Guest Post: Ickabog Notes & Predictions

Written by David Martin on Sunday, July 5th, 2020, five days before the end of The Ickabog will be published.

A few comments about the Ickabog story so far:

When contemplating the venality and cruelty of the Cornucopian government, it may be well to remember that Rowling worked as a translator in the London office of Amnesty International for a while. She spoke of the nightmares that work gave her in her Very Good Lives address at Harvard.

Cornucopia seems to have the same level of technology as England in about 1800. The clock Bert watches while waiting for his mother to return has a minute hand. Cooking is done on stoves rather than in fireplaces. There is (or was at the start of the story) regular postal service in the kingdom. On the other hand, they are still using quills and all lighting is by candles and flaming torches. They don’t even have gas lights yet. Only Basher John has keys at the orphanage. Apparently Ma Gunther does not have duplicates. (Basher John, like Hagrid, is a “keeper of the keys.”) This suggests that metal working was not yet advanced enough to make duplicate keys common for locks.

The absence of newspapers strikes me as odd. There is also no mention of a town crier. How do people get the news?

One of JKR’s tricks is to not mention something, such as the name of Barty Crouch’s son. We are not told why Lady Eslanda is living in the castle. What is her backstory?

As in Harry Potter, the good guys read books (especially Lady Eslanda) and write letters. The bad guys seem to avoid reading and writing. Lord Spittleworth has a library, but it is dusty. Further, Lord Spittleworth seems to be in several ways at war with letters. He reads (censors) all the King’s mail and blocks the mail from outside Chouxville. Spittleworth and Flapoon rely a lot on messengers and face-to-face conversations, just as the Death Eaters did.

A lot of this story revolves around food. The towns are described in terms of what food they create. The names of the towns seem to link to food:

  • Chouxville: “Choux” is the French word for cabbage. (It is also used in the phrase “mon petit choux” as a term of endearment.)
  • Kurdsburg: Curds are the “soft, white substance formed when milk sours, used as the basis for cheese.” (Wikipedia)
  • Baronstown. I have no idea about what Baron has to do with meat. Any ideas?
  • Jeroboam. A “jeroboam” refers to either a 3-liter bottle of Champagne or Burgundy or a 4.5-liter bottle of Bordeaux. Biblically, Jeroboam was the first king of the northern Kingdom of Israel who ruled somewhere around 920 to 901 B.C. (Taken from
  • And of course, the name of the country itself – Cornucopia – suggests an abundance of food.

Ma Gunther’s orphanage is terrible in part because of the food. The children are half-starved when rescued by the Ickabog. Maybe expressing wealth and poverty as having or lacking food is just a way of making those two conditions more understandable to young children.

On the other hand, the name of the river – Fluma – is very close to the Portuguese word “fleuma” which means phlegm. Recalling chapter five of Prince, this would not be the first time Rowling has played with that word.

Thinking about possible fictional antecedents for the Ickabog’s situation of guarding its many offspring, two creatures come to mind:

Now some rash predictions or guesses about how the story will end:

  1. There will be a final battle in which Captain Goodfellow slays Lord Spittleworth.
  2. Lord Flapoon will not be killed. He, the Dark Footers, and Ma Gunther will be sent to the dungeons where they will have to live on cabbage soup.
  3. The money stolen by Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon will be recovered and used to rebuild the country.
  4. King Fred will be dethroned.
  5. Lady Eslanda will discover something important in the library – something old. Her discovery may show that King Fred is not the rightful king and/or that Cornucopia should have a different relationship with the Ickabog. Perhaps there was an ancient treaty?
  6. Several couples will live happily ever after:
  • Lady Eslanda and Captain Goodfellow.
  • Bertha Beamish and Dan Dovetail.
  • Daisy Dovetail and Bert Beamish.
  • Martha (whose last name we’ve never been told) and Roderick Roach. (Maybe)
  1. The Ickabog will be given the right to live in peace in the Marshlands, to collect or cultivate mushrooms.

I look forward to seeing in just a few days how Rowling will, in all likelihood, surprise all of us again with an unforeseen revelation at the end of the story.

  • David Martin of Hufflepuff

Please Share Your Predictions for the Coming Week in the Comment Boxes!


  1. Thank you, David, for your notes and predictions!

    I am already on record with a prediction that Lady Eslanda and Captain Goodfellow will wind up as King and Queen of Cornucopia — so I love your idea about her discovering something in the Spittleworth library that will explode the status quo. Perhaps, though, it will just be dirt on the Spittleworth clan’s claim of nobility?

    I have also said that the happy ending Daisy spells out for and sells to the Ickabog is probably not going to play out because we have to have a story twist, right? It would be a real departure for Rowling to give us the ending she has made so clear at least five chapters before the big finish.

    If she lets Bert Beamish play out his character arc, for instance, things don’t look good for the Ickabog; the pointers we have to Odysseus’ cave experience with the Cyclops, the Beamish name and the Jabberwock, and Bert’s desire to protect Daisy, Martha, and Roderick from a creature claiming it intends to eat them all suggest a tragic end for the Ickabog.

    I have a hard time, having written that, imagining Rowling giving the world a sad finish to her political fairy tale. Even if Bert and friends overthrow the regime of King Fred, the Ickabog’s death at the hands of our Beamish Boy will be a major downer.

    So how about this? Bert murders the Ickabog but the Ickaboggles are bornded full of the hope the monster had via its conversations with Daisy. They survive and the teens bring them to the Capitol to demonstrate that Ickabogs are friends not food, I mean ‘foes,’ and to testify about what really happened on the Marsh in chapter 12.

    The Shepherd from the Day of Petition reappears with Patch the Dog to tell that side of the story and Private Prodd comes back to tell the tale of Daisy’s kidnap and planned murder. And Otto Scrumble, Lord Spittleworth’s valet aka Mrs Buttons and Prof Fraudysham, will have to reappear to play another Carnival-esque role — at Lady Eslanda’s persuasion? The cooks in the dungeon escape and lead a rebellion against King Fred and the Lords, the advent of which brings out all the truth tellers and Lady Eslanda and her library discoveries.

    I do hope your bad guys in the dungeon eating cabbage soup prediction comes true (if I have always liked cabbage soup, at least the way my wife cooks it…).

    Thank you again, David, for these timely notes and predictions!

  2. DAVID M MARTIN says

    I predict that Bert will not kill the Ickabog in spite of the interesting Jabberwocky and Odysseus precedents you point out. In the case of the Jabberwock, the poem tells us that it has “jaws that bite,” “claws that catch” and “eyes of flame.” The Ickabog has none of these frightening attributes. In the case of Odysseus and the Cyclops, the monster had already shown its character by killing and eating several of the captive humans. Again, the Ickabog has done nothing like that.

    But in addition to those dissimilarities, I have two more recent literary precedents that make me believe Bert will not kill the Ickabog:

    1. Harry, in the Shrieking Shack, confronting but not killing Sirius Black (Prisoner, Chapter 17, “Cat, Rat, and Dog”) and

    2. Draco, at the top of the tower, confronting but not killing Albus Dumbledore (Prince, Chapter 17, “The Lightning-Struck Tower.”)

    As Dumbledore says to Draco at the top of the tower, “Killing is not nearly as easy as the innocent believe.” (Prince, page 586) Perhaps Bert, too, will have a confrontation with the Ickabog and hesitate just as Harry and Draco did.

    We shall see.
    — David Martin of Hufflepuff

  3. Oh, that has the ring of truth, David! The good news is we’ll know in less than a week, probably tomorrow morning, which of us is right (or if we’re both wrong).

    If the Ickabog is not murdered by Bert Beamish before the Bornding, I’ll have to write ‘The Ickabog Should Have Died’ and make my millions.

  4. Nick Jeffery says
  5. Bonni Crawford says

    I took the choux of Chouxville to refer to pastries (as in, choux pastry;, but maybe it’s a wordplay, and refers to both pastries and cabbages. Cabbage is a traditional poverty food – e.g. Cabbagetown in Toronto is so-called apparently because the Macedonian and Irish immigrants who moved to the neighbourhood from the late 1840s were said to have been so poor that they grew cabbage in their front yards. Choux pastry, on the other hand, has a reputation for being difficult, & therefore the sort of refined cookery that only societies with ample time and monetary resources would bother with.
    So maybe Chouxville is a word that reflects how Cornucopia at large has fallen from eating choux pastries to eating cabbages (although Chouxville itself is not really a microcosm of Cornucopia, and the people there have mostly not become poverty-stricken, as Spittalworth has attempted to keep the king believing that all of Cornucopia is still flourishing and eating well. Effectively Spittalworth has been pretending that Chouxville is representative of Cornucopia when it is not, except in its name’s secondary or “hidden” meaning of CabbageTown).

  6. Spoiler alert! Read Monday’s chapters before reading this…

    Monday morning and its two new chapters reveal… both David and I were wrong about Bert Beamish and the Ickabog (hurrah!). Our Beamish boy gives in to Daisy’s pleas to listen with hardly a fuss so there isn’t even the stand-off confrontation that David predicted, not to mention the assassination I saw as nearly inevitable.

    Anyone care to predict what Lord Spittleworth will do when he learns from Basher John that the Children’s Crusade and the Ickabog are on their way to Chouxville? My guess is the obvious choice, namely, that he doubles down on his lies and threats and sends out the Ickabog Defense Force to kill the monster and “save the deluded citizenry.”

    And perhaps they succeed! Maybe Icky dies trying to protect Daisy and Bert? Regardless, The Ickabog bornds in its death throes and its Ickaboggles come into the world with the hope and love Icky has experienced and embodied as their defining qualities. Cue revelations of the Spittleworth Usurpation and we have a happy ending.

  7. David Martin says

    Thank you, Nick, for explaining a Baron of Beef and thank you Bonni for pointing out Choux Pastries. These were both new pieces of information for me, and that explanation of Choux makes more sense than my initial suggestion. It’s wonderful what one can learn by trying to keep up with JKR.

    Considering the emphasis on food that there is in this story, I’ll make one more prediction: There will be a great feast at the end. Perhaps it will be a wedding feast and/or a coronation feast. I’m imagining something like the feast at the end of “Chamber of Secrets.”

  8. David Martin says

    Another rash prediction.

    The French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” has that name because it was being sung by the volunteers from Marseille as they marched into the capital during the French Revolution.

    I predict, therefore, that at some point Bertha Beamish and her crew from the dungeons (Dan Dovetail, Captain Goodfellow, Private Ogden and Private Wagstaff) will join the revolt against Spittleworth singing the Cornucopia National Anthem that they have been practicing for so long down in the dungeons.

  9. Kelly Loomis says

    David, considering Rowling’s love if everything French, this could be a likely scenario.

  10. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Having been pleasantly surprised by succeeding in making choux pastry, I only realized while reading Bonni Crawford’s comment that it is probably called that because the result resembles a (little) cabbage – and I find the Wikipediast confirms this, “The name of the dough changed to pâte à choux, as Avice’s buns resembled cabbages—choux in French” (though this is admittedly followed by an ominous superscript blue “Dubious – discuss”). It is preceded by the (to me surprising) sentence, “Over time, the recipe of the dough evolved, and the name changed to pâte à popelin, which was used to make popelins, small cakes made in the shape of a woman’s breasts.” Debussy’s only child, his daughter, comes to mind with the fact of her nickname (in the words of the Wikipediast) ” Claude-Emma, affectionately known as ‘Chouchou'”. Am I right in thinking this no uncommon French term of endearment – and might JKR be playing with this in any way?

  11. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Ahem, as of course David has noted – “It is also used in the phrase ‘mon petit choux’ as a term of endearment”! Is there any three-part complexity, cabbage, pastry, dear one(s)? Wandering further afield – one of the most popular uses of choux pastry is in profiteroles (but I have not scoured the text to see if JKR mentions them explicitly). The Wikipediast says, “The original meaning in both English and French is unclear, but later it came to mean a kind of roll ‘baked under the ashes’.” Might even implicit evocation of profiteroles be in play, with respect to contrasts of wealth and poverty?

    I’m not up to speed, so may easily have missed it, but, in the contexts of wealth, poverty, food, and charity (in its various senses), has there been much discussion of possible wordplay between ‘Spittle’ and ‘Spital’?

  12. Abhi Singh says

    I’d say that Ickabog will hqve twins and Flapoon might kill one of them. I agree that Lady Eslanda might discover something old and King Fred would be dethroned but I disagree that Dan and Bertha. I also think that Roderick might die in the last part.

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