“I could not have survived without my colleagues:” David Martin of Hufflepuff Gives the Inside Scoop on the Tournament of Houses.

Editor’s note: Headmaster John and I had the privilege of participating in a Zoom conversation with star Hufflepuff David Martin of the Harry Potter Hogwarts Tournament of Houses, the day after the first episode aired. There’s been a bit of a time delay in sharing the interview with our Hogpro readers, because this was, to my knowledge, the first piece published here that had to be approved by Warner Brothers first. But, the necessary edits have been made, and it’s time to enjoy the inside scoop from the nation’s favorite 70-something Hufflepuff. 

Louise:

Hello and welcome to a little Zoom program here that I am calling “Mirrenwatch” after Dame Helen Mirren, Host of Harry Potter Hogwarts Tournament of Houses. My name is Louise Freeman; I am a professor of psychology at Mary Baldwin University, and I’m also a longtime writer for hogwartsprofessor.com.

I’m here with two very special guests: John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor, otherwise known as the Dean of Harry Potter scholars, and Headmaster of Hogwartsprofessor.com, who is going to tell us a little bit about his role in the recruitment of some very special contestants for the Hogwarts Tournament of houses.

But our most special guest, I would have to say, is David Martin, who, right now, is probably the country’s most beloved Hufflepuff, judging from what I’ve seen on Twitter today. We’re recording this on Monday, November 29th, so the first episode of the series aired last night: Hufflepuff versus Gryffindor. And, be forewarned, there will be many spoilers for that first episode on the show today.

But we’re here with the person who I can say, for sure, was an audience favorite at the show, and seems to be a Twitter favorite today, after leading the Hufflepuff team to victory last night. David Martin, joining us from Wisconsin.

So how are you, David?

David:

Well, I’m well-rested; I’m feeling pretty good. It’s been an amazing 24 hours.

Louise:

I can only imagine. Well, just to let everybody know what we’re about here. I’m going to let both of you introduce yourselves, and tell us a little bit about your involvement with Harry Potter prior to the show. What turned you into a serious Harry Potter fan and a serious Harry Potter scholar? So, John, why don’t you start?

John:

Yes, my part in this conversation should be relatively brief. As the so-called “Dean of Harry Potter Scholars,” I became involved with Harry Potter in the year 2000, when I first started to read the books to my seven children. I quickly became entranced by them, and their depth of meaning, and I wrote a book that became The Hidden Key to Harry Potter in 2002. And, from there, I’ve written five or six books on the subject of J.K. Rowling’s work, and as you mentioned, I write on a regular basis at hogwartsprofessor.com.

Now, most of the posts are about Cormoran Strike, but, in that role, I’ve been among the cadre of Potter pundits for close to 20 years now. From that vantage, I know, pretty much, the academic crowd and I know the fandom experts. I’ve been in anthologies written all over the community, from the Big 5 publishing houses to self-published works. I’ve talked at universities from Saint Andrews and Pepperdine to Princeton, University of Chicago, etc. And that’s been my role, as largely at the nexus point of fandom and academia.

So, when Hollywood decided that they were going to make a game show about Harry Potter, I was one of the first people that they called, because they were looking for contestants. In my Gilderoy moment, I imagined they might be wanting me to be a contestant, but, they gave a quick little test and I demonstrated, once again, that my contributions to Harry Potter scholarship are not my mastery of detail inside the books, and certainly not in the movies. Which, frankly, I’ve always despised as maladaptations.

But, they still continued the conversation with me for several weeks, because they wanted to pick my brain about people that they should invite. I asked their permission to post about the show and about the possibility of contestants being taken from the gallery of Hogwartsprofessor.com. I put up a post, and that pretty much ends my part of this conversation, other than to say that I was thrilled to see David, who has been a guest poster, a longtime reader, listener and a friend from Harry Potter conferences all over the United States. Especially when he lived in Philadelphia, and I was living just north of Philadelphia.

It was thrilling to see David work his way through all those interviews to get to the contestant stage, and then to do so well last night. I know he’s a very serious reader, and that his movie acumen is kind of an add-on, but it was still wonderful to see one of our own up there on stage. Congratulations David, it was wonderful to watch last night with you.

David:

Thank you. Thank you.

David’s comment on John’s post announcing the contestant call.

More after the jump!

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Christmas Pig 5: The Blue Bunny

Merry Christmas to all the Orthodox Christians celebrating the Nativity of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ!

I learned in time for this fifth post in my series on Christmas Pig that Oxford University Research Fellow Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter and a whole body of work on Rowling’s literary touchstones collected here, has written up her first thoughts on the Christmas Pig. It is a delightful and enlightening piece published at The Rowling Library in their December issue with the title, ‘Christmas Miracles in The Christmas Pig and Christmas Carol.’ As with her best writing, it goes well beyond the usual academic game of intertextual ‘Spot the Source’ to touch on the meaning and Christian content of Rowling’s latest book.

I was especially delighted by – and it is the reason I bring up the piece here – Professor Groves’ revelation, to me at least, of several bunny stories in the backdrop of Christmas Pig. I am embarrassed to admit, though I read aloud to my children every night for the better part of two decades, I have never opened Velveteen Rabbit. You’ll want to read Groves’ latest if you’re a fan or if you want to know one of the imaginative and literary points of reference for the Blue Bunny in Christmas Pig.

Today’s post in my series of Perennialist readings of Christmas Pig focuses almost exclusively on said Blue Bunny. I opined in the first post of this series as a kind of apologia or excuse for the in-depth reading I am attempting that Rowling’s latest is a kind of condensation and crystallization of everything she has written before, a paradigmatic work, if you will, that, if properly understood, opens up all her other stories. I think that, of all the symbolism and artistry woven into Christmas Pig, the story of the Blue Bunny is perhaps the richest and most revelatory of ‘what Rowling is about.’ What seems something of a throw-away character, one who can be, who in the story actually is, thrown out the window and forgotten, is perhaps, with Poem, Pretense, and Compass, the most important figure to ‘get right.’

The exegesis of this lapine symbolism comes in five parts: a review of the Blue Bunny passages in Christmas Pig, a discussion of Rowling’s comments about her daughter Mackenzie having found a blue bunny toy in the garden, a survey of rabbit imagery in previous Rowling stories, especially Troubled Blood, the parallel finding of Crusher, the nob-nailed boot, and finally a discussion of the artistry and Paschal meaning of the Blue Bunny in this Christmas tale. All that after the jump! [Read more…]

The Gringotts Goblins and accusations of anti-Semitism (again)

On the 4th January, Newsweek broke the story that Jon Stewart a comedian and television host had accused J. K. Rowling of antisemitism due to the appearance of the Goblins in Harry Potter. Perhaps unsurprisingly in a tabloid story, within the first few paragraphs the article contradicts the headline:

Stewart said: “I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic. I do not think that the Harry Potter movies are antisemitic.”

This has not prevented multiple news outlets and twitter commentators of repeating the line that Rowling is an antisemite.

Dr. Beatrice Groves has convincingly rebutted the accusation in her Bathilda’s Notebook posts:  Rowling’s Goblin Problem? and The Sword Until Recently Known as Gryffindor’s. Very little can be added to this wonderful analysis, but trawling through twitter does throw up a couple of easily disprovable augments:

“There is a Star of David on the floor of Gringotts Bank!”

The Gringotts scene in Philosopher’s Stone was filmed in Australia House the home of the Australian High Commission in London. The building (and the floor) was completed in 1918 and the floor contains a Six pointed Star of Australia denoting the six states of the Commonwealth of Australia.

“J. K. Rowling wrote about ‘secretive, hook nosed, greedy bankers’, of course she was coding Jews!”

This is not the description that Rowling uses.

The goblin was about a head shorter that Harry. He had a swarthy, clever face, a pointed beard and, Harry noticed, very long fingers and feet.

J. K. Rowling has some history of calling out antisemitism where she sees it, and has been defended in this most recent attack by the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

I’ll leave the last word to Jon Stewart who it now appears is the unwilling hero of this new stick to beat Rowling with.

 

 

Rowling on Love, Hope, Happiness 2018

Rowling has stated more than once that she has been working on The Christmas Pig story since 2012, but, other than her word on this, there isn’t much evidence to support such a prolonged gestation. I think, though, I have found one marker that the story has been on her mind at least since 2018 in an interview done in that year to promote the release of Crimes of Grindelwald.

As both Elizabeth Baird-Hardy in ‘The Faerie Queen and Christmas Pig‘ and I in Christmas Pig 3: The Quadrigal Reading‘ have argued, the vote held in the Palace of the City of the Missed is best read as a Spenserian allegory. The balloting is taken to decide the fate of Pajama Boy and Christmas Pig and all those taking part represent one of the conflicting voices in Everyman’s head about what to do with the fact and witness of unconditional, maternal, divine love in the Heart. Those voices in support of the Heart win the vote but worldly concern and egotism, exteriorized as Power and Ambition, annul the polling and order the Loss Adjusters to seize the pair. Hope and Happiness intercede to save Love — which intervention and rescue eventually brings Jack to DP and his fateful decisions on the Isle of the Beloved. Love, Hope, and Happiness are the keys here.

When Rowling was asked once again in 2018 to revisit her Cinderella story of writing Harry Potter as a single mother on the dole, she responded (the video above is cued to this response):

I think, y’know, that poverty is tough. It’s just tough. And I don’t like to hear poverty romanticized ever. It grinds you down; it’s really, really tough. And I can remember, y’know, just some very hard times so I feel tremendous empathy for anyone in that situation. But, y’know, it’s .. I still had a lot of love in my life so I look back and I still see a lot of hope and happiness there.

Love is the critical point, the touchstone of the Real that buoyed her through the waves of poverty and depression. As if on cue, the interviewer segued immediately to the subject of Rowling’s mother and her death with a question of how often Rowling still thinks of her. She responded:

Constantly. I mean, in a positive way, I think the last time I got quite teary about my mother’s passing was I was given an honor at Buckingham Palace and, oh, my God, if my mother had known (laughter). It’s a moment like that you think ‘What would she have said?’ and I was quite teary about that.

“When would your mother have been the proudest?” The actress who plays Tina Goldstein shares a look with Rowling and whispers, both nodding, “Buckingham Palace.” Rowling confirms this:

To be honest, my mother was a traditionalist, if I had taken her to Buckingham Palace that would have been, yeah, the ultimate. But she was a huge reader, yeah, so it wasn’t just that I was successful at something of which she was going to be incredibly proud of whatever I’d done but it’s sad to me that she never got to read the books. But life is weird because the books wouldn’t be what they are if she hadn’t passed on so it’s a bittersweet situation…

I argue in Parts three and five of the Perennialist reading series of posts about Christmas Pig that maternal love — sacrificial, unconditional, and selfless — has been Rowling’s primary symbolism of the Heart or the logos light and love that “cometh into the world in every man” (John 1:9). Harry is suffused with and protected by Lily’s love of which he becomes the exteriorization or symbol of himself. Strike is who he is because of the mysterious death of his mother Leda and his being haunted by her to become an avenger or  agent of justice. Jack Jones and his bean-bag plush pig toys that are his “transitional” or transference and projection objects of maternal love is cut from this same cloth, hence his being a Christ figure in the end, a representation himself of this absolute love who conquers death.

In this brief exchange in 2018 with, forgive me, a news reporter who knows little about Rowling beyond her celebrity and rags-to-riches story, The Presence touches on the love that is the bedrock of her stories, the personal crisis inspiring the stuff from her Lake that she fashioned into a universal allegory in the Shed. In addition to Love, she also talks about a Palace, Hope, and Happiness.

That may, of course, only be a coincidence, but Strike readers I think have been trained to think seriously about coincidences. Yes, Rowling has talked about her time on the dole and her mother’s death before; it is something every reporter feels obliged to ask along with “Who are your favorite writers?” I think, though, her bringing up the palace, “traditionalism,” love, hope, and happiness are pointers to the fact that the critical, decisive moment in Christmas Pig — as it is in every person’s life, the decision either to protect and heed the voice of the love in our hearts or to conform with the demands of the world and fear — was very much on her mind in 2018. 

I covet your comments and corrections; please share them below.

‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts

The small screen celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the big screen adaptation of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone under its Scholastic edition title, Sorcerer’s Stone, was a great hit, I’m told, on New Year’s Day in both the UK and US. HogwartsProfessor certainly saw a big upswing in visitors that we usually see only on the day of a book publication or movie release. Fans expected us to comment on it or at least provide a forum or thread on which to discuss it amongst themselves.

We failed, alas, to provide any of that, for which I suppose an explanation is in order. Join me after the jump for my thoughts — not those of other writers here — and a comment thread for anyone wanting to discuss the special. Cheers! [Read more…]