picked up right away.

The first is simply that Jack’s Land of the Lost is Plato’s Cave, our world in this temporal life, what C. S. Lewis described as the ‘Shadowlands.’ Every Lost Thing, from this view, is a more realistic depiction of our human  existence than our day-to-day profane understanding of our life in this world. In the sub-creation in which the Loser and his servants are the ruler and the agents of his law respectively, we are meant to see fallen existence, which is to say, Satan’s realm and all the cutting, divisive instruments of evil and of Power in our world, what in Rowling’s predominate metaphor is the Petrine dimension of human life.

Reality in the Land of the Lost is not in the experience of Mislaid, its three cities, or the Wastes, all of which are temporary unless the Loser consumes a Thing, but Up There, the super-lunary world of light and love, a much greater plane of existence, from which every Thing is made, i.e., has its origin, and to which, except in perverse cases like the hob-nailed boot Crusher, all created Things long to return. Just as Lunchy looks longingly up at the Finding Hole in the Disposable saloon in hope of light descending to claim her, to save her, so the Things of the Land of the Lost all have as their natural and correct orientation an otherworldly focus and a consequent disdain of sorts, beyond their fear of the Loser, for the station in life and world in which they find themselves.

This is, to risk insulting anyone by pointing out the obvious, a story depiction of the traditional or theocentric understanding of Man in the World. Man is an image of God, a shadow of his greater self, an iconic quality most evident in his soul. Created by the Word of God, His Logos, and having something of this creative aspect of the Light of the World within him (John 1:3-4, 9), Man’s purpose and destiny via the Creator’s design is to live intentionally in hope and happiness to foster both his communion with Up There via the Creative Principle of selfless love and, in this, to insure his return to the world of Light above the Shadowlands of this temporal life. Rowling, in a ‘charming Christmas story,’ smuggles the traditional idea of human life and its origin and end in God through Christ past the Sleeping Dragons of our de facto atheist age and its myriad Loss Adjusters.

If that weren’t enough, we have specifically Jack’s being a second Dante traveling through the Commedia‘s three dimensions, which is to say, an explicitly Christian allegory of the soul’s journey to perfection in Spirit. With his guides the Christmas Pig, Dur Pig, and Santa as parallels to Dante’s Virgil, Beatrice, and St Bernard as Evan Willis pointed out, Jack journeys from the agonies of this life in the “Forest Dark,” the straightforward path having been lost” (Inferno, 1:1-3) to the Beatific vision of salvific, sanctifying spiraling light, the White Rose beyond Paradise. This end is prefigured in Christmas Pig by the snow which “swirled against the blackening sky outside his window while Jack waited for the house to fall completely silent” (39) the night he enters the Land of the Lost as well as by his experience with Dur Pig, Mum, and the recycling bin.

Just as Rowling told deRek she had done with Harry Potter, though, this Christian Everyman and hero is given “certain messianic traits” quite deliberately. Jack saves the Things in the Loser’s Lair — and by extension all Things in the Lands of the Lost — by being that Person who descended from Heaven in love for fallen creation, objects his love brought into their “alivened” or animated existence. He becomes their means to escape death and the Loser’s dominion by becoming the locus of their hope and faith of their greater life.

Jack, unlike Dante and his vision of the White Rose, becomes the cause of the spiraling light that literally lifts up the least of Things, the Surplus refuse, into the Up There of Heaven. The Loser’s anger with the Things who cry out, “Not the Boy!” is the story-figure of the Petrine voices of this world that want all believers in God’s love to despise their Creator and any longing they feel for Him as childish, what properly should be hatred of the Absolute as the cause of their current condition.

I’ll be talking much more about the Christ figures of the story — Jack is not the only one, just as Harry Potter is only the principal one in that series; a “Replacement,” to put down a marker, is akin to a “Ransom” a la the Space Trilogy character, in being a redeeming sacrifice to make good on a failing, a kind of payment to make atonement (see Christus Victor) — especially with respect to the Blue Bunny and his resurrection experience, but just another marker here as I close the survey of Christmas Pigs‘s allegorical dimension, the Christmas setting of the story, as with the Nativity of Christ, has as its root power not in the birth of the savior, essential as Jack’s ‘incarnation’ as a Thing by his choice to descend into the lesser realm to save DP is, but the Paschal symbolism of the book.

Christ becomes man, that man might become God according to the Athanasian formula; Christ is born on the Night of Miracles and Lost Causes so the Incarnate Logos will in the end die without sin, ‘beguiling the Beguiler,’ and thereby become the means in that death and return to life, not to mention His harrowing of Hell, the despoiling of Hades, to the human potential for eternal life as members of His risen mystical body. [It is this membership the Loser apes in his plastering the dis-membered remains of the Things from whose bodies he has sucked the “alivened bit” to him exterior self, his luciferean, mechanistic body.] Easter is the heart of the Christmas Pig.

Anagogical Level — Rowling’s greatest artistry exists at a level one step removed though very much related to these allegories above. This is in her symbolism of the soul’s qualities and its journey to perfection in Spirit. She does this by exteriorizing the soul and its various aspects, most obviously via magical objects in Harry Potter, but more importantly and profoundly in characters that populate her work. It is this story craftsmanship, turning the inspirations of the Muse living in her Lake, who speaks in the resolved detritus of her psychological issues (see the seven the seven crises of her life listed in Part 1 of this series), into experiences of universal power about human spiritual transformation that is the author’s greatest achievement and the cause of her unprecedented popularity among readers everywhere.

Let’s review the exteriorizing idea before getting into the anagogical meaning of Christmas Pig specifically.

I first encountered the word ‘exteriorizing’ or ‘externalization’ used with respect to Rowling’s work in Beatrice Groves’ seminal Literary Allusion in Harry Potter (112), who cites Klaus’ 2012 ‘A Fairy-tale Crew? J.K. Rowling’s Characters Under Scrutiny’ in Hallet’s J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter (New Casebooks) (26-27) for the idea, who in turn credits Kullman’s 2008 Englische Kinder-und Jugendliteratur: Eine Einfuhring (164) as her source. This is not, in short, John’s little hobby horse but a ‘given’ of Potter Punditry.

This series of posts is an examination of Rowling’s latest, The Christmas Pig, as extra-liturgical sacred art per the traditionalist reading. Perennialists understand sacred art as the work of an artisan who uses traditional forms in his work to imitate nature’s “methods of operations” rather than created nature itself. This artifact is the exteriorizing of the artisan’s inner essence or logos in conformity to the inspired or revealed forms of the Logos, the Creative Principle within that creates everything existent, visible and invisible. ‘Exteriorization’ of interior psychological conditions in this manner is what Rowling does best, frankly. To start with stories we all know inside and out as examples, Rowling populates her Hogwarts stories with magical items and creatures that “exteriorize” psychological phenomenon.

The exteriorizing of interior psychic states is most obvious in the various magical objects and creatures designed for just this purpose in Rowling’s ‘Wizarding World.’ The Mirror of Erised reflects the person’s “heart’s desire” rather than their image. The boggart when confronted turns into the worse fears of anyone it meets. Howlers are letters which explode with the anger of the person writing. The Sorting Hat identifies the primary quality of every new student’s soul and proclaims it to the student body as the name of a Hogwarts House. Dumbledore’s Pensieve creates three dimensional experience of a memory and the MACUSA Death Pool similarly projects the doomed convict’s happy memories into the lethal black waters. The Room of Requirement changes into whatever space the person in need must have, be it a bathroom, an ever expanding secret headquarters for a resistance movement, or a dump for unwanted objects. Each “externalisation of psychological phenomenon” creates “comprehensible, physical forms” of “complex emotions” and soul capacities (Groves 2017, 112, citing Klaus 26-7, citing Kullman 164).

This exteriorization reflects how a sacred artist creates. This exteriorization of the invisible ‘inner’ as a visible object becomes much less obvious and in inverse relation that much more powerful when it becomes psychomachia, in which characters themselves rather than things act as icons of faculties of the soul or virtues and voices in a drama akin to a Medieval Morality Play or Everyman Drama. Rowling is most obviously doing just this in the Obscurus storyline within her Fantastic Beasts screenplays. As Beatrice Groves wrote here in 2019:

The gothic externalisation of psychological phenomena is germane to Harry Potter: the Mirror of Erised, Howlers, Boggarts and the Sorting Hat, all render complex emotions in a readily comprehensible, physical form – and the Obscurus is the most recent example of Rowling’s gift at creating these eloquent objects. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them the gentle Obscurial Credence is the Jekyll to his Obscurus’s ‘Hyde’ – the destructive force which ‘he tries to stop… from rising up within him.’ For most of the first movie Credence fights the darkness within him, although at the end he embraces its destructive power (just as Jekyll becomes progressively more and more identified with Hyde). When Graves tells Credence he can control the Obscurus, he replies: ‘but I don’t think I want to, Mr Graves’(Rowling 2016, 229). In Crimes of Grindelwald Rowling goes even further down this gothic-Obscurus route when Dumbledore describes it as the Obscurial’s ‘dark twin:’ ‘an Obscurus grows in the absence of love as a dark twin (Rowling 2018, 45).’ 

The Fantastic Beasts films turn on the secret power of Credence Barebone, a wizard whose abilities have been repressed by his time in an abusive orphanage and have taken the shape of a supernatural ‘shadow’ of unimaginable force when released. This Obscurus/Obscurial character may be an allegory of the soul along traditional lines or of its shadow in Jungian psychology; the film series will, if they follow the Potter series model, be the exteriorization of this Everyman’s successful struggle to reintegrate his psychic shadow into his conscious identity (or to be freed of Ariana Dumbledore’s Obscurial). [See Bob Rectenwald’s posts on this subject which were the first, to my knowledge, to discuss this in depth, if from a Jungian psychological view rather than a traditional integrated one.]

Rowling is highlighting psychological interior elements, in other words, her characters’ fears, desires, repressed emotions, for her readers to look for in character behavior and language in addition to what can be seen in her exteriorizing devices. In the Fantastic Beasts films there is obvious allegorical drama of the soul’s journey to perfection or damnation, an exact match with the Martin Ling’s model for interpreting Shakespeare as sacred literary art. There are only two Beasts screenplays available at this writing, however, due to delays attributed to pandemic restrictions (which postponements may have been welcomed by Warner Brothers because of the transgender controversy). The psychomachia readings of Rowling’s work, then, as exteriorized or iconographic depictions of the soul’s journeys to perfection in Spirit based on the model of Perennialist reading of Shakespeare “in the light of sacred art,” is restricted here to a brief sketch of soul symbolism in the Harry Potter novels, the Cormoran Strike mysteries, and Christmas Pig.

I have discussed the ‘soul triptych’ of Harry Potter‘s principal three characters since Hidden Key to Hartry Potter (2002) and I can only hope readers here are familiar with the idea if not over-tired of it. In brief, as with Plato’s chariot in the Phaedrus, King Duncan, Macbeth, and his Lady in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the three brothers in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov,  and the Star Trek and Star Wars trios, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are the externalized embodiments of the heart, mind, and bodily passions respectively. Their adventures, to include their agonizing break-ups and joyous reunification, are story-depiction of the soul’s journey to perfection through their alchemical transformation in Spirit. Harry’s apotheosis, his victory over death and the Loser who has sought immortality by investing his soul piece by piece into things, soul-parts separated from him by the murder of others, is the anagogical representation of the heart, aka the noetic or spiritual capacity of soul, and its sanctification. See How Harry Cast His Spell for much more detailed discussion of all this, to include how Draco Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle are the soul triptych of postmodern man, whose leading part is the rational faculty which calculates advantage and power over truth, beauty, and virtue.

Robin and Cormoran, even if you want to include Sam Barclay, are not a soul exteriorization akin to Harry, Hermione, and Ron. The psychomachia of the Strike novels is built on the Shakespearean soul-Spirit romantic model rather than the Platonic-Patristic body-mind-spirit soul triptych of ancient, Medieval, and contemporary film and written fiction. In this model, the man and woman lede players take the part of soul and spirit, Coomaraswamy’s duo sunt in homine human and divine aspects, either as fixed roles as in Othello and The Tempest or in relation to the other, each being soul and embracing the other as supra-natural as in Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra (see Lings and Pogson for that). Rowling’s embedded models for this exteriorized drama of human sanctification are the myths of ‘Leda and the Swan‘ and ‘Psyche and Cupid‘ and the psychomachia spiritual allegories of Eros and Anteros, true and false Cupid, within Spenser’s Faerie Queen, the Redcrosse Knight and Una as well as Britomart and Artegell. [I have been leaning in previous posts here towards the hypothesis that Rowling was using an anima-animus distinction in this series a la Jung, but I think now insomuch as that may be true, it is because she is baptizing the profane and spirit-free psycholatry characteristic of Jung’s theories and use of myth to change and align those ideas with the Medieval and Shakespearean models, one we all hope to see revealed in Ink Black Heart.]

In Christmas Pig, as Evan Willis first discussed, Rowling is by her own admission using the toy pig as a symbol in light of the “the significance of childhood stuffed animals” as “transitional objects.” She said:

Psychologists call these treasured toys ‘transitional objects’, which can soothe children and act as a comforting stand-in for a parent when needed.

That’s quite a clinical way of looking at it, though.

I see them as invested with a certain kind of magic. They may come to us formed, but we remake them in our own image, investing them with characteristics of our own and idealised personalities.

This will take significant expansion and argument with detailed citation to demonstrate but, in this brief survey of the four levels of meaning in Christmas Pig, I will have to begin the conversation about its chief anagogical meaning with this: Jack’s toy pigs, both DP and CP in the end, are the exteriorizations of his spiritual heart, the logos light within everyone, which in Rowling’s creative work are almost without exception physical representations of the God who is Love via story symbols of a mother’s unconditional and sacrificial love.

Harry Potter, the heir of the Pater, is this in spades. The heart of the soul triptych in that series, he is who is consequent to Lily’s sacrificial death to save him from the Dark Lord. Harry is quite literally the incarnation of this love; his skin and interior life are suffused with it, hence Quirrelldemort’s inability to touch him at the end of Stone and Voldemort’s agony on trying to possess the boy from within in the climactic battle at the Ministry in Order of the Phoenix.

Cormoran Strike, the mythic Cornish giant and son of Zeus, the Cupid who has courted Venus and been one by Psyche, is no less the son of his mother, shaped by her love. The core mystery of the series is the death of Leda Strike, the event that determined Strike’s destiny and character as much as Lily’s did Harry’s. I have little doubt that we will learn in the end that her death, by suicide or murder, was about doing the sacrificial thing to protect her first son, a veritable demigod, from persecution or execution.

Jack Jones has exteriorized his mother’s love into his psycho-spiritual symbiote or ‘transitional object,’ Dur Pig or DP. Note that he when “very young” “fell asleep every night sucking Dur Pig’s ear” (1). DP is a pacifier in the sense that he takes the place and comes to represent his mother’s nipple, the source of his union with and nourishment from his loving point of origin. When DP disappears, Jack only wants his mother to return and becomes unhinged in being separated not only from mum but his totem for her love. She, of course, is the person who finds him beneath the tree in the only chapter, ‘Home,’ of Part 7, and it is her scent, the “trace of mum’s perfume” on DP and CP that is our talisman of what the toys represent throughout the book.

One vignette to make this point before moving on. When Jack and the Pig are trapped by the Crusher in Bother-Its-Gone, it is thoughts of his mother’s love and his connection to this love with his toy pig that saves him:

The boot came hopping nearer, and he was soon so close that Jack could see how two of his shoelace holes had become cruel little eyes. As the nails in his sole glinted in the moonlight, Jack thought suddenly of Mum. If he were stamped on and broken by Crusher, he’d never see her again. Without realizing what he was doing, Jack reached out and grabbed the Christmas Pig’s trotter.

“Wait!” the Christmas Pig begged Crusher, gripping Jack’s hand in return (125).

CP’s argument that Crusher needs to wait on “The thing that will change everything” delays the Loss Adjuster who, alone among his fellows, really doesn’t think about Up There or his chances of being found one day, just long enough for “a shaft of golden light” to fall “from the sky above” and for this “spotlight” or “golden column” to drag him quite unwillingly “upward toward the Land of the Living” (125-126).

In Part 4 of this series, I hope to write about Blue Bunny’s experience of being found, but I’m obliged here to say that both “saves” involve mother’s love, the reciprocal, exteriorized love of a child for a toy, and the appearance of salvific and sanctifying light through a Finding Hole against all expectations. Their simultaneous cause-effect relationship points quite strongly to the equation of the spiritual Heart, the Logos love and light of the Gospel of St John’s Prologue (and the the Beloved Disciple’s First Epistle) with a mother’s self-less, sacrificial, and uncalculating love. Harry Potter incarnates this love in the Hogwarts Saga and it is the power Voldemort knows nothing about, his mother having died in child-birth, and deliberately and disdainfully neglects to learn.

As Dumbledore’s shade tells Harry at King’s Cross:

[Voldemort’s] knowledge remained woefully incomplete, Harry! That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped (Deathly Hallows, 710).

That power, of course, is love as the living Headmaster explained to Harry in the denouement of sorts after the battle at the Ministry in Order of the Phoenix:

“Voldemort never knew that there might be danger in attacking you, that it might be wise to wait, to learn more. He did not know that you would have ‘power the Dark Lord knows not’ –“

“But I don’t!” said Harry, in a strangled voice. “I haven’t any powers he hasn’t got, I couldn’t fight the way he did tonight, I can’t possess people or – or kill them -“

“There is a room in the Department of Mysteries,”‘ interrupted Dumbledore, “that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you” (Phoenix, 843-844)

The next part in this series — I know that line’s getting old, but bear with me — of traditional readings of Christmas Pig will detail Jack’s link with his heart and its ties to his and his mother’s reciprocal and world transcending, even world-creating love. For here, though, note that love, and specifically a mother’s sacrificial love, is the power “at once more wonderful and more terrible than death” that Harry possesses “in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all.” This love is not only experienced between mother and baby, though that is its root experience in child psychology and its absence the most obvious cause of the Dark Lord’s psychopathology; Dumbledore notes this love’s presence in “house-elves and children’s tales” and mentions the virtues of “loyalty, love, and innocence” that are characteristic of the self-denying and infinitely giving house-elves as well as of fairy tales read to young children, not yet jaded or much removed from their parent’s near-constant care.

The J. K. Rowling who has written Christmas Pig, I offer for your consideration, has only expanded the category of logos love reservoirs to include “children’s beloved toys” or what the psychologists call “transitional objects.” “I see them as invested with a certain kind of magic.” Indeed, even a magic whose “power [is] beyond the reach of any magic,” a “force” greater than “death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature.” The love with which they are “invested” as Rowling put it “alivens” them; CP, who is Alivened by Holly’s remorse and who as a “Replacement” DP explains, “once Alivened, understand all about their owner from the very start.” “He’s always loved you just as much as I do,” which qua “transitional object” means the love between child and mother, that is, a selfless identification to the point of ego-elision. Hence Dur Pig concludes, the Replacement’s decision “to sacrifice himself, because [Jack’s] happiness was more important to him than his own” (228).

Dumbledore tells Harry at King’s Cross that “Voldemort’s one last hope for himself” is that he “took into his body a tiny part of the enchantment your mother laid upon” Harry when she died for him (Hallows, 710), i.e., the substance of the Dark Lord’s literal re-incarnation, because it includes “the blood of the enemy forcibly taken” required by the potion formula  (Goblet, 642) makes his new body mother’s love suffused as well. So what? The only cure for the soul that has lost its integrity through its division by murder and Horcrux creation is remorse (Hallows, 103), a path to which Harry calls Voldemort repeatedly if unsuccessfully in their final confrontation (Hallows, 741). The love that is the fabric of reality and the human telos as image of God, in Rowling’s view appears not only as a mother’s love but in sincere repentance. CP was “Alivened” by Holly in her sacrificial grief for what she had done to act as “Replacement” for the lost DP; he takes on a double dose, then, of this Heart power greater than all others, once from Holly and again from DP as a Replacement.

The same can be noted about Jack’s decision to go to the Land of the Lost and his bottomless endurance through the several trials there. It is only his determination to regain his treasured DP, his exteriorized token of a mother’s love, that makes him all but immune to pain, fatigue, or despair. CP’s transition from guide to this state, a “transitional object” of Jack’s love for his mother in which he experiences hers from him and the love “Up There” both represent, occurs in stages, but is complete by the time Hope carries them to the Isle of the Beloved.

The biggest jump in this regard comes after the center chapters of Part 5, the center part, after the group led by Compass meet Bully Boss-Holly and the Bad Habits  (153-154) and then all flee the Loser. Bully Boss and the Broken Angel, both allegorical stand-ins for Holly, are captured, though Jack wants to save them both (a saving-sister thing, Hermione might have called it) and almost reaches Broken Angel’s hand, a perumbration of the finale in the center. In the chapter immediately following the Loser’s advent and the Christmas Pig’s description of what the Loser does to Things he catches, “what humans call death,” Jack bonds with CP, who comforts the boy with a hug, love disguised as a mutual need for warmth:

Jack was so cold, tired, and scared, he wanted DP so badly, and he felt so guilty about the angel, he couldn’t keep back the tears any longer. He broke down. He tried not to make any noise, but he hadn’t fooled the Christmas Pig, who put his trotters around Jack and pulled him close.

“We’ll freeze unless we hug,” said the pig gruffly. “We’ll stay here—maybe get a few hours’ sleep—and then, when it’s light, we’ll try and find a way to the City of the Missed.”

“But how will we find our way without Compass?” asked Jack.

“I don’t know yet,” admitted the Christmas Pig. “But we’ll think of something.”

So Jack curled up beside the Christmas Pig, who cuddled him, and slowly Jack began to warm up. He was still scared and miserable, but at least he was warmer.

“Thanks, Christmas Pig,” he said, after a while.

“You’re welcome,” said the Christmas Pig, sounding surprised.

After a short silence, Jack said, “It’s a stupid name.”

“What is?” asked the Christmas Pig.

“‘The Christmas Pig,’” said Jack. “It’s too long. I wouldn’t have called you that if I’d kept you. It isn’t an everyday name.”

“What would you have called me, then?” asked the Christmas Pig. Jack thought for a while. “Maybe ‘CP,’” he said. “Which stands for ‘Christmas Pig.’”

“‘CP,’” said the Christmas Pig. “I like that.” … 

They lay for a while without talking, but Jack could tell that the Christmas Pig wasn’t asleep. “We’ll still see each other,” said Jack, now feeling drowsy, “when we get home. We might even all play together. You’ll like DP.”

“I’m sure I will,” said the Christmas Pig. “We’re brothers, after all.”

“Yes,” said Jack. “I didn’t think so at first, but you’re quite similar, really. D’you . . .” he yawned. “D’you think we’ll find DP soon?”

“I’m sure we will,” said the Christmas Pig. “You’ll miss him forever, so he must be in the City of the Missed. It’s the only place left to look.”

“Yes,” said Jack. He was on the very edge of sleep now, and he could almost imagine that he was cuddled up with DP beside him. The Christmas Pig didn’t smell new anymore: he’d become grubby from hiding in the smelly lunch box and their long walk down the earthy tunnel to the Wastes (161-163).

Heat and light, of course are related, most notably demonstrated in the gondola ride with Happiness but also in the climate of the Island of the Beloved. This heart-warming moment at Jack’s nadir, the true story-turn, is a function of the Christmas Pig demonstrating his love for Jack which provides this spiritual warmth in addition to body heat. He wins Jack’s heart who affirms at last the Replacement’s kinship with brother DP by giving him a new name, one almost exactly like DP’s. He loves CP much more openly and honestly from this point forward; the Christmas Pig weeps here as he does on the trip to the Island of the Beloved and in Jack’s bedroom in the last chapter (218, 271 — ring notes!).

There is a lot more anagogical meaning in the Christmas Pig to discuss; I think especially, as longtime readers would expect, of the literary alchemy and ring structures. I want to note, though, that these are perhaps better understood as further exteriorizations or symbolic representations of the soul and its journey to perfection. Literary alchemy as a sequential process of purification and enlightenment is what it is in English literature because the parallel with metallurgical alchemy’s conversion of lead or ‘hard darkness’ into gold or ‘solid light’ is such a fitting and powerful representation of the soul’s ‘movement’ from repentance through purification to spiritual perfection or illumination. Ring Composition or chiasmus does what it does as the scaffolding of poetry, plays, and prose novels because it, too, is a journey in which the reader experiences the elision of contraries in the circle center, the point of origin defining the ring and its metaphysical cause or Creator, the God Who is Light and Love.

I think the exteriorization of the soul’s faculties in Christmas Pig has Jack’s toys and himself as the Heart, symbolic of a mother’s love with which form Rowling has chosen to represent Divine love or Logos, as its beginning. By the time we reach the City of the Missed and enter King Power’s palace, this symbolism is well established and what Rowling writes in the chapters about the vote taken among palace inhabitants we get a much larger picture of soul than just its inner essence and noetic capacity. She provides an allegory of Peter and John again, this time in the ‘up or down’ vote to send Jack and CP to the Loser. The palace becomes a stage for the drama played out in every conscious person between the inner life of love, hope, and blessedness and the path of pursuing exterior advantage and power; the players are aspects of every person who must decide if they will serve King Power, a stand-in for ego and pride, or Jack Jones, the Christ within us.

On the side of Power are Ambition, Beauty, and three of the six Principles. The arguments Ambition and Power advance to win these votes are the necessity of carrying out punishments according to the letter of the law regardless of the injustice involved, a payout of some kind, i.e., personal advantage, and, obscure at first but clarified in Power’s rage, the threat of violence. They do their best, in addition, to lock-out voters they don’t want to participate in this run-off election in the capitol building or palace (‘capitol’ is derived from the word for ‘head’ and I think it helps to think of the palace as the movie location for our soul aspects debating whether Peter or John will triumph, whether the Heart lives or dies in that assembled body.

Memory, the mother of the nine mythological muses and a necessity for coherent thinking, is represented as a good-hearted if obviously senescent older woman. She votes for Jack and CP despite being bullied by Ambition and told by Green Beauty she is a bore because “They don’t stop me from remembering. I like them” (206). Memory has a clear connection with tradition and only those with great recall or prodigious study of history appreciate the primacy of the Heart in the human person.

Three of the six Principles are persuaded by CP’s plea that turning Jack and himself over to the Loser would be murder and “that’s the worst crime of all!” Principles, who claim to be “the Things who make humans behave with honesty and decency” (199) based on their inner prompting in resistance to external temptations, clearly are not sure votes when it comes to choosing between the Petrine law and Johannine justice.

Optimism votes for Jack and CP not to be turned over though he, too, is brow-beaten by King Power. Optimism gives the first impression of superficiality and of being a glad-hander. It turns out he is only a mental posture that is sensitive first to the “deep-down, you know!” (199, 206) — and Jack and CP are the deepest aspect of the soul, that is, the Heart — so he votes that they not only be saved but also that the king “change your mind and let them live in the palace with us!” (206). He presents the possibility of Ego and Pride co-existing peacefully in the thinking of the same individual mind with the humble but all-powerful Heart and Conscience. Certainly an optimistic idea given the profundity of the contraries, like Harry and Draco being buddies.

Hope and Happiness were not told about the meeting or invited by Power and Ambition. The Principles were told to stay in their rooms but elected to come because “it would have been against ourselves” to stay away. Happiness, in contrast, was locked in her room and left unaware of the vote. Both she and Hope were locked out of the Palace room in which the vote was to be held.

Ambition had told Jack and CP that she was lost by her owner, a politician, after the “small setback” of not winning a “trifling vote” (194). She clearly has counted the votes in advance, consequently, and been sure that Hope and Happiness will not be on the side of Power. Why?

Hope clearly is an interior virtue, one somewhat akin to Optimism but is the strength and sustenance primarily to the underdog, the person or, in this case, the faculty of soul that has little to no exterior aspect or power. It is easy to imagine Hope residing in the Heart; this attribute certainly proves to be the saving virtue Jack demonstrates having acquired in the Land of the Lost during his confrontation with the Loser in his Lair. She is the bain of Power and the friend of Happiness and the Heart.

Happiness is warmth and light, so, as mentioned, she is representative, as are Jack and his toys, of the logos light of the world that is the inner life of every man (John 1:9). This is difficult to see at first because we have been taught to think that happiness is getting all things we want, especially advantage, pleasure, and power. Rowling is careful to have Happiness explain to the hide-aways in her gondola that she is more of a cross between empathy and healthy self-awareness:

Jack’s eyes were getting used to the extreme brightness of Happiness, and he found that if he peeped at her sideways, he could just make out the form of a smiling woman in the middle of the dazzling light.

“How were you lost?” he asked shyly.

“Through carelessness,” sighed Happiness. “My owner is an actress. She’s charming and talented, but she wasn’t as kind as she should have been to the people she cared about, nor as hardworking as she might have been, even though she loved her job. Her gifts once brought her friends and success, but through laziness and selfishness, they slipped away and now, sadly, she has lost me, too.”

“How will she get you back again?” asked the Christmas Pig.

“It will be difficult,” said Happiness, “because she’s looking for me in all the wrong places, and as she isn’t used to admitting fault, I’m afraid I may be in the City of the Missed for a long time . . . perhaps forever” (181-182).

The actress is not a reflective person, is unkind even “to those she cared about,” is negligent with respect to her vocation, which is to say, her defining idea, is insensitive to the spiritual light and darkness of her environment, and, worst, “she isn’t used to admitting fault.” These qualities expel Happiness — and all of them are the marks of someone insensitive to the logos within his or her self, the capacity to love another person as oneself, and, as noted above, to feel remorse or repentance after injuring or being insensitive to the neighbor who shares the same ontological ground. Happiness, as Ambition recognized, is a sister of Heart, more eudaimonia — ‘blessedness,’ “the good composed of all goods; an ability which suffices for living well; perfection in respect of virtue; resources sufficient for a living creature” — than self-focused cheer on account of faring well and having great pleasures.

As Ambition must have anticipated, hence her attempts to have the meeting in the mind about Heart without Hope or Happiness, the ‘Do or Don’t turn them over?’ will not win the majority of the qualities of mind. King Power, however, our ego exteriorization as a character, is a true servant of the Loser who feels free to break the rules of His own kingdom. He sics the Palace Loss Adjusters on Jack and CP who escape them by the blinding light Happiness gives off and by Hope’s rapid and powerful intervention to save them.

If Compass were telling this story, she would provide a moral or motto; my re-telling should list a simple explanation of Rowling’s allegorical decision making process in the City of the Missed’s Palace.

  • The question in play is whether Power or the Heart, Peter or John, will be the guiding concern of Everyman, whether his focus will be on the inner Up There or on worldly exterior concerns in the visible plane.
  • The vote is very close because, especially today, trusting the Heart to discern what is best for the person in the long and short term rather than faculties adept to calculating privilege depends entirely on the presence of Hope and Happiness, the virtues the Power-ego will do everything to prevent them to have a voice in the decision.
  • In the rare case that the Heart wins, fair and square, Power — the demands and concerns of exterior life, the desire for approval and confirmation from without but not above or within — will do everything to divide the Heart-servant from the Truth to be found on the Island of the Blessed.
  • If Power decrees his rule overrules the law within the mind, the Heart is fed to the loser and the Heart-within dies. The death of “the Living Boy” or Heart, akin to the murder of the ‘Boy Who Lived,’ is the spiritual death of the person and his surrender to the ephemeral understanding to be had on the horizontal plane divorced from the greater reality Up There.
  • The light of Happiness and the wings of Hope deliver the Heart from the dualistic or dis-integrating forces serving ego and pride, the powers of corruption in alliance against the Heart, to a paradise well removed from the Palace of the Soul and its capacities. Heart learns the Truth necessary to defeat the Loser-Satan, a shade of life without the inner life of love-logos, and return to the greater reality Up There in which the Heart can experience accept the Love of the Father (mother) and of its Brother (step-sister).

This is a Medieval Morality Play, one very similar in construction to the Chamber of Secrets confrontation between Harry the Heart saving his best friend’s sister from the Memory of an Ego that never knew his mother’s love. (Not to mention the ties to Memory, Ambition, and Beauty; can you say ‘Gilderoy’?). I close here with the promise of writing more on the anagogical psychomachia of this story and of Rowling as a sacred artist depicting the soul’s journey to perfection in the Spirit.

I hope you have a merry Western Christmas — and that you’ll give me the gift of sharing what you think of this overview of the four layers or Quadrigal reading of Christmas Pig. More soon on the Blue Bunny, Jack’s heart and chest, and the embedded discussion of art, especially story, in the allegorical characters of Poem, Pretense, and Compass. Stay tuned!


  1. Nick Jeffery says

    Thank you John, for this wonderful post, one I think that will bear close reading more than once. Thank you especially for your clear explanation of Quadriga – Pardes reading of a text. This has, I think, at last made sense to me!

  2. Thanks not only for the depths of detail presented here, but also for the willingness to break down these concepts in simple(r) terms.

    My mother, who is new to JKR and just finished reading The Christmas Pig, commented to me that she was confused why DP only shows up in one measly chapter at the end of the book, when Jack is spending so much time and energy trying to find him. I think this post indirectly answers her question, since it’s the journey he’s on that will turn out to be the true prize, rather than the object he initially hoped to retrieve.

    I know that John is going to be busy and focused on finishing his subsequent posts, so maybe any other commenters with additional thoughts might want to help me answer this question for my mother.

  3. I’ve got just a handful of notes to make about two, maybe three elements out of the entire essay as a whole. The first things that I think ought to be clarified a bit has to do with Rowling’s use of Dante as her source, what kind of specific literary model, or mold, this means her book as a whole is being cast into. From there, I’d like to bring up what this means for the potential allegory of the Land of the Lost as a main setting, or secondary world.

    Before tackling these subjects, however, I feel like a heads-up is in order. If necessary, I may just have to break this comment up into separate parts. Instead of just one comment, I may have to turn it into two. The reason for that is because the wealth of the essay above leaves us with a lot worth talking about (at least if you’re a bookworm; if not, sorry for wasting your time; what I’m about to say next is not addressed to you, and may therefore be skipped as unimportant). With that out of the way, let’s get started.

    When it comes to working off of a source, I think there can be little doubt that Rowling is very much drawing on the work of Dante, at least as her main inspiration. There is also room enough, I believe, to contend that she may be drawing from at least two other writers in the construction of her Holiday themed fantasy world. One of them should be familiar to readers of this blog by now. We’ll get to them in a moment. Right now, the focus should be on Dante as a main model. If this is the case, then what does this properly tell us about the nature of Rowling’s text? I think it can reveal several facts, and the first part might as well be with the one thing that Dante’s three Otherworld Realms have in common with JK’s Lost Lands.

    For starters, Dante was writing in a tradition, to begin with. That point must be kept clear in the mind of the reader, or else none of Rowling’s Christmas creation will make as much sense as it otherwise could. Specifically, the type of poem Dante was composing belonged to a sub-genre known as the Dream Vision. A good description of that trope can be provided by the following summary:

    “A dream vision or “visio” is a literary device in which a dream or vision is recounted as having revealed knowledge or a truth that is not available to the dreamer or visionary in a normal waking state. While dreams occur frequently throughout the history of literature, visionary literature as a genre began to flourish suddenly, and is especially characteristic in early medieval Europe. In both its ancient and medieval form, the dream vision is often felt to be of divine origin. The genre reemerged in the era of Romanticism, when dreams were regarded as creative gateways to imaginative possibilities beyond rational calculation.

    “This genre typically follows a structure whereby a narrator recounts their experience of falling asleep, dreaming, and waking, with the story often an allegory. The dream, which forms the subject of the poem, is prompted by events in their waking life that are referred to early in the poem. The ‘vision’ addresses these waking concerns through the possibilities of the imaginative landscapes offered by the dream-state. In the course of the dream, the narrator, often with the aid of a guide, is offered perspectives that provide potential resolutions to their waking concerns. The poem concludes with the narrator waking, determined to record the dream – thus producing the poem. The dream-vision convention was widely used in European, Old Russian, medieval Latin, Muslim, Gnostic, Hebrew, and other literatures.

    “In the book “Medieval Latin visions”, Russian philologist Boris Yarkho explores the genre of dream visions, defining it in terms of form and content. To the formal aspects of the genre, the researcher refers, first, the didacticism of the genre of visions itself, which should reveal some truths to the reader; secondly, the presence of the image of a “clairvoyant” (or visionary), which has two functions: “he must perceive the content of the vision purely spiritually” and “must associate the content of the vision with sensory images”. Third, the formal aspects include psychophysiological phenomena, that is, the situation and circumstances of the vision: lethargy, hallucinations and dreams.
    “The content of the genre of visions is based on the description of pictures of the afterlife, ghosts and phenomena of otherworldly forces, as well as eschatology. In addition, medieval visions can also be filled with topical content that is adjacent to the “eternal”, that is, the afterlife, the otherworldly: socio-political contexts can penetrate into the visions, etc”.

    This may amount to a minor point. However, it could also be useful in both the particular, in the case of the book under discussion. As well as having a general applicability when it comes to Rowling’s use of Ring Composition in her work. “Yarkho pays attention to the internal structure of visions, distinguishing two types — “one-vertex” visions and “multi-vertex” (eschatological) visions. The structure of the second type of vision can be “archaic”, “classical”, or ” complexly systematized”. Here’s the real vital piece of information, however. “The peak of the medieval vision genre is considered to be Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, which can be called a detailed vision, based on its narrative and compositional features”. This information can be seen in full in the link provided below:

    One further point in the direction we’ve been discussing. The Pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti contributed a portrait to this tradition, known as “Dante’s Dream. It may be just a piece of historic trivia. On the other hand, Rossetti’s sister, Christina was one of the main quotation sources used by Rowling in her first public outing as Robert Galbraith. At the very least, the possibility of a link between sources might be taken into consideration, especially when it comes to a potential authorial awareness of the Dream Vision trope.

    With this in mind, what happens if we apply the idea to the Land of the Lost? What does it mean to call the whole thing a “Dream Vision”? Is it the same as calling it make-believe? The best answer I can arrive at is to say yes and no. On the one hand, it may be correct to say that Jack’s adventures on Christmas Eve are all the products of psychology. They are “in your head”, as the author phrased it elsewhere. The thing to note is that, just as in that earlier example, Rowling seems loath to treat the psyche as a mere fluke of nature. Just because it is psychological is not the same thing as saying it is forever disconnected from Divine influence. Nor that the Imagination itself might not be a kind of safeguard, or ordering agent set in deliberate place for the ultimate well-being of the dreamer. Always provided that’s what the individual wants, of course. The author has also observed that it’s the choices one makes that always come back to haunt you, for better or worse.

    To be concluded.

  4. Concluded from above.

    So the working hypothesis I’d like to go with is that the Land of the Lost is a dream vision landscape that Jack makes his way through in the course of the narrative. It is a combination of the imaginary and the miraculous, like Dante’s Three Realms. As such, we arrive at the question of what this secondary world means as a form of miraculous dream? As something internal, and connected with the state of the dreamer’s soul, or the question of Jack’s character, I think the net has to be cast a bit further than just labeling it all as “the world”. It might be best if we resort to a different pair of words that appear to sum the whole thing up in a stronger light. They are known as microcosm and macrocosm.

    Both terms have been integral to the kind of Medieval-Renaissance form of literary criticism under discussion here, and yet they’ve never been used all that much. This could be a shame, as the use of both terms might just help us gain our bearings with the meaning of Jack’s semi-Divine Dreamlands. The way each term was used in the writings of guys like Dante or Shakespeare was often very specific. The macrocosm was (and, in a sense, remains) the universe itself. The Great Globe, and the Seven-Tiered Cosmos that surrounded and enveloped it.

    The microcosm is a bit more complex, inasmuch as there was a level of multiplicity in its meaning. In its strictest sense, the microcosm was a reference to the individual human soul, character, or psyche. Each term amounts to the same thing for authors like Dante. At the same time, the microcosm can also appear in the form of a city, a small town, or even as constricted a setting as, say, a haunted house with a guilty past. The way both of these terms worked in a lot of the older fiction was as follows. A main character was placed onto a make-shift stage (usually held together by nothing else except ink, paper, and a prayer). Both the character and setting would then function as the microcosm of the narrative. Their overall purpose in the story was to see whether or not they were ultimately able to function in accordance with the rules of the macrocosm. If the tale ended with the protagonist in harmony with the order of things, it came under the heading of Comedy (hence the word’s use in Dante’s title). If not, then it was a Tragedy (see “Julius Caesar”, “Macbeth”, “Death of a Salesman” etc).

    In Jack’s case, it’s easy enough to speak of the story as a latter day “Comedy”, ostensibly written for children. Here is the point where I tend to agree with the majority of what the essay above has to say, for the most part. He really is an Everyman character on a quest toward either completion (Alivening) or disintegration (being devoured by the Loser) of his own self, what ancient authors referred to as the soul. The one caveat I may have to add comes with the use of the term “world” for the allegorical signifier of the Land of the Lost. If Rowling is adhering to Dante’s narrative genre, then the reality being signified behind the mask of Jack’s dreamland’s is less the world, and is more his own character. In this reading, I am adhering closer to critical studies like “The Figure of Beatrice”. As the “Beatrice” of this story, DP, as well as being an example of maternal and Divine love, is also, like Beatrice, the one figure in the story that reveals to Jack something of himself, in relation to the macrocosm.

    To borrow and paraphrase the terminology of Charles Williams, DP is the “Beatrice Figure” through whom Jack first catches a glimpse of the Conceiver behind the concept of Love. Like Dante, however, he enters upon, or finds himself enveloped in a moment of crisis, and his knowledge of this Love is somewhat dimmed. Apparently for both the poet and the character, this dimming isn’t enough to dull the memory of the beloved, and as a result, a search begins for the re-attainment of that original vision. I know it must sound like I’m just repeating what’s been said above, and that is true in just one sense. The main difference resides in the identification of the real difficulty. For Dante, the problem wasn’t the world, the macrocosm, as such. For all his life, the only way he could see the universe was as the Great Chain of Being. Not anything to be worshipped in itself, yet definitely something worthy of respect, even if just in a secondary variety. It’s because he’d learned the value of putting first things first the hard way that he knew how to write about where the real trouble lies. The fault, Dante realized, was not in the stars, but in himself. He also learned it was still not too late put his own affairs in order. That, in essence, is the whole point of “The Divine Comedy”.

    Rowling seems to have at least some knowledge of this point, and it seems like she’s able to put it to good use. Her story of Jack’s Christmas adventure is the tale of the character’s journey through is own inner microcosm, where he confronts aspects of himself, as well as some of the principles that govern the world. Indeed, the entire scene featuring the “Royal Family” seems to be the one place where Rowling utilizes two other writers besides Dante. Those being John Bunyan and our new, old friend, Eddie Spenser. Power, Ambition, Happiness, and Hope could all have stepped from the pages of either scribblers. Her commentary in these passages seems to be that Bunyan, Spenser, and Dante, had all hit upon the same idea in each of their respective writings, and that she has merely tried to drive the same idea home. That being that it’s never too late. It is the ultimate point of all the great literary creations of the Bronze, Classical, Middle, and Renaissance ages of Western Literature. In that, sense, all works of fiction are about the presentation of problems, and the possibility of change. It is, when you get right down to it, the only plot that any writer has ever really had to work with. Why is that, do you suppose?

  5. I think another example from literature that might parallel with Rowling allegorically using Land of the Lost as “The World” is C.S. Lewis’ “The Silver Chair”. In the climax of the book, the characters are in the Underland and are being convinced by the Queen that where they are is all there’s ever been, and slowly start to believe that there is no “real” world above them. C.S. Lewis has shown in other writings that this is an analogy to the world we live in, and our spiritual blindness caused by the fall. His poem, “The Prudent Jailer” illustrates a similar image (here are the last 3 stanzas):

    “Our Jailer (well may he) prefers
    Our thoughts should keep a narrower range.
    ‘The proper study of prisoners
    is prison’, he tells us. Is it strange?

    And if old freedom in our glance
    Betrays itself, he calls it names
    ‘Dope’-‘Wishful thinking’-or ‘Romance’,
    Till tireless propaganda tames.

    All but the strong whose hearts they break,
    All but the few whose faith is whole.
    Some walls cannot a prison make
    Half so secure as rigmarole.”

    In this case, the prisoners only have the hope of the world they miss to keep them reminded that such a world still tangibly exists for them. I see this to some degree in the objects of the Land of the Lost. Some believe they are forever forgotten by their owners, and yet others still cling to the hope that they’ll be remembered or found. Lewis articulates this most poignantly in his writing, “The Weight of Glory”:

    “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us
    if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modem philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now. Finally, lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. (

    I think there is a clear similarity in The Christmas Pig’s Land of the Lost here in Lewis’ writing. Like Plato’s discussion of chairs, we see the world around us as a typology of a greater reality we have lost. Like a prisoner remembering life outside the prison walls, or a forgotten object missing his owner, we are likewise living in the tension of our current state and our not-yet-realized greater purpose/reality. This is certainly an explicitly Christian epistemology, but I definitely saw this in The Christmas Pig.

  6. There is at least one other point I’d like to address in the essay above. This one revolves around Rowling’s relationship with, and perception of psychology. My own assessment of the matter is that she is more than honest enough about the topic for her judgments to be considered genuine, at the very least. In short, I am unable to find any evidence that she views the science itself with suspicion. Here I would have to comb back through the records in order to leave an important reminder. The author herself once admitted in an interview, that if she had never made it as a fiction writer, then she would have allowed herself to become a psychologist, with nothing to suggest any fundamental qualms about such a career path. It is instead stated in terms of legitimate respect.

    This shouldn’t be too surprising once we recall that one vital element of the “Potter” books, namely the Patronus Charm, is based in part on her cognitive therapy practices. In other words, it was based on her experiences with psychology. In the same way, the dementors themselves are figurations of clinical depression. That whole subplot, then, is always partially about mental health, and the conquering of one’s problems through a reasonable use of psychological medicine. Perhaps that’s why it shouldn’t be too much of a shock to see her take inspiration from a psychiatrist as famous as Jung. Of course, this can also beg the question. Was he a materialist, or a pagan?

    I’ve heard and read both claims laid at his doorstep more than once before. Each time, if I’m being honest, it always comes away as half-informed, at best. Or else the information that the writer was working with was just plain faulty. Instead, all I’ve found was a man who grew up in a philosophical, and theologically impoverished Swiss Reformed Church. I suppose another way of stating it is that Jung’s initial first introduction to the Ultimate Observer was a lot like C.S. Lewis’s, in that all three parties somehow got off on the wrong foot due to poor ice-breakers. Much like in “The Pilgrim’s Regress”, Jung found himself surrounded by his own version of “Puritania” to begin with. Like Lewis, no one seemed to know enough about the Gentleman in question in order to say anything important.

    Lewis himself told of how he reacted to all this, both in allegory and non-fiction. The curious result is that, in Jung’s case, it was never enough for him to abandon a belief in an actual God. He just felt that no one was telling him anything because, as I’ve said, the Church in his district seems to have been in a decline when he was born, and this was a fact that fascinated him for the rest of his life. Unlike the clinical Freud, Jung remained convinced that Man is always in need of a religious belief. Indeed, it could be argued that his entire career was, in part, the ongoing business of trying to get to know God better. And in doing so, be able to help patients as well on not just a mental, but also an existential and spiritual level. In another sense, perhaps a better way to put it is that Jung’s story is that of a lifelong “Regress”.

    Now does this mean I agree with everything he says on the matter? If I’m being honest, I’ll swear there are times when he hits a brick wall, here and there. What makes these missteps forgivable, however, is that it is not a case of either materialism, or paganism taking hold. It is instead the work of a certified genius coming across the occasional dead end. And to his credit, Jung was amenable to course correction. That’s one of the reasons he was so enthused with the work of Erich Neumann, especially with a text like “The Great Mother”. He felt he’d been shown the way to move forward. Before any of that could happen, both Neumann and Jung were called away on business, and have been in consultation ever since, in a manner of speaking. I’m afraid the world will never know in what direction either of these two intellectual giants would have gone in, if given more time. At least there’s no way of knowing on this side of the coin, anyway. Except perhaps maybe in dreams that are more than dreams.

    All of which is to say I believe it a mistake to claim there has to be a fundamental barrier between Religion and Psychology. If such conflicts exist, then it is because we have made things more difficult than they are, or have to be, as far as I’m concerned. My basic conviction for some time now has been that Jung was merely trying to take up the mantle laid down by Coleridge, Schiller, and the Romantics, and that his labors were ultimately spent in trying to prove that there was a solid basis for such beliefs. Then again, this is no more than the same thought process that Coleridge pursued all his life.

    Now Rowling is a very smart and perceptive writer. It is not entirely out of the question that she has worked out the essentially Romantic nature of Jung’s psychology for herself. Hence it’s importance enough for her to both utilize the psychiatrist in one of her works, as well as leave him as a signal to readers that he is yet another one of her valued sources that undergirds her thinking about the creative process. That’s not the worst idea I’ve heard, either. For aside from the Romantics, and some of the Classical philosophers, the best writings I know about the origin and nature of the arts have always come from Jung. It seems to have been his special talent when it came to figuring out the mind.

    Anyway, there’s not much else to say, except that a good summary for the basis of a healthy relationship between Religion and Psychology can be found here:

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