Christmas Pig’s Chapter Thirteen

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Rowling has read aloud more than one chapter of The Christmas Pig. I learned today from The Rowling Library, our most dependable source for news about The Presence herself and about Rowling, Inc., that she had been filmed reading Christmas Pig‘s thirteenth chapter, ‘The Night for Miracles and Lost Causes.’ The reading above is from the The Rowling Library YouTube channel.

You might think this is no big deal and that would be understandable. Serious Potter Pundits, though, would raise an eyebrow at the mention of chapter 13. This is because Irvin Khaytman, author of Dumbledore: The Life and Lies of Hogwarts’s Renowned Headmaster and who writes at as ‘hpboy13,’ long ago revealed that Rowling always drops an essential event and clue about the finish in the thirteenth chapter of her books. For a detailed review of his argument on this score with respect to the Potter books, go here. In brief, he says:

In the Potter books, Chapter 13 is always a turning point. Two things always happen in Chapter 13. First, we learn about a magical item or specific type of magic that ends up being the “how” of the central mystery. Second, we are misdirected with a false suspect, but (with hindsight) we actually find evidence of the real culprit. In the first four books, there is a third element: Draco Malfoy gets bested by Harry and co.

This is brilliant work, frankly, and I have to think it was discussion like this on fan sites about the villain always appearing on Halloween in the first four books that had Rowling abandon the plan for the last three. It’s obvious that our noting that the killer in each Strike novel appears in the center chapter, often in some kind of disguise, has not become sufficiently well known because she has persisted through Troubled Blood.

I don’t know if Mr. Khaytman has explored the Strike books’ chapter 13s; his work on the Strike novels has not as a rule been as insightful as his exploration of patterns in the Hogwarts Saga was (though, disappointing as articles like this one might be, that’s to judge at a very high standard — hpboy13 and Beatrice Groves are the staff writers at Mugglenet worth reading, full stop). If he has not explored the Strike chapter 13s, I hope one of our serious readers will look for a pattern.

I bring all this up only because Rowling chose to read The Christmas Pig’s chapter 13, ‘The Night for Miracles and Lost Causes.’ It is the beginning of Jack’s adventures in the Land of the Lost though it takes place entirely in his bedroom. In this chapter, the seven year old boy learns that his beloved toy DP is in the Land of the Lost, about the Loser, and that on this night, Christmas Eve, if he is brave enough, he can enter a world known only to small Things, big Ideas, and human capacities that have been lost. He accepts and, in the next chapter, shrinks and gets lost after a run-in with Toby-Cerberus.

At the very end of chapter 13, however, the Christmas Pig delivers his “one condition” for helping Jack, a condition he does as a ruse to fool the boy about his real aim. “The old Matchbox car began to say something, but the Christmas Pig threw him a nasty look and the car fell silent” (46). We’re not told what he’s done until DP spills the belly beans on the Island of the Beloved (229-230). The marker, though, is dropped in chapter thirteen, just as Mr. Khaytman’s theory predicts it would be.

Though not a turning point in the sense that we use that phrase in our discussions here of ring composition, Christmas Pig‘s chapter 13 certainly is a big shift in the story, in which we learn of and about the world we will soon enter. To repeat myself, I hope a HogwartsProfessor reader will either find what hpboy13 has written on this subject about Casual Vacancy, The Ickabog, and the five Strike novels or, if he has not written that up, that our serious reader will take a look and write us a Guest Post on the subject. The pattern is clearly more than a tick or one-off restricted to Harry Potter.

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