Rowling: “This Witch Doesn’t Burn”

While reading Troubled Blood last week and doing all I could to avoid being ‘spoiled,’ I was unable to avoid learning that the new book by Rowling-Galbraith had been tried and found guilty of transphobia — and that some transgender activists who had been Harry Potter fans had chosen to burn their books to demonstrate their displeasure with J. K. Rowling.

I spoke with Louise Freeman this morning at the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival about Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike. She closed our conversation with a brief discussion of whether the Strike series as a whole and Troubled Blood specifically was transphobic. Prof Freeman offered several links to reviews in UK papers that discussed and dismissed this charge as unfortunate and unfounded; she explained how someone might have imagined this in the character of Dennis Creed, but that it was an unjustified overreach to classify the book or the series in any way, not to mention “transphobic,” based on an aside about this year’s psychopath.

I offered the historical parallel of the Harry Haters during the Potter Panic of twenty years ago who believed earnestly and zealously that the Hogwarts Saga was the ‘Gateway to the Occult’ because they read the book through the Never Blinking Eye of the culture war. Harry Potter, as readers of my books and this weblog know, turned out to be a profoundly challenging and transformative work of Christian story-telling.

Today’s transgender activists, secular fundamentalists and puritanical ideologues akin to the religious Harry Haters, are now reading Cormoran Strike in search of transgressions against their dogmas and creedal cultic touchstones. Like those who burned the Potter novels for being hurtful to the soft souls of children, so today’s book burners do so in the name of oppressed and maligned transgender women. Sadly, they miss Rowling-Galbraith’s message of personal narrative and identity in the Strike books, themes of transformation as up front as her Christian symbolism was, frankly, in her first seven book series.

The reaction to Rowling’s ‘This Witch Doesn’t Burn’ tweet followed the usual lines, which is to say, “Hurrah for the Queen!” and “Burn in hell, TERF!” Both missed, I think, Rowling’s point in posting this image and message when she has.

In brief, it is a response to the book-burning and equally fiery criticism of her as a “transphobe.” Harry Potter fan sites and transgender Twitter Ustachi have done their best to “cancel” her as something of a caste Untouchable or eta. Rowling in her tweet simultaneously says she cannot be cancelled (“Doesn’t Burn”) and equates the online mob with the superstitious, violent, and dogmatic witch-burners of the legendary ‘Middle Ages.’ In one stroke, she captures what she feels is the violence, ignorance, and misogyny of those criticizing Troubled Blood, a book few have read and re-read, for a fault it does not have.

If those critics want to know how Rowling thinks and feels about their leftist laments, I think they should read chapter 42 of Troubled Blood and Strike’s reflections on the idealist college-student dinner guests at Robin and Max’s house. They reminded him of his biological mother’s greatest failings. Her political activism, he recalls, like those of the students he’d met and despised the night before, “had mostly taken the form of enthusiastic exhibitionism.” “The basis of her life’s philosophy, if such a word could be used for the loose collection of whims and knee-jerk reactions she called beliefs, was that everything of which the bourgeoisie disapproved must be good and right” (500).

The responses to Rowling’s tweet confirmed those who now despise her are of that very camp, alas, of “enthusiastic exhibitionists” and that Rowling indeed cannot be burned like a witch or cancelled. Troubled Blood now tops the best-seller lists in the UK and US. About which, “Hurrah!”

To hear my conversation with Professor Freeman at the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival, check out their FaceBook page on which the talk will be posted.


Cormoran’s Song: “Twenty Thousand Cornish Men Will Know the Reason Why”

On the thread to the post inviting reader discoveries of links between Troubled Blood and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Evan Willis wrote:

The song Strike sings at 808/813, an unofficial anthem of Cornwall, has two names: “Song of the Western Men” and “Trelawny”(!). The connection to Phoenix is great here: the central Prophecy via Cornish Nationalism. My favorite performance of the song is here:

That’s a pretty version, sure enough, but not the way the sung is usually sung, that is, by drunk rugby revellers and pub crawlers. Note in this version that the men sing without reference to notes and invite the crowd to join in the chorus — everyone in Cornwall is taught this song, in English and Cornish, as part of their primary school education:

After the jump, Rowling’s previous mention of the song, the full lyrics, and its importance to grasping Cormoran’s transformation at last into the Cornish giant for whom he was named — [Read more…]

Rowling Interview: Tracks of My Years

We learned pre-publication that Troubled Blood would feature Joni Mitchell’s 1974 ‘Court and Spark’ album. The source of that revelation was publicity for an interview Rowling had recorded for a BBC radio program, ‘The Tracks of My Years’ (read all about that here). The has posted a transcript of the interview; hat-tip to Nick Jeffery for the find! Here are the two pieces of that conversation I thought most interesting: [Read more…]

Queen City Mischief and Magic goes online for The Year That Shall Not Be Named.

I have been part of this festival since it debuted (as Queen City Potter Party) in 2016.  What was originally hoped to be a few hundred fans gathered to celebrate the publication of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child wound up attracting a several thousand visitors and shutting down the the streets of Staunton VA for the day.

This year, with the COVID situation, the festival has gone online.  This is sad news for us locals who have enjoyed the in-person fellowship for that past four years, but good news for those of you who can’t routinely travel to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  Please check out the offerings on Facebook:  In particular, Hogpro readers are invited to attend my lectures on Muggle Scientists and Magical Names and Hermione, Katniss and Tris: Which two are most alike?  And stay tuned here, because I am still hoping for a Cormoran Strike talk from our Headmaster.


Part V of Spenser and Strike: The Knight of Justice Comes up Swinging with Britomart Triumphant

Moorthi Sukumar : Faerie Queene - Edmund SpenserAs we head around the bend toward the back of the novel and the back of the year, the closing of the mystery and of the timespan that is clearly our stage, it’s time to take a peek at some of the best Faerie Queene  cues in Part Five. If you haven’t caught up to our thoughts on Troubled Blood so far, there is time, so check out our Hogwarts Professor takes on a wide variety of angles for this novel so far. I’m having a grand time keeping the Spenser score running, looking at ways in which our intrepid detectives are mirroring elements of The Faerie Queene, and I hope you’re having as much fun as we are! Follow me after the jump for five Faerie Queene  take-aways from Part Five! Remember, spoilers galore, so stop here if you need to get past chapter 59! [Read more…]