The Chessmen in the First Potter Film

What a delight! Thank you to Viktor for sharing this find; I had no idea the chessmen in the film version of Philosopher’s Stone had such a great backstory. Read more about these pieces — their history and where to find a replica set — at the British Museum blog page,’s Lewis Chess Set page, Etsy, or at!

Does anyone think the film’s chessboard pieces “miles beneath Hogwarts” resemble the Lewis chessmen?

Troubled Blood: Poisoned Chocolates

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is the second of three Valentine’s Day posts at HogwartsProfessor. The day before yesterday I reviewed the five gifts Cormoran gives to Robin in Troubled Blood and how each is an echo of a previous gift and a metaphor for the status of their relationship. The last, a birthday trip to the Ritz Hotel for champagne, pretty much seals the deal that these two characters named for birds are now ‘love birds’ as well.

That first V-Day post had a relatively obvious romantic message, even though the only person who gives anyone a gift on the actual Valentine’s Day in Troubled Blood is the “smarmy” Saul Morris who brings flowers to Pat. Today’s post on chocolates in Strike5 and poisoned chocolates in particular is not romantic at all, except that two male characters do give Robin Ellacott salted caramel chocolates as tokens of their affection for her. I write this up, as, truth be told, I do the other two posts as well, because Valentine’s Day’s centrality and importance in Troubled Blood means that this is an apt time to highlight aspects of Rowling’s artistry and meaning in her most recent and I think best novel that almost certainly escape the casual reader.

Today, it’s chocolates, Rowling’s bon mots from the literary genre in which she works and her playful hat-tipping to the masters while turning a trope or cliche of detective fiction to her fresh ends. Join me after the jump for that Valentine’s Day discussion! [Read more…]

Elizabeth(s) the Phoenix

The centrality of Elizabethan imagery in Troubled Blood is hard to miss. The  Faerie Queene epigraphs and structuring, already well documented on this site, show the basis of the connection. That this work is meant to parallel Order of the Phoenix is also well documented. I want to suggest that Rowling has clarified much of the meaning of Order of the Phoenix using this imagery, which in turn continues and strengthens a long-running undercurrent in Rowling’s writing: a extensive set of references to 15th through 17th century English ecclesiastical, political, and philosophical history (earlier work directly touching this set of associations in Rowling’s work can be found in this 2009 post).

My core thought here is this: it is not just the one Elizabeth, Elizabeth I, who we are meant to consider. Instead, I think we are meant to focus on the societal and literary impact of four closely intertwined Elizabeths and their associations with the development of English Christianity and esotericism in its many forms. These four are Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Stuart, and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia.

I’ll grant that this is a fairly large claim, and I may be hunting Crumple Horned Snorkacks (if I am, please let me know), but I think there is this strong thread here worth tracing.
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Troubled Blood: Interpreting the Poetry of Cormoran’s Five Gifts To Robin

Happy Day Before the Day Before Valentine’s Day! Because Valentine’s Day is such a central and important event in Troubled Blood, in the series really, I hope to write three posts this year to celebrate the occasion: one on poisoned chocolates, another on Rowling-Galbraith’s device for psychological ‘externalization’ in the series, and this one on Cormoran’s five gifts to Robin in Strike5.

There are five presents that Strike gives to Robin in Troubled Blood. Each is reminiscent of previous gifts that Robin has received, echoes that are positive and negative. The turn in the quality and nature of Strike’s gifts to his partner comes on Valentine’s Day when Robin tells Strike in the wind and rain outside her flat “And don’t give me any more fucking flowers!”

Join me after the jump for a review of the five gifts, their story echoes, and the meaning of each with respect to Strike’s awareness of his relationship with Robin. [Read more…]

Troubled Blood: The Well Beneath the Archer and Rowling’s Childhood Home

The finale of Troubled Blood turns on the discovery of the bodies of Louise Tucker and Margot Bamborough. As Robin explains to Strike after his interview with Dennis Creed, the girl’s body is almost certainly to be found in the well of the Archer Hotel, now covered by a conservatory in a private residence.

“Brian showed us the map, Strike! Dennis Creed was a regular visitor to the Archer Hotel in Islington in the early seventies, when he was delivering their dry cleaning. There was a well on the property, in the back garden. Boarded up, and now covered over with a conservatory.”…

“OK—right—so he’s got to empty the van before work. He knows his way around the Archer garden, and he knows there’s a back gate. He’s got tools in the back of the van, he could prize those boards up easily. Cormoran, I’m sure she’s in the old Archer well.” (ch 69, p 864)

And, sure enough, the police do find Louise Tucker’s body in the well under the floor boards of a conservatory built on the old Archer Hotel property. What made Rowling-Galbraith think of putting Creed’s last undiscovered victim at the bottom of a well beneath a house where people live?

It’s a good bet that she did so at least in part because she grew up in a house that had an “ancient well” under the living room carpet.

Church Cottage and the surrounding area provided just the sort of life Anne and Pete Rowling had been hoping for when they removed away from London as a young couple and sought out the West Country. Pete had wanted to find an old house and restore it and modify it, keeping the charm of its antiquity but adding some of the comforts of modern living. Church Cottage served as the first school building for St. Luke’s Church in 1848. It had flagstone floors and an ancient covered well underneath the living room. — J. K. Rowling: A Biography, Connie Ann Kirk, p 24

Until moving to Tutshill the Rowlings had lived in modern homes which needed little improvement. Church Cottage, with its flagstone floors, gave Pete the opportunity he was seeking, a chance to blend old features with new ideas. One friend recalls the first time they saw a gas fire with ‘pretend’ flames in the Rowling home. Another visitor was most impressed when Pete rolled back the carpet in the living room to reveal an ancient covered well.  — J. K. Rowling: A Biography — The Genius Behind Harry Potter, Sean Smith, p 34
Three thoughts on this subject after the jump!

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