The Deathly Hallows’ Interview-Epilogue: Rowling Library Magazine Cover Article

Our friends at The Rowling Library have just published issue #71 of their magazine, and, as always, it is worth the time to download and read it (or just click the link above). From the interview with Neil Packer, a Harry Potter illustratorto the editor’s review of ‘The Forbidden Forest Experience’ (contrast TRL’s notes with Louise Freeman’s that were posted here just yesterday, A Forbidden Forest Experience: A Bit of Hogwarts Comes to Virginia), The Rowling Library Magazine is a serious reader delight.

I especially recommend this issue’s cover story by ‘Ibid,’ ‘After Seven: In Rowling’s Words.’ What the author has done is to collect all of Rowling’s comments that she made in interviews, tweets, and press conferences post Deathly Hallows about what happened to the beloved characters of her septology and then to re-write this collection as a single article written by the author. It acts like something of an extended epilogue to the Hogwarts Saga’s finale and is very, very well done.

It’s so well done, in fact, that I hope ‘Ibid’ or another TRL writer will collect and write-up using the author’s own words Rowling’s post Hallows comments about the Christian content of the series (e.g., the MTV ‘interview’), her thoughts about the “indestructible soul” and her “intensely spiritual life” (Volkskrant), and the “magic in literature,” “spiritual flux,” “permanent soul,” and reflections on the King’s Cross scene (El Pais, Cruz). These and her various talks on the ‘Open Book Tour,’ the German interview including her Nabokov discussion still not found, and her Today show appearances happened in the year after Deathly Hallows’ publication and represent her great opening up about her core beliefs. It would be a great service if a diligent researcher could collect them all and present them as professionally as ‘Ibid’ did her extended epilogue.

Just saying! Until that wish-upon-a-star collation appears, enjoy the November issue of the TRL magazine — and think seriously about subscribing to their efforts to support the excellent work they do. You’ll get Patricio Tarantino’s brilliant Daily Prophet emails in your inbox if you do!

A Forbidden Forest Experience: A Bit of Hogwarts Comes to Virginia

Last August, for my birthday, my daughter and her husband got us tickets for A Forbidden Forest Experience, which opened on Halloween in Leesburg, VA, about 30 minutes outside Washington D.C.  One of four such venues worldwide (the others are in Cheshire, UK; Groenenburg, Belgium and Westchester, NY), it is an outdoor Harry Potter experience, a lighted trail about a mile long, with piped-in music and snippets of Forest-related dialogue from the movies, along with multiple scenes of fantastic beasts and other visuals that might be encountered in the wilderness surrounding Hogwarts castle.

Our visit was on an unseasonably warm night (70 degrees in November!) but with rainstorms expected and literal flood warnings in the facility. I traded my usual Ravenclaw colors for a Hufflepuff yellow slicker and felt a bit more like a Maine lobster fisher than a witch. I also wore hiking boots, expecting mud and puddles.  Fortunately, we finished our tour shortly before the downpour started. The trail was wide and graveled with some slight hills, so comfortable shoes are a must, but tennis shoes would have sufficed. There were plenty of visitors in robes and Quidditch jerseys, as you would expect at any Wizarding World event.

The first impressive aspect was the size of the event. My son acknowledged he was expecting something like corn maze/pumpkin patch/ hayride type of place; instead we were met with a parking lot that was more theme-park sized and which was largely full. The decor was, in a word, lavish. Thousands and thousands of LED lights illuminated trails and trees and allowed nighttime passage with no need for flashlights. If you are the type who appreciates the detail of the decor that you see while waiting in line for Universal Studio rides, you’ll appreciate this experience. This is not a trail to rush through; attention to details will show you unexpected treats like glowing Dark Marks and Deathly Hallows emblems adorning the trees, along with other iconic emblems.

While many of the scenes are purely for looking at or taking selfies, others are more interactive. The first of these was an opportunity to bow to Buckbeak (FF Buckbeak), who then had the choice of whether or not to bow back. Buckbeak accepted me and my son, but rejected my daughter, for unknown reasons. The longest line was the Patronus-casting station, which we chose to watch rather than participate in. Visitors could point a wand at a suspended screen and a cavorting white image would appear. Familiar ones included Herimone’s otter, Luna’s hare and Ron’s terrior; there were also some new ones like a badger and a cougar. Perhaps the most impressive was the dueling station, where a Priori incantatem effect is created with a long neon tube. See here (FF duel) for my duel with my son.  Unlike at Universal, you don’t have to pay big bucks for an interactive wand to participate.

There were plenty of other things to purchase, of course. There are refreshment areas at both the start and midpoint of the trails, where you can get butterbeer (of course!), other beverages, snacks and a selection of British pub food like fish and chips and bangers and mash. Though it was not especially appealing on this balmy night, the mid-trail stop included a fire pit at which marshmallows could be roasted (for a price!) I could see that being a lot more popular on a more typically chilly night. Note to organizers:  you could create some goodwill among your families with small children if you would let them bring their own.  We did not sample any, as we had enjoyed a nice restaurant dinner before our 9 PM arrival, but there were plenty of people enjoying and, had we come at dinnertime I would have loved sampling the pub fare.

Perhaps the spookiest segment is Aragog’s lair, which has warning signs and an alternate route for arachnophobics.  You enter an an enclosed area and multiple huge spiders descend from overhead. This was certainly fun, though I was a little disappointed by Aragog himself, who didn’t really emerge from his hole and was visible only as a few hairy legs. I was also a little surprised they did not play his “I cannot deny my children fresh meat” warning from the film. Overall, the trigger warning seemed like overkill. As a whole, the venue was, for the most part, not scary and quite family-friendly.

This is not a place to go to see your favorite characters. As I recall, there was only one human present, Hagrid, and he was depicted with his back to the visitors. While the cynic in me suspects this was a way of avoiding having to pay royalties to Robbie Coltrane for the use of his image, it had an especially poignant twist given the actor’s recent death. It is Fang’s mournful face that looks back at the visitors, as if he wants to follow his master but can’t. It is an unintentionally touching image, with Fang apparently joining us in bidding our Hagrid farewell.

The Forbidden Forest trail is one of several such Potter attractions springing up this winter. Others include Harry Potter: Magic at Play in Chicago,  Yule Ball Celebrations in Houston, Mexico City, Milan and Montreal and Harry Potter: The Exhibit in Atlanta and soon to open in Vienna. The demand for more Wizarding World venues is apparently international. While these exhibits are intended as temporary attractions, it will be interesting to see if any are made permanent, or if they continue on multi-city tours.

As this Variety article explains, these events are targeted at the original young Generation Hex generation, who are old enough searching for ways to share the experience with their own children.

“The generation that grew up with Harry Potter, they’re parents now, and you never grow out of Harry Potter,” she said. “So it’s an opportunity for them to introduce the franchise to their kids on a level where they’re prepared for it — even if they’re not familiar with the stories, which a lot of 6-year-olds probably aren’t. But we didn’t want to alienate the older audiences — we wanted fans of all ages, which is hard.

If you read my review of Wizarding World Orlando, you will recall that one thing I thought was lacking was more child-friendly attractions. It seems that others have noticed that gap, as well. It is also not hard to imagine fans of all ages who are weary of Rowling’s crusade against transgender rights seeking to reconnect with the pure magic of the wizarding world. Of course, this is a movie-centric event, incorporating cinematic imagery and music, but there are a few touches (Skrewts, puffskeins) that evoke the books. No sign of Newt Scamander and colleagues, other than a Niffler or two in their treasure-filled dens.

One hint to organizers:  There were a few nargles in last night’s showing, in the form of a brief power outage that was not too surprising, given the amount of electricity required and the proximity of severe storms. But, during the 15 minute or so delay, the staff did not seem to know what to do with us, Our guide finally got some help from some fans who handed him a cell phone linked to a site with some corny Harry Potter jokes to tell over his microphone, but having a plan:  some trivia questions, or even just being able to talk about Harry Potter and chat up the crowd to ask people how they met the Boy Who Lived would have given a better impression. And, if any of the Leesburg staff would like to sponsor a speaker, it would be a perfect venue for my “Harry Potter and Nature” talk. The only honorarium I would charge is a cup of butterbeer, and perhaps an order of bangers and mash.

The event seems to be hitting its target demographic. At the restaurant, I saw a young girl of about 10 in  Gryffindor scarf, and remarked that she must be planning to go the same place I was. The couple parked next to us in the mammoth lot had an infant in a carrier seat with them. Overall, despite the lack of small children to take with us, my family (me, my husband and three Generation Hex grown children) enjoyed the evening and I’d recommend the experience to any and all Potter fans.

Cormac Jones: The Cosmic Chiasmus

An Orthodox Christian man in Texas with whom I correspond sent me a link to Cormac Jones’ ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus’ yesterday. His note did not include anything except the url and he really didn’t need to explain why he thought of me while reading Jones’ wonderful article. My friend has heard me speak both at his parish, St Maximos Orthodox Church in Denton (‘Everything I Need to Know I Learned from St Maximos the Confessor’) and at a Classical Christian school in Dallas about ring composition and the symbolism of the cross. Jones’ ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ turns on theological points made by St Maximus and the chiastic narrative structure of Christian scripture and Orthodox liturgics and iconography.

I differ with Jones on several points, as you might expect, given my sad self-importance and preoccupation with these subjects for more than ten years. Having written my MFA thesis on the relation of ring writing and literary alchemy, a subject expanded on in my PhD thesis, I was disappointed with Jones’ choice of Maximian references (specifically, his neglect of more pertinent ones and the translation of the passage he leans on most heavily with respect to logos), his framing of the question (his focus is exclusively Christian rather than universal), his relatively pedantic and academic posture (there’s little in the piece’s presentation of the parabolic quality he celebrates), and in the experts on inclusio and symbolism he cites as authority, all of whom are excellent but which list of sources does not include Mary Douglas, John Welsh, or Rene Guenon.

Writing up a detailed review of these differences might be of some interest to Jones and satisfying to me, I suppose, but to few others. Unfortunately, such a critique would also necessarily obscure the importance of ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ especially for Christian students of the Bible and iconography and the symbolism in each. Worse, my focusing on my points of difference with Jones’ approach and choices he makes would be read incorrectly as a suggestion that I am not wonderfully excited by this article and that I do not hope it receives the widest possible audience. That would be the worst possible misunderstanding and take-away. I beg readers interested in understanding Rowling better, especially why they enjoy her novels more than those of other writers, to read Jones’ piece, regardless of their religious beliefs.

As readers here know, I hope, I think the writing of J. K. Rowling is as popular as it is because of her integration of three traditional elements in her stories, from the relatively short and sweet stand-alone Christmas Pig to the epic Strike series in progress. She is writing psychomachian allegory of the soul’s journey to perfection in Spirit, exteriorized presentations of the inner spiritual transformation of every human person, allegories she suffuses with alchemical symbolism of repentance, purification, and apotheosis as resurrection, all of which she gives a signature chiastic or ring structure. How this allegory, symbolism, and narrative scaffolding work together to foster and advance the transformation of a reader’s vision through the imagination I think is best understood through the critical lens of Coleridgean and Patristic logos epistemology and soteriology.

Jones’ article, as you’d expect, makes no references to popular culture or contemporary fiction. What ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ does, though, is, in the context of explaining the symbolism of the Cross in chiastic narrative as it does for a specifically Judeo-Christian audience, is attempt to explain the universal power of this kind of writing on the human soul. Though we differ on particular points that are more and less important, Jones ‘gets’ and brilliantly presents the ‘so what?’ I have tried to say for the last twenty years about why Rowling’s work affects readers the way it does.

All of which is to say I recommend ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ to readers here with all enthusiasm and without reservation. The article fails to say all things to everybody as any discursive argument must, but what it does say about the centrality of understanding chiasmus and its attendant symbolism for living a proper human life is invaluable, even essential. I urge you to set aside an hour as soon as you can to dive into this piece’s depths and reflect on its applications in your inner and outer orientation with respect to God, man, and the world, your logos inner essence and its relation to the Logos fabric of reality.

Many thanks to my friend in Texas for sharing the link to this wonderful article and to Jones for writing it!

Hogwarts Legacy Gameplay Showcase: Return of the “Goblins are Jews!” Claim

Read about ‘Hogwarts Legacy,’ a role-playing computer game set in the Wizarding World of the 19th Century, at the Wikipedia page dedicated to explaining its ins and outs or just watch the video embedded in the tweet above. The game won’t be available for play until next February but it can be ordered before that time, whence the big news of the day: a ‘Gameplay Showcase’ debuts today to encourage those gamers interested in the product, a crowd estimated to number in the millions around the globe, to purchase it in advance.

As you might expect of anything involving J. K. Rowling today, the game already has its critics. Take a look at Did Hogwarts Legacy Seriously Just Make The Anti-Semitic Goblins The Villains? at the gamer.com or vice.com’s Hogwarts Legacy Imagines a Harry Potter Without JK Rowling. Each contends that, although Rowling was not involved in the evolution of the game as a creator or consultant, that her “bigotry” and “transphobia” by necessity inform it, based as it is on the Gender Critical and racial prejudices that permeate her novels. A touchstone argument for both critics is the risible chestnut that Rowling’s Goblins are caricatures of Jews, rapacious for money and privilege.

Beatrice Groves exploded this contention in March 2019 with two posts on the supposed anti-Semitism, Rowling’s Goblin Problem? and The Sword Until Recently Known as Gryffindor’s. To their credit, the creators of the game and its owners, a division of Warner Brothers-Discovery, have not redesigned the game to remove the Goblin Rebellion core of the narrative.

None of the HogwartsProfessor faculty and adjutants are ‘gamers’ so please be sure we welcome contributions from those of you who are — in the form of a Guest Post — about the Hogwarts Legacy Gamesplace Showplace to explain and critique what the big deal is. Let us know what we’re missing as well as the bugs and room for improvement in the game design and format!

 

Ink Black Heart: Strike as Zeus to Robin’s Leda and Cupid to Mads’ Psyche

Ink Black Heart has confirmed certain ideas about the Cormoran Strike books and introduced new mysteries about Rowling’s second series. The field of Serious Striker Studies, quite simply, is in a state of flux at the moment even about ideas we think of as sureties; Rowling-Galbraith’s longest work, though published some time ago, is a long way from being fully understood on its own or in the context of the Strike canon. Before advancing what I think are two important points about Strike’s mythological roles in Ink Black Heart, allow me to explain how I see the Strike Studies status quo.

If there had been any doubts remaining about the Parallels Series Idea (PSI), that the Strike novels are being written in parallel with the Harry Potter apposite numbers, Strike 6’s many echoes with the Hogwarts Saga’s sixth entry, Half-Blood Prince, removed them. See the discussion here at HogwartsProfessor, and articles at both The Rowling Library and even MuggleNet for the conclusive evidence on this point. There is more to add on this subject, most important in my view the liquid albedo quality of Ink Black Heart‘s pronounced drinking of alcohol as in Prince, a quality The Times of London noted in their review as “a pub crawl:”

The Ink Black Heart is essentially a pub crawl — with the emphasis on the crawl — through West End watering holes. It starts at the Ritz, continues at Annabel’s (where Strike picks up a celebrity jeweller) and goes on to the Arts Club, the Tottenham on Oxford Street, Bob Bob Ricard (with its “Push for Champagne” buttons) in Upper James Street, the Flask in Hampstead, the Ship and Shovell in Craven Passage and ends in St Stephen’s Tavern opposite the Palace of Westminster.

Strike is no stranger to drinking holes, but The Times was right to note that the imbibing goes to a different level in Heart, which is mysterious outside of alchemical symbolism and parallels with the firewhiskey friendly Half-Blood Prince.

As well-established as PSI now is, it also presents a real head-scratching mystery in addition to the question of ‘Why is she doing this?‘ There are, after all, only seven Harry Potter novels and the author insists there will be at least ten Strike novels. Strike 7 seems on course to be in parallel with Deathly Hallows, the original series’ conclusion, without being a conclusion itself. It seems, even if one assumes that Rowling is lying and the next Strike novel will indeed be the last, almost impossible, short of a three or four thousand page novel, for her to wrap up the Strike-Ellacott relationship and the mystery of Leda Strike’s death in one book. [Read more…]