Cormoran and Robin: Echoes of Homer’s Odysseus and Penelope (2) Joanne Gray

Part 1 of this Guest Post from Joanne Gray can be read here: Cormoran and Robin: Echoes of Homer’s Odysseus and Penelope?

Part 2 Of Echoes In Homer’s Odyssey: Possible Echoes In Odyssey Books 17-24 to Strike Books 5, 6, 7

Anteros by Alfred Gilbert, 1893; from the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus. Mistakenly called the Statue of Eros. [1]

On the night that Robin and Matthew became engaged, (March 28, 2010) Matthew chose the Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus as the right place to ask Robin to marry him. On the surface, the choice seemed very appropriate, but in reality he was actually proposing to her at the statue, not of Eros (Cupid), but of his lesser-known brother, Anteros.

The public has given the statue the name of Eros—the god of love—because we celebrate Eros/Cupid; the cherub who shoots the arrow that ignites the passion for love as the true symbol for lovers. It’s true that Eros is behind the myth of initiating the first wonderful sparks of infatuation. It is less well known that it is actually his brother Anteros who grows those sparks into a long-lasting reciprocal flame of shared love: actual real love which lies beyond the chaotic and highly charged emotions set-off by Eros.

The irony is that Anteros was the god that Matthew and Robin really needed since it was the couple’s inability to grow their initial early infatuation into a more mature and lasting love that doomed their relationship.

The lack of this reciprocal love between them (and also between Cormoran and Charlotte) doomed both their relationships. Both Matthew and Charlotte’s need for Robin and Cormoran to give up their own essential autonomy in order to conform their desires to fit Matthew and Charlotte’s needs (if there was ever to be any peace between them) ultimately doomed both of their relationships.

The Strike series has set Cormoran and Robin up as a couple who would very much reach the Anteros level of true love—having love reciprocated… and returned in full to their partner.

Homer includes two famous couples in The Odyssey Book 3, Helen and Menelaus; Agamemnon and Clytemnestra—2 Spartan brothers married to 2 Spartan sisters. Both couples portray unfaithful marriages and Homer used them as counterweights to the faithful relationship and marriage of Odysseus and Penelope.

It isn’t possible at this point to know how the upcoming books of the Strike series—especially Book 5, Book 6 and Book 7—might contain echoes from Homer’s Odyssey, but with Robin’s upcoming divorce from Matthew, it seems we will at least have a real possibility of seeing some echoes to a very important part of the final Odyssey Books (17-23) regarding Penelope’s suitors.

Since it appears that it takes at least a year to achieve a final decree in a British divorce—and that’s for an uncontested divorce—it won’t be until the end of Book 5 (at the earliest) that the Robin’s divorce is final and Book 6 before we finally see some suitors for Robin enter the story.

The Odyssey’s Penelope had 108 suitors! Robin, of course, will not be looking at anywhere near that number—but then she doesn’t bring “a kingdom” as part of any marriage deal. There’s no doubt, however, that once Robin is free, she will find herself with a choice of suitors. It will also be at this moment that Cormoran will know that the time for hesitation has ended. It will be clear that if he wants any chance of making his intentions known that it’s now or never.

Robin knows who Cormoran is and knows they have a mutual respectful relationship that includes definite feelings of affection, but she will also be free to date for the first time and, as Lethal White proved, she definitely can find other men attractive and desirable. There will no doubt be suitors and at least one of them, I believe, will appear to offer her a great deal of what she is looking for in a life partner. Perhaps he will even be a Met detective?

Cormoran would definitely see such a suitor for Robin as a real rival. If a situation or case came their way that involved all of them it would definitely set up the circumstances where male rivalry and competition would be in full force.

Robin won’t set this kind of situation up (like Penelope) or even want it to be seen as a contest, however, as Robin has already mentioned, she has brothers and knows how men act when they find themselves in competition. She also knows that Cormoran is full of doubts about stepping over the professional barriers he’s imposed and unsure about moving into a personal role. This situation will bring everything to the surface where both of them can look at where there are in their own lives and see clearly how much the other person really means to them. Hopefully she will realize that it is up to her to make it clear that she has chosen him—especially since he is in the position of power in their business partnership and she is in the position of power in a personal relationship.

[I don’t foresee any type of Agatha Christie story where one of Robin’s suitors begins to eliminate the other suitors, à la Christie’s, Then There Was None. [Cormoran eliminating Robin’s suitors, of course, would be unlike Odysseus’s using bow and arrows, and more like Penelope’s tests using wit and craftiness.]

The last book of the Odyssey is Book 24 and contains the final recognition and reconciliation of the epic which takes place between Odysseus and his father Laertes. This scenario could also prove to be a big echo between The Odyssey and the Strike series. In fact, it could work in two different ways.

Either closely echoing The Odyssey and just like Laertes was portrayed as Odyssey’s father all the way through the poem, Jonny Rokeby who has been portrayed as Cormoran’s father all the way through the series, he could be shown to be conclusively his biological father once all the pieces are revealed. But before then and while we are still awaiting the definitive missing information there’s still the possibility that someone else, still hidden (at this point) in the shadows, could be revealed as Cormoran’s biological father. Interestingly either outcome could prove a strong echo between the two works.

For me the more satisfying outcome would be the revelation of someone besides Rokeby. We have no real relationship to Rokeby in the books so far and it seems that even if he is reconciled to Cormoran in the end that it would not pack any real emotional punch. Granted we have no relationship to any mystery father either, but I’d like to think there is a deeper reason why there are so many pieces of incomplete information surrounding Cormoran’s birth story. That when its all explained that there is a real reason for all the obscurity—the lack of concrete information about the DNA test—dates and who initiated the test; why the story of Cormoran’s birth and Jonny’s divorce don’t add up; and most of all, why all the mystery if Jonny really is Cormoran’s father?

I think there is a good chance we will see an echo to Odysseus’ final book’s recognition, reconciliation and reuniting to his estranged or long separated father in a future Strike book. We will certainly discover the true story behind Cormoran Strike’s origin and his family roots.

So far all four books have touched on the subject of families (Bk. 1: Bristow, Bk. 2: Quine, Bk. 3 Strike (Leda, Cormoran, Whittaker), Bk. 4 Chiswell, Knight) and relationships (brother and sister, couples, husband and wife, illegitimate sons/daughter and mothers/fathers). It’s a pretty safe bet that Cormoran’s own family will finally be revealed (there’s got to be a good reason JKR has yet to even reveal Leda and Uncle Ted’s surname).

We know some of the good and some of the bad about Cormoran’s mother but we haven’t been given any of her family’s history. We get glimpses of Uncle Ted’s rather normal life in Cornwall but nothing about the parents of Leda and Ted. It seems there should be something in that story that could shed some light on the reason that Leda has lived such a radically different life from her brother.

Strike Book 5 like HP 5 (with its back story of the Sirius Black family) will hopefully begin to bring some of Leda’s hidden family facts out into the light, where a sharper focus on them can begin to resolve the series many long-standing mysteries. Though even more importantly, it will finally bring some blessed closure to the even longer suffering Cormoran.



[1] Found out that this is actually the statue of Anteros—not Eros as it is popularly called. Anteros is the subject of the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus, London, where he symbolizes the selfless philanthropic love of the Earl of Shaftesbury for the poor. The memorial is sometimes given the name The Angel of Christian Charity and is popularly mistaken for Eros.[1]

 1. Lloyd & Mitchinson (2006) The Book of General Ignorance “Because of the bow and the nudity… everybody assumed it was Eros, the Greek god of love”

Eros is the brother of Anteros and also pretty much the opposite of Eros.

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