The Christmas Pig: Amateur AudioBook

The audiobook version of J. K. Rowling’s The Christmas Pig available via Audible is a delight. I have listened to it on an almost endless loop since October and have yet to tire of the ensemble cast, the special effects, the music, or the narration. Jim Dale and Robert Glenister work their magic as solo readers and each is a marvel who has brought fresh appreciation of Rowling-Galbraith’s work each time I listen; the audio version of Christmas Pig, though, because it is supported by a full production company is almost the equivalent of ‘hearing it staged,’ the story appears so vividly in the mind’s eye. If you haven’t listened to it yet, as I say to readers of Cormoran Strike who are unfamiliar with the Glenister interpretations, “You really don’t know the story until you’ve listened to it.”

I understand, however, that many people do not care to join Audible, an Amazon outfit (which is to say, “one more tentacle of the octopus devouring all commerce and bookstores especially”), and do not have the Galleons on hand to buy the ensemble cast production straight up. I wonder if libraries have copies yet on CD or mp4 players for the blind. Regardless. today I found a place online where, with just a little patience and flexibility, anyone can listen to the whole book for free. Links to that after the jump!

The recorded chapters are available via the ‘Surprise! I See You!’ list at Here is Chapter 1:

Rowling’s reading of the book’s first chapter can be enjoyed here and she has also done a video recording of her reading of chapter 15, ‘Beneath the Tree.’ All the chapters, though, can be found at the ‘Surprise! I See You!’ channel on YouTube. I cannot speak for the quality of the recordings beyond the first chapter which was quite good or even if they have not been done as a baiting exercise for online gambling sites or Ouija Board invitational-tournament sign-up pages; my recommendation comes, consequently with the necessary caveat videor! The only other downside is that you need to clink the link to the next chapter every five or six minutes.

Having said that, I hope the younger set who may not have heard the story read aloud will enjoy this, live options not being available and the recorded production piece not at hand (ear?). It’s worth the trouble, believe me, to let the story pass through your ears rather than your eyes for an imaginative re-charge and re-experiencing. Cheers!



  1. One of the intriguing things about the full-cast “staged” version of the audiobook is that in addition to “bringing the text to life”, it also tends to highlight some of the author’s own strengths that have either gone unnoticed, or else it’s just something that doesn’t come off as well in the book format. Namely, her skill at writing and incorporating the element of fear in her fiction.

    It might not be something that’s all that overlooked, and yet it’s only with this audiobook that I first began to understand just how good Rowling is at handling a genuine Gothic setup. What made me realize this is her portrayal of the Loser. The story’s villain manages to be intimidating enough on the page. In my mind, for instance, he comes off as this renegade, Gollum-like monstrosity from a heavy metal album. However, it’s the way he’s brought to life in the Audible version that gave me the full realization.

    I don’t know if anyone else has arrived at this conclusion, yet J.K. Rowling has the potential in her to be one heck of a Horror author. Yes, I know, that’s an out-of-left-field reaction to have, especially when talking about a Christmas story. All I can do is point the listener in the direction of the Audible play, and to pay close attention to how the Loser is portrayed in that production. Then come back and try to tell me it didn’t sound as if Stephen King had taken over the writing duties for a scene or two. As brought to life on the radio play, the Loser is nothing less than one of best incarnations of the Monster Under the Bed that I’ve ever heard, and as a lifelong fan of the Horror genre (it was an early exposure to the literary Gothic which got me interested in books) I now think we have proof that Rowling is more than capable of tackling this sort of material.

    All of which is to say that one of the unintended side-effects of her Christmas fable has been to make me hope that one day we’ll get to see the author try her hand at a legitimate, supernatural Tale of Terror. Granted, I could be in the minority on this one.

  2. ‘Career of Evil’ was close enough for me, Chris…

  3. Two years ago, when showing the first HP movie to my young nephews for the first time, one of them stopped watching because he felt it was too scary. At the time, I figured it was just generally the macabre/gothic elements of the narrative that he was afraid of (he doesn’t like The Nightmare Before Christmas for the same reasons), but since then I re-read the HP series (and the Strike novels) to find that there are countless horror tropes throughout all of her books, as well as a number of genres. I think the best fantasy fiction written tends to mirror the vast and eclectic emotions that a reader experiences in their everyday life. Narnia, Middle Earth – you laugh, cry, scream, swoon, sometimes all at once, and you simultaneously feel escapism in an otherworldly adventure, as well as at home in familiar emotions and traumas. Death and loss are often at the heart of the conflicts we face in these stories, and likewise in our own.

    But I absolutely agree that JKR could delve deeper into full-fledged horror and I’d be first in line.

  4. Mr. Granger,

    You are not going to believe what I have to say next. The fact that it took this long for the idea to occur is perhaps a testament to the way reality often doesn’t explain itself as well as anyone might like. However, the ironic fact is that there is one other text out there with which Rowling’s “Christmas Pig” might be compared. The irony is compounded by the fact that it can be classified as a work of Horror. I’m talking here about a work of fiction from the imagination of someone who has to be the premiere American writer of all three popular genres, Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy, with maybe even a touch of Mystery/Thriller thrown in, here and there. The book in question is Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree”. It’s sort of been right there in front of everyone ever since Rowling published her book, and yet it’s not been noticed until just now. It is just possible that there are enough similarities between their respective stories to allow a comparison on a Shared Text level.

    Both stories center around the exploits of children. At the heart of each story is an attempt to rescue someone who is valued, or held dear by the main characters. In Rowling’s book, it’s Jack’s love for Dur Pig. In Bradbury’s story, a group of friends learn that the leader of their gang is sick with a potentially fatal illness. DP gets thrown out the window on Christmas Eve, and is then spirited away to the Land of the Lost and Beyond. In THT, the best friend is taken, and held as a ransom by Death, in a place known as “The Undiscovered Country”. From there, each book details the journey each protagonist must take in order to reach the ones they care about. Jack has to traverse his way through the Lost Lands. Tom Skelton and his friends must travel through the “October Country”. Each of these lands has an allegorical significance. The Lost Territories are a living commentary on the various states and aspects of the human soul. The Undiscovered Country is the history (in particular, the ultimate belief behind, and in back of) Halloween, with each stop along the way allegorizing the soul’s combat and struggle with Death throughout the ages of time, and human (also somewhat beyond human) history

    In both texts, the main characters require the aid of a guide to see them through to their goal. Jack is led through the Land of the Lost by the titular Christmas Pig. The kids in Bradbury’s tale are hurried along in their quest by the services of Mr. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud. Finally, there are the people that the other characters are trying to rescue in each book. If CP can be said to stand as a symbol of Divine Love, then it is just possible that Joe Pipkin is meant as a figuration of Divine Life, for lack of a better word. Rowling’s figure is about the Ultimate Thought, the one that “makes the world go round”. While Pipkin is best thought of as the final result of that particular Love. Perhaps it should also be mentioned that Bradbury’s CP is painted in such a way as to identify him as a clear Mercury figure, one who is always on the move, trying to stay one step ahead of that final reaping, or harvest.

    He is used, or contrasted as a mediating figure, a necessary one for the contrast between Sun and Moon, Night and Day, Summer and Winter, Life and its Opposite (though here I have to admit I’m no longer sure what we mean when we use terms such as “life” or “death”, if I’m being honest; just doesn’t seem that simple to me anymore; maybe it never really was; it’s why I prefer to approach either subject with a great deal of caution). The point here is that if we’re speaking of “family resemblances”, then the similarities between Rowling’s and Bradbury’s stories are downright remarkable. It has to be one of the most astounding cases of literary correspondences that have ever been uncovered, one that could just go all the way down to a shared concern on the part of their respective authors. Each text is in some way an attempt to grapple with the both the concept and (seeming) fact of (whatever it is we “think” we mean by the word Death). It’s a topic that Rowling and Bradbury struggle with, and what’s interesting is that each could be said to arrive at near similar conclusions.

    Rowling ends on the note that Love can surpass Death. In this sense, Bradbury’s final conclusion almost winds up acting as a sort of addendum to Rowling’s themes. He leaves his readers with the suggestion that someday even Death may be overthrown in a moment of final consummation. When you place all this side by each other, what you get appears to amount to a pair of identical-opposite doppelgangers. It looks like there are major differences between each text, and yet the funny thing is how that only goes skin deep. The major single major difference between the two is one of tone and setting, with little else to differentiate them at the backstage thematic level. One is Autumnal, the other Festive. Bradbury’s text is the Night, Rowling’s the Day. Although, technically, both take place over the course of a single night. Yet even Bradbury ends by noting how even the Sun has to rise, eventually.

    Now if the question is whether or not this is something I’ve known all along, or for some time now. Then afraid the answer is no. This is all just a sudden clarity of insight. I can’t even say that there was ever any kind of gradual realization going on. If that should turn out to be the case, then all I can say is it must have been happening at the level of Lower Decks. Yet I’ll swear even that doesn’t seem to be the truth. It’s just that the similarities appeared in my head, all of a sudden, just like that. It could be that the reply above helped act as some sort of kickstart. Then again, however, it just all seems like something that was there in a flash, and all that’s left to do is to kick myself for not noticing it sooner.

    All I know is I brought Bradbury up once before, in connection with certain aspects of “Troubled Blood”. I said in that earlier comment that I have no idea if Rowling has ever read a single word by Bradbury. If she hasn’t, then I kind of have to ask what on earth she’s waiting for? Why deprive oneself of a genuine literary treat, in other words? If she has, on the other hand, then perhaps her compost heap goes deeper than many of us thought. If not, however, it might still just be possible to argue that both authors were more or less inspired by the same archetype at different points on the timeline. What I am willing to say with a great amount of certainty is that with all these textual similarities in mind, perhaps its best to conduct a further examination of each text as the respective pair of a somewhat synchronistic Holiday duology. Who knows, we might just have a new required reading list for both October and December on our hands.

    In the final analysis, I think the main reason I’m able to write any of this at all is down to Rowling herself. For the longest time, no one can say they even knew that a book like “The Christmas Pig” existed even as far back as 2012. Bradbury’s “Halloween Tree”, on the other hand, had existed since 1972, in another time and place, in other words. That means for the longest time, his Horror story for children sort of existed in its own self-contained vacuum. In that sense, it really does seem as if Rowling’s latest addition winds up acting or serving as something of a belated, yet perhaps somewhat necessary conclusion, a text that helps balance out the earlier one. Is it the greatest Christmas story ever? If we’re adding Dickens to the equation, then perhaps not, no. However, even the “Carol” doesn’t gibe with Bradbury’s text on the same level as that of Rowling.
    So, from the perspective of a longtime fan of “The Halloween Tree”, it seems as if “The Christmas Pig” has wound up in an interesting sort of place. It’s as if Rowling was able to give her readers a final present, one that even she may not have been expecting (unless she’s familiar with Bradbury’s text, of course). It’s an addition that serves to highlight the earlier holiday offering without diminishing it, and placing both of their respective texts in a greater, seasonal surprise, kind of light. If there’s any truth to these surmises, then this Season has been one that kept giving us more than we bargained for, in the best sense of the term. And I for one am willing to be thankful for that. Happy Holidays, Boils and Ghouls!

    Also, thanks BJ. Mind if I’m second in line?

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