Strike and Spenser Part 3-Names, Beasts, and Stars (and more!)

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know we are traveling on a day-by-day first-read-through journey of Troubled Blood, and I am your tour guide for the Spenserian bits of the trip, pointing out interesting Faerie Queene­-related scenery as we go past it. Of course, the weeks, months, and (likely) years to come will yield much more exciting discoveries, as our author, under whichever name she chooses, Alumnus Donates Rare 1611 Edition of “The Faerie Queene” | Bluff Stuffwrites book series that hold up under multiple reads, with new treasures revealed each time.

Join me today for thoughts on Part 3, the Winter section, with Discontent aplenty and some great Spenser connections! Spoilers after the jump, brave travelers, so if you’ve made it past page 344, keep reading below!

Spenser References, Assemble!

I will acknowledge that this section does have fifteen huge chapters and covers nearly 200 pages, so my analysis will not tackle each one and its Spenser opening like we did with Part 2 but will instead just hit the highlights, of which there are plenty.

Even though I’m not doing a full epigraph run-down for this installment, I do have to note that Chapters 21 and 27 begin with passages from book V, the book of Justice and the adventures of Sir Artegall, and that these are passages that connect to what I have long joked is the Avengers appearance in The Fairie Queene. The passage at the beginning of 21 is from an episode in which Artegall challenges a giant who has a set of scales and has promised to make everything in the whole world balance out, all the good, evil, everything. In other words, he’s a Titan promising that the world should be balanced, as all things should be. In addition to our cameo by Thanos, Artegall has a great sidekick, his groom, Talus, who is referred to by name in the passage that opens Chapter 27. Talus is, literally, a man made out of iron. So yes, Iron Man is there, too.Iron Man Is Torn Into Pieces By Thanos In One Reality Of Avengers: Endgame Final Battle!

More importantly, these (and other) references from Books III and V and to Britomart and Artegall continue to reinforce the idea that these knights are our emblems for Robin and Strike.

A Hazy Shade of Winter

As we start Part 3, our seasonal structure continues with Spenser’s description of “Winter, clothed all in frieze”; like the summer and fall passages, this one comes from the pageant of the seasons in the last surviving canto of The Faerie Queene, one of the two Cantos of  MutabilitieVisual Readers: The Shepheardes Calender Through the Eyes of its Compositors, which would have been the sixth and seventh cantos of the seventh book, the book of Constancy. It’s hard to tell from the brief bit used to open Part 3, but the rest of that canto shows that Spenser’s winter is a bleak one. Summer and Autumn are both lively allegorical figures, colorful in their embodiment of their seasons, and largely positive, although Summer is drenched in sweat from working outdoors in the heat. However, Winter, an old man, can barely move, feeble and shaking with the cold. His condition foreshadows both the cold weather that assails our characters throughout this section and the flu that flattens Morris, Barclay, and Strike. By the end of chapter 30, poor Cormoran looks like the person of Winter himself. This grim winter also sets us up for some pretty bleak moments for both Robin and Strike, including miserable Christmases.

The Name Game

There are a number of characters whose names have Spenser origins and whom we get to really meet in this section, although many have already been mentioned. What is interesting is the way in which some of them are quite similar to their namesakes, while others are polar opposites.

One character whose personality fits his Faerie Queene namesake is one whose full name we only see a few times: the son of Dorothy Oakden, whose scandalous Whatever Happened to Margaret Bamborough is acquired by Robin in this section, although most copies were pulped to avoid a lawsuit. This book uses his initials, C.B., which are, of course, Strike’s initials, too, but his first name is Carl. Spenser uses the name “carle,” or “churl” for a number of low-life characters throughout the epic poem, which suits Carl Oakden, whose muck-racking seems “churlish” at best.

We finally get to meet Oonagh Kennedy in this section, and she’s just as delightful as her namesake, the good and true lady Una, whose trials are the focus on Book I and who represents Unity. As I had hoped with that last name, she’s Irish, a nice nod to the complex geographical and political connections Spenser has with Ireland. She is also a vicar (which is a fun switch from being a Bunny Girl), and her faith seems quite genuine.  I am hopeful that is the case, not just because she is likeable, but because that would be a good fit for the Spenser's Faerie Queene by Spenser, Edmundfaithful and pure Una who is the devoted lady of the knight of Holiness. There is a false Una in Book I, though, so we may yet have an Una impostor. Or perhaps the Bunny Girl episode mirrors the fact that the evil enchanter Archimago creates an imitation Una who cavorts with a fabricated paramour in sight of the Redcrosse Knight in order to enrage him and drive him away from the true Una and his quest to save her kingdom and family from the dragon. The Bunny Girl role, as Oonagh describes it, is its own sort of false persona, a façade that provides what (usually male) people want to see.

Some of the names are placed on characters very different from their Fairie Queene origins. Eden Richards, daughter of former cleaning women Wilma Bayless, who orders Robin to stay away from her family, has a first name we associate with its Genesis origins, but in Book I of The Faerie Queene, Eden is also the name of the kingdom of Una’s royal parents who are stand-ins for Adam and Eve.  While Una’s kingdom is a positive one, although besieged by a dragon, Eden Richards is a barrier to the Bamborough investigation, and not a very pleasant one, either.

One of my favorite characters in this section is Irene Bull/Hickson, former receptionist who originally lied about her plans the afternoon of Margot’s disappearance. This woman, with notes of both Hepzibah Smith and Dolores Umbridge and a dash of Aunt Petunia from that “other” series, is almost too much to believe, but most of us know at least one person very much like her. Loud, over-tanned and over-bleached, and constantly running over her old friend Janice who tries to recount her memories of 40 years ago, Irene doesn’t much fit the name of  Irene/Eirena, a genteel and beleaguered lady who calls upon the knight of Justice, Artegall, for aid, perhaps a representation of a peaceful Ireland seeking aid from England. However, she does resemble the figure whose description sets up chapter 20, in which she and Janice  host Robin and Strike: the figure of Envie who appears at the end of Faerie Queene’s Book V (again, that’s Artegall’s book). Envie is she who “if that any ill she heard of any” makes it worse by spreading it around and meddling. Clearly, that’s Irene, whose mysterious astrological symbol and the reaction of detective Talbot mark her as a questionable figure. How questionable she is, only time will tell as the book continues, but I suspect that embarrassing gas is not going to be the most memorable aspect about Irene.

One of the other staff members from the old St. John’s practice has a very interesting name, but as we are yet to meet Gloria, it remains to be seen if her name is a signal that she is like Gloriana, the Faerie Queene herself, Elizabeth I.  Spenser, of course, made no secret of the Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)fact that The Faerie Queene was written as a grand compliment to his monarch, and she appears in various forms throughout the text and is the titular Queen whom the many knights serve. One of those names, both in the poem and in history, was Gloriana. Since we don’t know Gloria, such speculation may perhaps, just be a bunny tail, er, trail…

The Animal Fair(ie)

We’ve long noted some of the great bird symbols Galbraith/Rowling is giving us throughout the Strike series, but our parade of animals this time is strongly influenced by The Faerie Queene.

Even though Spenser doesn’t use the word “bunny,” the Bunny Girls, such a big theme in this section, do have an interesting connection to the poem. Only once does Spenser refer to a “hare” or rabbit, and it is specifically in comparing the pursuit of one to the flight of Florimell, who is being pursued throughout several cantos in various books. When Rowling first revealed the title of the novel, one of the images she was using was of the flight of Florimell, an illustration positioned hard by that only rabbit in the epic poem.

Other animals show up more frequently in Faerieland. The lion ring, owned by gangster Mucky Ricci, is so distinctive that it helps Shanker identify him in a photo that is nearly 40 years old and shows up in that awful film Strike sees toward the end of Part 3. I suspect we have not seen the last of the lion, and it’s an animal Spenser uses to good effect as well. Una is protected by a lion (she has a lamb, too), which mangles anyone who tries to hurt her, but others appear as well. I’m also interested in the fact that we have a lion and Irene’s maiden name is Bull. Of course, we have no shortage of men, and I am looking for our eagle to give us a straight flush of Gospel writers.

One of the most interesting ways Spenser uses animals, of course, is as symbols, and probably one of the best-known sequences in all TheWalter Crane 'The Faerie Queene, Book I' by Edmund Spenser | Walter crane, Art, Art inspiration Faerie Queene is the parade of the Seven Deadly Sins at the House of Pride. Pulling the coach of Lucifera (Pride), the other six Sins each ride a symbolic animal. Idleness rides a donkey, Gluttony a pig, Avarice a camel, Envy a wolf, and Wrath a lion, like Ricci’s ring. Wrath’s clothes are also stained with blood. Considering that Ricci was at least a witness to the horrible scene that Strike sees on the old film, that’s a strong fit.

Lechery, of course, rides a goat, a creature of great importance in this section of Troubled Blood. Goats are all over poor Talbot’s mad notes, and while they are not “normal” goats, the association of goats and lechery is an appropriate one with all the possible and actual hanky-panky being investigated. It should come as no surprise that this section sees Saul (more on his name in another post, also sort of goat-related) Morris send Robin an inappropriate picture that marks him as a satyr—lustful goat man.

Written in the Stars

The goats that really fascinate the sadly obsessed Talbot, of course, are symbolic ones, especially that fish-tailed one, Capricorn (like many other Capricorns, I am sure, I have been mollified by the fact that my boring farm-animal sign is at least a mermaid-goat instead of one of the old Billies in the pasture. Just in case anyone asks, I do have an alibi for October 11, 1974, including the fact that I was in America and in preschool). Talbot is convinced the killer was a Capricorn, although he dismisses Capricorn Roy Phipps as a possible suspect. There is also the possibility that there were 12 total Butcher victims, like the 12 signs of the zodiac.

The emphasis on astrology in the novel, especially in this section, would not have been foreign to Spenser. Despite the fact that he was a Christian and his knights all represented specific Christian virtues, like many Renaissance writers, Spenser was fascinated with the zodiac and uses the imagery of the stars and their supposed meanings. Perhaps the best passage on astrology in The Faerie Queene, for our purposes, is at the beginning of Book V, Artegall’s book, in part due to Spenser’s intentionally archaic spelling and word choices, meant to mimic Chaucer:  “For whoso list into the heavens looke,/And searches the coarses of the rowling spheres” (V.v.1-2). Yes, that is his spelling. Rowling. Spenser then describes the constellations as actual creatures (Ram, Bull, Crab) whose positions change over time, causing them to challenge each other (his grasp of celestial mechanics was, in many ways, ahead of his time).Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies

In addition to the creatures of the zodiac, the idea of Houses is also an interesting connection. Strike knows all his horoscope, thanks to Leda, including that the sun was in the first house when he was born. The House of Health comes up in Talbot’s notes, not surprising since Margot was a doctor. The House concept is also one Spenser uses, both as physical buildings and as concepts like the astrological Houses. The House of Pride devours its victim, while the House of Holiness heals damaged souls like Redcrosse as he prepares to take on the dragon.

While we know that the all the horoscope business has huge connections to the crimes of 40 years ago (and perhaps more recently), it also has huge connections to Spenser. We will see, as we head into Part 4, how both the stars and Edmund Spenser continue to guide our intrepid detectives. Please comment below your own thoughts on Part 3 Spenser elements!

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