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.


  1. Bonni Crawford says

    Beautiful post. Interesting and thought-provoking as always. Happy New Year from Wales, John! If you’re ever over here, I would love to host you to give a talk at Cardiff University.

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