Rowling’s Norfolk Twitter Header Photo – Three Notes about Possible Meaning

 

Three Quick Notes:

(1) So What? Two days ago I shared my thoughts about the latest Fantastic Beasts movie trailer and yesterday it was exegesis of the Secrets of Dumbledore ensemble poster. Today I’ll attempt a deep dive into the new Rowling Twitter page header — and I think readers deserve some explanation of why I’m devoting so much time to what are in essence advertisements and place-holders.

With respect to the trailer and movie poster, I confess to pretending without evidence that The Presence had something to do with their composition, which is in the end pretty far-fetched, not to say “silly.” Writing up the notes for each, though, allowed me the opening I wanted to talk about the Beasts franchise as another psychomachia allegory and to post links to Lana Whited’s ‘Here There Be Dragons (and Phoenixes)‘ posts. Mission accomplished.

Rowling herself, however, tweeted five years ago that the pictures she uses as her Twitter headers reflect her current thinking. Or did she?

 

One reading of this statement is that the header photographs are deliberately chosen as collages of sorts for Rowling’s various projects, which in 2017 included the Strike novels and teevee adaptations, the Beasts screenplays and productions, The Ickabog, and The Christmas Pig, on top of family and charity obligations. I’ll leave it to you to interpret the Steenwyck painting in that light.

Our experience here at Hogwarts Professor with her new headers has been that there are less collage or ‘common theme’ representations of “everything I’m working on at the moment” as they are snapshots of specific research she is doing or chapters she is writing. Serious Strikers reviewing our write-ups of the various headers these last five years will not struggle, I think, to recognize what she was working on in scenes of novels not yet published at the time; see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here if you want to take that ten part test (there is one Beasts header in there as well, just to mix things up). Rowling’s 2017 tweet about one of her headers is no longer the best reason for taking them as markers of her current focus; the evidence of the last five years amounts to a proof.

All of that to say only that it’s fun to guess what Rowling is writing about now using her twitter header photograph as a clue. There’s no way, of course, that we could have guessed in late 2018 how central St. John’s Gate in Clerkenwell was going to be the mystery of Troubled Blood — or how brilliant the man is who ID’d this for readers everywhere — when Rowling used an illustration of it as her page-topper, but it was grist for the speculative mill. Which brings us to speculation about the Norfolk picture atop Rowling’s quiescent twitter page today…

(2) Norfolk: True confessions time. Before I read the Matthew Shardlake mystery, Tombland, last month, I would have been clueless about how to find Norfolk on a map (the most recent Shardlake novel is brilliantly set in the chaos and joy of Kett’s Rebellion, 1549, in and around Norwich). This is embarrassing, of course, and testimony to my near impregnable status as a provincial pretender because Norwich, one of the first UNESCO Cities of Literature, is at the heart of so much English history. It is also the home of the infamous “Norfolk commune” that Strike repeatedly mentions as the worst experience not only of his childhood but of his entire life. Rural as most of East Anglia is now, I should have known more about Norfolk because of this essential Strike plot point.

Louise Freeman and I have made this a special point of reference here for years with respect to speculation about where the series is headed and who killed Leda Strike. To catch up on that, see herWhat Happened in Norfolk? Speculations about the “Worst Place” of Strike’s Childhood,’ ‘Piecing Together Cormoran Strike’s Childhood: Could Rokeby be the Snape of the Series?‘ and her review of the Bronte Studio’s adaptation of Career of Evil. After reading any or all of those, you’ll see the importance of this Norfolk commune to the future of the Strike series. Professor Freeman links the commune and Strike’s mysterious memory of an elusive “silver minnow” in The Silkworm in her predictions for Ink Black Heart.

I first equated that “poisoned skeleton” Silkworm lost memory with Dumbledore’s “look of triumph” at the end of Goblet of Fire back in 2016 and it makes sense, in parallel with Strike2, that we’d get to visit the “silver minnow” memory in Rokeby’s Pensieve in Strike6. Today’s new Twitter header suggests, however, that we won’t learn about the Norfolk commune in Ink Black Heart or “all about it” because she has finished writing Heart and we should assume, Heyman saying that no one is writing or working on Beasts4 yet, that Rowling is currently writing Strike7.

The picture of Norfolk, from this perspective, is an echo of her St John’s Gate in Clerkenwell picture in 2018, when she was researching and writing Troubled Blood. Look for the big Norfolk commune reveal and visit to be in the book seven finale of the first Cormoran Strike septology, then, rather than in the book she has already finished, Ink Black Heart.  

(3) StrikeFans: Our sister site in Serious Strike studies checked in on the Norfolk image with a post titled,Are Strike and Robin Headed to Norfolk?‘ It tracks down the origin of the picture, lists the various places in Strike canon in which he mentions the Norfolk commune, and speculates, based on another Rowling twitter header, that Ink Black Heart will be as filled with lions as Lethal White was with horses. Lindsay at StrikeFans, the author of this piece, neglects Rowling’s twitter header history and is consequently unsure about whether Norfolk will be a scene in Ink Black Heart or Strike7, but that lion idea is a keeper. She mentions that Jonny Rokeby’s sun sign is Leo, for instance, which is a great catch but forgot the easier pointer — his middle name is ‘Leonard.’

Read her whole piece and then this one about ‘Nero the Sleeping Lion,’ the statue in Rowling’s June 2021 Twitter Header picture, and George Wombwell, the circus owner whose tomb the leonine art adorns (Hat tip, Patricio Tarantino!). As interesting as the Lions of Ink Black Heart theory is, the Wombwell circus connection seems a more obvious link to Fantastic Beasts (and Secrets of Grindelwald which was then being filmed?) even if Rowling was writing Strike6 at the time. That Rufus Scrimgeour was described repeatedly in Half-Blood Prince as looking like a lion, though, argues in favor of Lindsay’s theory through the Parallel Series Idea; there should be lions in the Strike series echo of Prince.

Your comments and corrections, as always, are coveted. What do you make of the Rowling twitter header change? Are we headed to Norfolk soon? Will Cormoran play the part of lion tamer in the circus of Ink Black Heart?

Comments

  1. Louise Freeman says

    I don’t see any reason to think we’ll have to wait until Strike 7 to see the Norfolk commune, if this is indeed what the picture means. The three “Lethal White” headers you link to, the Fates in July 2017, the swans in Aug 2017 and Parliament in Feb 2018, all were posted in the overly-long three year interval between Career (October 2015) and Lethal White (September 2018). Not to mention, weren’t there several white horse headers right before publication?

    The Troubled Blood headers (St John’s Gates in Nov and Dec 2018, Capricorn in May 2019, Tarot in December 2019, Crowley in Jan 2020, Fairie Queen in March 2020) were all published in the 2-year interval between LW and the publication of TB in September 2020.

    Lethal White was probably near-complete or in the editing and publication process when those headers were published. The 2018 pictures of St. John’s Gates may have been during the writing of TB, but the others were probably during the editing or publication process. I think the headers are most likely a nod to her readers to tell us more about what is coming up in the next published book.

    I don’t think we’ve ever gotten any obvious pointers to the “book after next” in the series (for example, there were no headers we can point to specifically relating to TB that appeared in spring or summer 2018, before the publication of LW, right?) It would be a break in the pattern to be foreshadowing Strike 7 before we’ve seen Strike 6.

  2. I’m really glad you like the theory about the lions and great catch with “Leonard” and Scrimgeour! I’m excited to see how it will play out. As an aside, I personally think we’ll see Norfolk in IBH because it would also parallel HBP with providing a lot of backstory.

  3. Thank you, Lindsay, for this note! I’m very much looking forward to some lion hunting in the next Strike novel.

    Norfolk may very well be the backdrop to Ink Black Heart, as you say, though I am not convinced as is Professor Freeman that it must be ‘Strike6’ and there isn’t “any reason” to think it could be Strike7.

    The white horses she mentions this close to Lethal White‘s publication, for instance, post title name drop and announcement of publication date, was only a tweet with a white horse memory stick in two parts. I can see why it would be in Strike6; as you say, it lines up nicely with the PSI requiring Prince-like backstory. But, if Rowling’s twitter header is what she is currently writing and if she is writing a book with chapters as she tweeted last night, I think it fair to assume she is writing Strike7 and about Norfolk. Which is a “reason,” right?

    We’ll see in the fall if Louise Freeman is right that the headers are teasers or trailers of sorts rather than markers of her current thinking and efforts! These are disagreements that will have a resolution.

    Thank you again, Lindssay, for checking in! HogwartsProfessor and StrikeFans are nice complements to one another in approach and emphasis; I hope in the future we can collaborate somehow on our discussions of the Strike series.

  4. I think it’s fair to assume she’s working on book 7 and Norfolk is for that, but didn’t she have her headers for The Faerie Queene after finishing the Troubled Blood? It’s always possible it had to do with editing but it still makes me wonder if it’s for IBH. I admit that I’m not looking forward to learning more about that commune so I’ll be very happy to be wrong.

  5. I can’t wait for more on the Norfolk commune, Lindsay! Strike’s story arc, akin to Harry’s crisis of doubt vs faith in Dumbledore-God in Deathly Hallows, is about his movement from reflex repugnance to anything spiritual which to his mind means “irrational” to an appreciation of realities that are immaterial, qualitative, and evidence of the soul’s survival of physical death. Norfolk will go a long way to explaining his resistance, I think, to the spiritual aspect of human life, i.e., his aversion to religion.

    That being said, I hear you and Professor Freeman, believe me, and your evidence that, while Rowling said her twitter headers reflected her current thinking, we have significant evidence that she also uses them to create conversation about work in progress or about to be published. The question is, which of these holds true for this picture of Norfolk? I think it means the work she is writing, which is to say, Strike 7, rather than Ink Black Heart, the work to be published five months from now.

    I hope I’m wrong, frankly, because I think the Norfolk commune holds the hidden key to Strike’s discomfort with other-worldly, immaterial, conscious reality, the principal hurdle to his soul’s perfection in the Spirit, allegorically represented as his relationship with Robin. And you and Louise Freeman have presented information that this may be in the next book. I doubt it, though, if only because that would be almost too good to be true.

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Any possible resonances of Charles Williams’s The Place of the Lion (with Berringer’s ominous study group)?

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