Rowling Reveals Running Grave Epigraphs will All be from the I Ching

In a post early this morning, Rowling tweeted out an anniversary message and thank you:

In a remarkably chatty and enthusiastic comment thread, Rowling shared this remarkable tidbit about The Running Grave’s epigraph source:

Rowling had hinted at this in her previous twitter header that featured the I Ching and we knew already that the book’s opening epigraph would be from this divinatory classic via the sleuthing of The Rowling Library.

You can read Beatrice Groves’ first thoughts on this subject,The Running Grave: Strike 7, the I Ching and the Yarrow Stalks,’ one she wrote in anticipation of the news announced today. Indeed, we are back to the single source mother-lode of epigraphs, a la Lethal White and Rosmersholm as well as Troubled Blood and The Faerie Queene

I think this is a first, namely, Rowling revealing her sole source for epigraphs prior to publication. Will you be reading the I Ching and practicing the divinatory and reflective arts with stalks and coins in the run-up to The Running Grave?


  1. Mr. Granger,

    In light of this new piece of epigraph information, I was left with a question. What, if anything, does this mean in terms of Rowling’s use of Dylan Thomas, if only for the use of a title? The good news is I think I might have found an answer to that question over at “Strike”. The following excerpt is from the essay “The Book of Changes in The Running Grave”, by C.M.

    “JK Rowling…seems to know the Book of Changes very well. Even amongst people who use the I Ching, it is somewhat rare to find someone who knows how to perform the complex yarrow stalk method, which she insists is the “proper way to do it,” while coins are for “amateurs.” Of course, this might not mean anything with regard to its presence in the book — but I personally find the depth of her interest very suggestive.

    “The recently revealed title might give us a clue. As fans have discovered, it likely comes from the poem “When, like a running grave” by Dylan Thomas — a very obscure one indeed, which I won’t even try to untangle here! Nevertheless, when looking into Thomas’s themes6, we find something quite interesting. Here’s how the poet describes his creative process:

    “A poem by me needs a host of images. (…) Each image holds within it the seed of its own destruction, and my dialectical method, as I understand it, is a constant building up and breaking down of the images that come out of that central seed, which is itself destructive and constructive at the same time… (…) Out of the inevitable conflict of images — inevitable because of the creative, recreative, destructive, and contradictory nature of the motivating centre, the womb of war — I try to make that momentary peace which is a poem.”

    “As researcher Willard Rudd explains, Thomas “repeatedly stresses that birth is the first symptom of death, that all living things carry within them the seeds of their own destruction, and that the poet’s duty is to recreate or reflect in his verse the eternal flow from womb to tomb that controls man and nature.”

    “Substitute “the poet’s duty” for the Book of Changes, and you might find the I Ching’s main ideas and purposes restated. This thematic resonance seems confirmation enough of the relevance of the ancient book to the novel’s themes”.

    Bear in mind, this essay is the second half of a two-part critical examination. The first part, which focuses more on “The I Ching” itself, and its lore, can be found here:

    What makes the quotations above stand out is the way it fits into the insights about “Congruence” or relation between “Mortality and Morality”.

    If anything, the Thomas quotation above takes that notion and tries to scale it up in what has to be described as a poetic attempt at epic proportions. C.M. merely seems to have discovered the key to how this ties in to the “I Ching”. I’d say both essays are worth checking out for what they might be able to tell us heading forward. C.M. really does seem good at spotting the thematic relation between the poet, the poetry, and the divination text. In addition, the critic also presents some intriguing possibilities for how the plot of Book 7 could both incorporate, or thematically revolve around the “Y Jing”.

    The only other thing to note is the way Rowling’s epigraph choices have become an intriguing series of “under texts” to her narrative. We’ve been given a Book of Aristocratic Ghosts (Lethal White), a Book of Stars (Troubled Blood), and now a Book of Changes. It has to be admitted that’s quite the private library, if nothing else.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says


    Thank you for this!

    If I understand correctly, Willard Rudd’s thesis is downloadable via the University of Richmond Scholarship Depository – but I have not (yet?) tried, to be sure. One could then check his exact source for the fascinating Dylan Thomas quotation. It reminded me of Charles Williams’s presentation of the ‘Angelicals’ in The Place of the Lion – which, given Thomas’s connections with Williams, could have a ‘real’ connexion (whether conscious or unconscious on Thomas’s part at that moment). (Another conscious JKR/RG Lion/Lion’s Mouth connection, too? – !)

  3. If indeed Strike 7 is published in 2023, it will be a remarkable coincidence (presumably engineered, and as such not a coincidence). HP 7 also appeared exactly ten years after HP 1 (1997-2007).

    I’m now excitedly wondering when we’ll have a publication date, and when we’ll have a blurb synopsis over which we can obsess, as we did when the IBH one appeared over the summer last year.

  4. @Elisa – Rowling said on Apr 4 on Twitter, “The Cuckoo’s Calling (the first Strike book) was published ten years ago today! Thank you to @LittleBrownUK for taking on the unknown Robert Galbraith and every reader who’s helped make the books bestsellers. The seventh, The Running Grave, will be out later this year!”


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