Reading, Writing, Rowling 44: Ickabog! John Granger’s Last MuggleNet Podcast


From Laurie Beckoff’s write-up at MuggleNet:

In this month’s episode, Katy and John talk with Harry Potter scholars John Pazdziora (University of Tokyo-Komaba) and Lana Whited (Ferrum College) about our first analyses of The Ickabog, which was released in installments from June to July 2020. The slow release has allowed fans of Harry Potter once again the delights of speculating about what will happen next, and we have captured that spirit in our conversation recorded after Chapter 51 was posted.

Lana Whited points out the connections with “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” while John Pazdziora shows how they fit within the French conte tradition that combined fairy tales with social criticism. Following both those traditions, The Ickabog lures the reader into a politically sharp and often violent tale. We discuss what the fairy tale theories of Bruno Bettelheim tell us about how children process gruesome stories. The third-person omniscient, even parental, voice of the narrator serves a purpose in talking readers through the difficult experiences of the Cornucopians.

And a whole lot more! This was one of my favorite conversations in my entire run as a LeakyMug podcaster, from the original ‘Potter Pundits’ segments at Leaky Cauldron with James Thomas and Travis Prinzi to the fifty plus MuggleNet Academia shows with Keith Hawk to being the guest-in-residence at Katherine McDaniel’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling,’ also at MuggleNet.

One of my favorite conversations — and it is also my last podcast at MuggleNet. I am leaving and will not be working with the “#1 Wizarding World Resource” until they retract both their in-house and public assertion that J. K. Rowling is a transphobe (and that as such The Presence represents a danger or is “committing harm” to fandom members) and their attempts to ‘cancel’ her. I left on good terms both with Professor McDaniel and Kat Miller, the MNet Creative and Marketing Director, no bridges burned, but it was time for us to acknowledge we disagree on essential matters and our relationship needed to change to reflect that disagreement.

The good news? Well, watch this space for an announcement of something new and exciting at HogwartsProfessor! Until then, enjoy this fascinating discussion about The Ickabog with John Patrrick Pazdziora and Lana Whited — yes, it’s dated (we didn’t know the ending!), but, believe me, this show will long be a reference point in Ickabog scholarship (and there are quite a few laughs wedged in with the “A ha!” moments).


  1. Tyler Brown says


  2. Beatrice Groves says

    Thank you, John, for many insightful years.

  3. Lana Whited says

    I think my favorite comment in this particular podcast will always be yours in the discussion of The Odyssey and potential spoilers: “The text has been in print for a while.”

    I’ve enjoyed all our podcasts together (and likely never had wonkier audio than in this one, during which I appear to speak at about three different speeds).

  4. Nick Jeffery says

    As a fan of both “John Granger” and “Reading Writing Rowling”, I’m exited to get get even more thoughtful content from both sources.

  5. Looking forward to the exciting announcement and to listening to this podcast soon!

    I believe I found Hogwarts Professor through Mugglenet and Mugglenet Academia, so I thank them for that, otherwise…

    I’m only sad that I think Mugglenet is in too deep to appreciate the delicious irony of their “She-who-must-not-be-named” policy. Don’t look into her eyes!

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Tangentially, I hope somebody took screenshots or whatever of the Ickabog chapters and their colours in the interest of textual criticism.

  7. Nick Jeffery says

    The wayback machine has saved an archive:
    It might be interesting to look for textual differences between this and the printed version.

  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Nick Jeffery,

    Many thanks!

    I have still never caught up with Dr. Philip W. Errington’s Rowling Bibliography in original or 21 September 2017 Updated Edition (which must be headed for it’s next major update!).

    Nor have I properly even tried to look into what-all has been written about textual differences between British and American HP editions, or emendations in reissues. (Though I’ve been delighted by FB script textual discussions I’ve read, here!) But I presume that the online English text of Ickabog is unusual in being one and the same for the whole English-speaking world at each moment-of-chapter-issue (though digitality would allow it to have already been emended online with the rapidity of, say, a Wikipedia article!).

    I’ve just been reading how many years the casts of the finished text of the completed bits and required type for the rest of the Clarendon Chaucer selection Tolkien was working on were preserved awaiting use (for the rest of the story see John M. Bowers’ Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer (OUP, 2019)!). What a vastly different world online publishing is!

  9. I’ve followed your podcasting for a number of years now and have to say I’m so glad to see you publicly defend JK against the incorrect assertions that she is transphobic. I was horrified by the condescending way many supporters have turned on her, not for what she says, but for what they think she believes. I hope you will continue podcasting about JK’s writing as you provide insights like no one else and have enriched my reading so much.

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