Guest Post: The Father in Running Grave

Spoilers ahead! The subject is taken from a brief mention of a play two characters in London attend, an event in the excerpted Running Grave chapters released last week. If you don’t want to know about that, go no further.

Running Grave, Chapter 9

If you are like me, you let the reference to the play, The Father, in the extended excerpt that was briefly available to readers last week (available now only via screenshots like the above) skip right past you. I had not heard of the play or the movie adaptations so there was no ‘hook’ to catch my attention.

Lana Whited, though, one of the very few members of the Royal Society of Rowling Readers to have made significant contributions to Potter Punditry in all three of its critical generations, doesn’t need hooks; she knows that such asides in a Strike novel are almost surely meaningful. She sent me a brief note this morning about it and I asked her if I could share it here as a Guest Post. Enjoy!

While I definitely don’t consider myself to be a “Serious Striker,” I am intrigued that the play Robin and Murphy are seeing is Florian Zeller’s The Father, and when I looked up that title, I discovered some interesting, potentially meaningful facts. The original play is Le pere, which won the Molière prize for best play in 2014 and is part of a trilogy. The other two plays are (as you might guess) Le mere and Le fils. Le pere was first performed in September 2012 and ran in the West End of London in 2015. There is a French film adaptation called Floride and a 2020 film (directed by Zeller) called The Father with Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins. The 2020 film won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Hopkins won for Best Actor. 

The main character in Zeller’s play apparently has lost a daughter named LUCY in the past (to an accident, apparently) but doesn’t always recall that she is dead as his dementia progresses. Based on descriptions I’ve read, the plays’ themes seem to concern whether a person can trust their loved ones, which sounds very familiar to those of us who have read the preview chapters. There’s an adaptation of The Son on Netflix, the third play to be written (about 2018). In addition, the main character is Pierre (anglicized as Peter and also Peter in the Netflix film), which may invoke John’s “John and Peter” theory nicely. 

This is all new information to me this afternoon, and I’m still processing it. But clearly the name of the play, like virtually every other detail in Rowling’s work, functions like a hyperlink to various associations that may turn out to be relevant.

Dr Whited is Professor of English & Director of the Boone Honors Program at Ferrum College and editor of The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon (2002), the first published collection of critical essays on the Hogwarts Saga, of Critical Insights: The Harry Potter Series (2015), and the long-anticipated third-generation (‘Generation Hex’) anthology The Ivory Tower, Harry Potter, and Beyond, to be published later this year. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading her insights, check out The ‘Beasts Within’ of Fantastic Beasts: ‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes).’


  1. Lorna Calhoun says

    I think Uncle Ted will get Alzheimer’s.

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