Title of Book Seven Revealed! – The Running Grave

J. K. Rowling has revealed the title of Book 7 and it isn’t one that was on our radar! @CormStrikeFan who administers the Strike Fans website and has had remarkable success in gleaning new details via the medium of coaxing new Twitter Headers asked for a clue, and Rowling responded with “Disentangle the hanging venturer”.


Our friends at The Strike and Ellacott Files podcast provided the solution with The Running Grave! A quick search of the phrase “Running Grave” reveals the somewhat obscure Dylan Thomas poem When Like a Running Grave.

When, Like a Running Grave
When, like a running grave, time tracks you down,
Your calm and cuddled is a scythe of hairs,
Love in her gear is slowly through the house,
Up naked stairs, a turtle in a hearse,
Hauled to the dome,

Comes, like a scissors stalking, tailor age,
Deliver me who, timid in my tribe,
Of love am barer than Cadaver’s trap
Robbed of the foxy tongue, his footed tape
Of the bone inch,

Deliver me, my masters, head and heart,
Heart of Cadaver’s candle waxes thin,
When blood, spade—handed, and the logic time
Drive children up like bruises to the thumb,
From maid and head,

For, sunday faced, with dusters in my glove,
Chaste and the chaser, man with the cockshut eye,
I, that time’sjacket or the coat of ice
May fail to fasten with virgin o
In the straight grave,

Stride through Cadaver’s country in my force,
My pickbrain masters morsing on the stone
Despair of blood, faith in the maiden’s slime,
Halt among eunuchs, and the nitric stain
On fork and face.

Time is a foolish fancy, time and fool.
No, no, you lover skull, descending hammer
Descends, my masters, on the entered honour.
You hero skull, Cadaver in the hanger
Tells the stick, ‘fail’.

Joy is no knocking nation, sir and madam,
The cancer’s fusion, or the summer feather
Lit on the cuddled tree, the cross of fever,
Nor city tar and subway bored to foster
man through macadam.

I damp the waxlights in your tower dome.
Joy is the knock of dust, Cadaver’s shoot
Of bud of Adam through his boxy shift,
Love’s twilit nation and the skull of state,
Sir, is your doom.

Everything ends, the tower ending and,
(Have with the house of wind), the leaning scene,
Ball of the foot depending from the sun,
(Give, summer, over), the cemented skin,
The actions’ end.

All, men my madmen, the unwholesome sind
With whistler’s cough contages, time on track
Shapes in a cinder death; love his trick,
Happy Cadaver’s hunger as you take
The kissproof world.

The very quick post is sure to be the start of much speculation. Let me know your thoughts down below!


  1. Fantastic! I am delighted (of course!) that we’ve got another literary title – though sorry this looks like we’re not going to get early modern epigraphs again (still hankering after Shakespeare and Donne – maybe Strike 8!).
    I like the hanging-man vibes of the anagram ‘the hanging venturer’!
    Congratulations to @CormStrikeFan and @theSEFilesPod !

  2. I am looking forward to a detailed analysis of how the poem might relate to Strike and Robin’s journey!

  3. No idea how to translate this title into other languages.

  4. Hi! Please, help me understand how fans guessed what means this anagram?

  5. Nick Jeffery says

    Hello Olga! If you rearrange the letters in HANGING VENTURER you get the phrase THE RUNNING GRAVE.

  6. Prof. Groves, D.L. Dodds,

    It took a bit of hunting around, yet something interesting has turned up in regards to Rowling’s title choice. Let’s assume, until proven otherwise, anyway, that the poetry of Dylan Thomas “might” exert a guiding influence on “Strike 7”. If this should prove to be the case, then I’m left to ask if one of the critical studies texts tucked away somewhere in the shelves of her library is H.H. Kleinman’s “The Religious Sonnets of Dylan Thomas: A Study in Imagery and Meaning”. It is an examination of a ten-part poem, cycle that Thomas, much like Edmund Spenser, appears to have spent much of his life composing.

    After a close reading, Kleinman lays out the thesis of his critical study as follows: “I believe the sonnets are a deeply moving statement of religious perplexity concluding in spiritual certainty. They reflect the wonder, awe, doubt, and faith of a young poet who could not reconcile the capacity of divine pity with the necessity of human sacrifice. The paradox of the Incarnation and Passion affected Dylan Thomas early in his career. He was twenty-one years old when he wrote these sonnets, the same age at which Milton wrote “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.” “We were both religious poets,” wrote Vernon Watkins about Thomas and himself. There is a revelation in the sonnets of a fearful struggle of the poet with his God…The poem begins with a sonnet mocking the descent of the Word; it concludes in a spiraling ascent of faith (10 – 11)”. The rest is just Kleinman unpacking each sonnet in turn.


    I bring this obscure text up because it might just give us a clue to the nature of Rowling’s upcoming title. Kleinman singles out Thomas’s even – halved cycle as the keystone set of texts that explain who he really was as both a poet and human being, for lack of better words. It means the critic believes that it is this specific set of poetry that helps place all of Thomas’s other poems in their proper perspective. To give an interesting example, while Rowling makes use of the image of a Grave that Runs, Kleinman highlights how the Ten Sonnet Cycle speaks of a “Climbing” Grave. So in literary terms, what we have here is the development of a poetic image. In the Sonnet sequence, the image is first spoken of as a “warm laid grave”, then, outside that specific collection, the image reappears once again. This time, it is, as they say, “up and running”. The last time the image appears, it is wrapped in words that could, as Kleinman notes, work as a signal of Ascent. It also calls to mind the hermetic symbolism of graves.

    In this regard, Kleinman tells us: “It is…likely that Thomas, like Yeats, was attracted to the numerous books of esoterica written by Arthur E. Waite about such subjects as alchemy, demonology, angelology, Tarot cards, magic, and the “Cabala”. The arcane systems, the hierarchies of emanations, the fantastic cosmologies, and the intricate organization of chaos described in Waite’s “The Doctrine and Literature of the Kabbalah” appealed to the imagination of Yeats; I think it might have appealed to Thomas, too (74 – 75)”. For what it’s worth, Kleinman also quotes from Charles Williams’s “The Greater Trumps” in the course of trying to prove his overall argument. Williams’s own thoughts on Thomas are found here:


    What the developing Grave image amounts to is a simple process of change, or transformation. Perhaps a better way to think of it is to borrow a phrase from Rowling herself and describe it as a grave (or perhaps the contents therein) undergoing a process of “being Alivened”. It does call to mind the imagery employed in “The Ink Black Heart”, and perhaps it does make sense to view this as something of a continuation of the funereal themes of the previous novel. However, it makes greater sense to view it as the poetical expression of a state of advance. Strike Six finds its graveyard imagery as static, confined to its cemetery setting. The idea of a running and climbing grave, however, suggests the note of escape. The contents of the grave, what T.S. Eliot might have been referring to in his phrase of “The Compound Ghost”, has begun to get up out of its previous state of containment, and is now “on the move”.

    This poetical development puts one in mind of several things. Some may be reminded of ideas contained in films such as “Night of the Living Dead”. However, a more apt corresponding metaphor might be found in the old folk song, “Dem Bones”, which is itself a popular reference to Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones. This reference to music might also not be so coincidental. Thomas once made the remark that both “The Running Grave”, and another poem, “The Boys of Summer”, were two samples of his work that he was somewhat proud of. Most reading the title of the latter poem will have no choice except to hear the sound and lyrics from the 1984 Don Henley single sounding in your mind. The part that everyone seems to forget is that the entire song was inspired by the Dylan Thomas poem.

    The Thomas poem and the Henley song bear a curious relation to one another. It’s almost as if they are the first and second part of a single idea which, when put together, forms a greater whole. Thomas’s verses speak of childhood innocence being threatened by the looming adult disillusionment. While Henley seems to take up the subject of one looking back on childhood with a mixture of nostalgia tinged with regret. In other words, Henley’s speaker could be one of the protagonists of Thomas’s effort several years down the road. The interesting thing is that Henley leaves his own music poem off on a note similar to the one Kleinman claims that Thomas himself ultimately arrived at. The song, much like the poet and his life, ends on a note of a reaffirmation of ideals, and desire to struggle for betterment.

    In particular, the following lines from the Henley song seem to be strangely appropriate to the Denmark St. Series.

    “Out on the road today, I saw a Dead-Head sticker on a Cadillac.
    “A little voice inside my head said “Don’t look back, you can never look back.
    “Thought I knew what love was, what did I know”?

    Depending on how you interpret those lines, the speaker of the lyrics could be either Strike, his mother, Leda, or perhaps even both. A further thing to note is that the music video for the Henley single features three iterations of the song’s speaker, one as a child, the second as a young man, and the third as an adult. When the lyrics above are recited, all three versions of the protagonist glance back over their shared shoulder, ruminating on the mistakes of the past, and how to move on with the future. It’s all these interesting little cross-connections between poetry and song running through Rowling’s choice of title that makes me wonder if perhaps the ideas contained in the Henley lyrics, and the Thomas verse will amount to some of the lessons Strike will wind up learning over the course solving his next case. Or at least this all amounts to one possibility in terms of the history of allusion and literary connection contained within the author’s current choice for her next thriller. Any better ideas out there?

  7. ChrisC – I feel like you may have left those lyrics and the thought behind them hanging mid stream…The rest of the third verse finishes;

    “Those days are gone forever. I should just let them go but…”

    and rolls right back into the chorus;

    “I can see you Your brown skin shining in the sun…”

    But, overall I do concur with someone looking back on their life, but still striving to grow, move on, etc.

    That song for my is forever melded (best I can come up with to try to convey the feeling) to a very specific event, with a specific person. Yet, I have no real idea why! Not sure if I was listening to it before I picked them up at the airport or not. But EVERY time I hear it that particular memory surfaces.
    It seems that good songs, books, poems, etc. are the ones that draw us in and we identify with them in some tangible way. That Rowling puts this deep an effort into her work constantly amazes me. I so enjoy it!

  8. MikeG,

    Thanks for the reminder. What I should have gone on to say is that the Henley song, in connection with the poetry of Dylan Thomas, might be a possible pointer to the idea that Strike 7 will find the detective finally confronting a lot of ghosts (mostly metaphorically, thought possibly literally in one or two senses) over the course of his next case. Indeed, the links between Thomas’s poetry in connection with Classic Rock sounds to me very much like a hint that we’ll finally get a chance to see that Norfolk commune that Strike keeps avoiding. In that sense, this hinted at setting could serve as a useful symbol for the ideas contained in both Dylan’s poetry, and Henley’s song. Here’s hoping, anyway.

    With that said, yeah, I got to admit, that Henley tune is one of a handful that serve as a kind of personal mantra, for lack of a better way to explain it. What it puts me in mind of more than anything else is that fabled, elusive beast known as the American Dream, whatever that’s supposed to be. Like you say, sometimes good music can conjure up so many good ideas in your mind that its frustrating when the words fail them.

  9. David Llewellyn Dodds says


    Fascinating – thanks! The first publication in December 1935 must – and the second in 1936 may – precede Williams’s Figura Rerum Skeleton in his 1936 Canterbury Festival play, Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury (available transcribed at fadedpage). How that might – or might not – be related to the developing cycle, would be interesting to pursue, and interesting in a ‘comparative studies’ sense in any case.

  10. D.L. Dodds,

    Here’s the best answer I can give to your question. With the deliberate borrowing of an allusion to the work of Dylan Thomas, I supposed it can at least be said that there’s a sense in which Rowling is “edging closer” toward Williams’ literary precincts. It still leaves the question of whether or not she is familiar with CW as either an author or thinker. For what it’s worth, both Jason Fisher:


    And Sorina Higgins:


    …have noted how elements of the “Potter” series do seem to echo aspects of Williams’ own thrillers. Right now, the best option is to claim that “Galbraith’s” acknowledgement of Dylan Thomas helps to set up the possibility that there is some connection between her work, and that of CW. This, in turn raises two other questions. Has Rowling ever read CW? And what “kind” or “type” of influence might his works exert over the “Strike” series? The best answer to the first question is that her familiarity with Williams is best described as a possibility that has to be kept on the table. It’s something she’s neither confirmed nor denied herself. However, there are enough component elements gathering up in her book series to the point where it is not at all out of bounds to spot the potential allusions to him.

    Now here’s my answer to the type of influence Williams may have in her work. If it is there, then it exists as a component part. I maintain that the guiding literary influence of the “Strike” novels is that of Dorothy Sayers’ “Wimsey” series. A good way to describe this main influence is to view it as the key instrument which draws in all the other notes and riffs that Rowling plays in the course of her detective novels. As the conditioning keystone, Sayers and her own murder mysteries help draw in and determine the nature of the allusions in the Denmark thrillers so far, including everything from Spenser to Blue Oyster Cult. It makes sense therefore to look at CW’s place in all this as a hierarchical one. He may be one of the elements that make up C.B. Strike and his secondary world. Yet if this is the case, then he’s in there as filtered through the lens of Sayers. She is the primary source, he’s secondary. That said, the undeniable impact he left on DLS’s work, both in fiction and literary criticism re: Dante is perhaps enough to claim him as a natural element in the way Rowling draws on Sayers for her own efforts.

    To get back to the topic of Dylan Thomas and music, there is one other aspect, or musical connection that Thomas shares with rock and roll. That’s because once upon a time some nothing kid from Duluth, Minnesota appears to have been inspired by the poet to change his professional stage name into Bob Dylan. There are at least two reasons for bringing this bit of rock trivia up. The first is that it turns out someone really has written a book comparing the lives of Dylan and Thomas together as poetic artists:


    While this might seem like a detour from your original question, Professor, I would argue that even here CW provides a useful rubric tool for examination, inasmuch as the book linked above does in fact set out a genuine exploration of a subject familiar to Williams. It’s a detailed look at what might be called the development of two “Poetic Minds”, and what’s interesting to note is just how eerily similar both Dylan and Thomas are in terms of that shared sense of growth in the kind of understanding CW talks about in terms of reaching a state of artistic and personal closure. Besides this, the Tambourine Man also makes a brief cameo appearance in the pages of “Troubled Blood”, which could be Rowling’s most CW book:


    It leads me to wonder if maybe old harmonica troubadour will be making yet another appearance in terms of either a reference, or as a bit of a thematic music within the pages of the Thomas influenced “Running Grave”. This return to toward the musical aspects of the Strike series makes sense in terms of the main character’s semi-counter-cultural background, as least. All of which is to say that it’s not out of court that such disparate seeming artists like Williams and the two Dylans might be a part of the writer’s imaginative compost heap, or that there might be room for both of them on Denmark Street.

  11. David Llewellyn Dodds says


    Thanks! Jason Fisher’s post was new to me, and good! And the Three Kings pub fascinating – was it first a Magi reference, only later made joky with Henry VIII, King Kong, and Elvis? (Would JKR/RG know the filk song about Elvis and Tolkien, The Return of the King?!)

    I think you are right: Williams through Sayers seems likely. (I first read him, quote-wise, in her Divine Comedy translation – and did not immediately remember his name when encountering his Arthurian work a few years later.)

    Do we know anything about JKR/RG and Van Morrison? I remember someone once pointing out some pretty likely Charles Williams references in his work – but (aggravatingly) not the details!

  12. D.L. Dodds,

    “Would JKR/RG know the filk song about Elvis and Tolkien, The Return of the King?!”

    Good gosh, even I’ve never heard of that one till just now. Nor am I familiar with any Van Morrison connections, though that is interesting to hear about. Right now, I’m just keeping my eyes peeled for any possible appearances for either Bob Dylan, his poetical, pseudonymous namesake, and/or, with any luck, Don Henley showing up as references within the next Strike text.

    That said, one of the unexpected gratifications of this new tit;e reveal has been the way in which it does seem to show Rowling growing closer to CW and his writings.

  13. Feeling like I’m jumping off the high dive into unfamiliar depths, I nevertheless found the internet to be helpful and very interesting.
    First, from British Literature Wiki on Dylan Thomas there are echoes of Jonny Rokeby because Thomas is described as a “rockstar,” whose poetry “made him popular in the pop culture scene, putting him on the album cover of the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [along with Freud and Jung]…Despite his massive success, he and his family were still living in poverty.” Rokeby, like Thomas, also enjoyed success but still had family members (like Strike) living in poverty, although for different reasons.

    Then Wikipedia had yet more parallels between Thomas the poet and Strike, a fictional detective. “Although Thomas had a deep connection with Wales, he disliked Welsh nationalism. He once wrote, “Land of my fathers, and my fathers can keep it”.[274][275] While often attributed to Thomas himself, this line actually comes from the character Owen Morgan-Vaughan, in the screenplay Thomas wrote for the 1948 British melodrama The Three Weird Sisters.” Strike also has deep connections to Cornwall, while uneasy with his longtime friend Polworth’s Cornish nationalism. And to my surprise one of the “weird sisters” is named Prudence!

    But for me, by far the most interesting article I found is by Christina Braswell in 2006 (Winthrop University Rock Hill, SC) called “Freud’s ‘On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love’ as a Lens for Thomas’s ‘When, Like a Running Grave.’”
    Here’s a couple of excerpts: “… a man suffering from psychical impotence will debase the “object” so that that person cannot have the affection-status of a family member; thus, such a man will seek prostitutes or other women he deems unworthy of real affection…The one key difference between Freud and Thomas is that, for Thomas, psychical impotence does not result from a dread of incest but from a dread of the death he associates with birth and, consequently, with sex.”

    Though I am still unpacking this article, it helps me understand how Strike’s “calm and cuddled” might have become “a scythe of hairs.” And I wonder what therapy Prudence (with her Jungian perspective) might offer…

  14. Sandy,

    Thanks for the reminder of Thomas’s influence on the Beatles. It also doesn’t hurt to point out that the Fab Four also make a brief cameo appearance near the start of “The Silkworm”. I’m starting to wonder now if all of these hints toward various, famous musical acts of the 60s aren’t all intentional, as it really is starting to sound as if Thomas is proving to be a pretty important influence on some of the biggest names in Rock history. This in itself might just prove that you’re highlighting the resemblances between the real-life poet and the make-believe rockstar Rokeby could be at least some kind of a clue for what we “might” be able to expect in the next book. At the very least, the author’s citation of a famous poet with connections to both Inklings and Classic 60s Music history might be a hint that Papa Rock is perhaps about to get his moment in the spotlight.

    It also makes sense that this is where we meet Prudence for the first time. In fact, the I Ching Twitter header was a clue to me that Strike’s Jungian sibling will now have an actual part to play, at long last, and that her Jungian insights might get their time to shine. Here’s keeping fingers crossed. All I know for certain is it would be nice to have a mystery that takes us back once more into the rock and roll realms.

  15. Chris, you’re welcome although funnily enough, I didn’t mean it as a “reminder,” but more like my 4 yr old granddaughter “finding” an Easter egg “hid” in plain sight. *wink* I was genuinely surprised to find so much of interest just by googling Dylan Thomas (who admittedly I’ve never heard of before), which anyone can do…I mean I’m tickled to find out that the three witches of Shakespeare’s Macbeth are also the Weird Sisters of Thomas’s screenplay, as well as the hairy and wildly popular band among young witches like Tonks and the students of Hogwarts.

    I shouldn’t be surprised that something as simple as a google search should yield such a diverting literary convergence. Like a crow drawn to shiny trinkets, I found a familiar line, “Do not go gentle into that good night…” and interest peaked, I read on. The last two stanzas suddenly seemed as if they could be spoken by Strike perhaps initially to himself (as at the end of IBH): “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight/Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” But then this to the father against whom Strike raged but with whom might there be reconciliation?—“And you, my father, there on the sad height,/Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray./Do not go gentle into that good night./Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I can but hope.

  16. Sandy,

    On the level of literary – thematic connections, Thomas appears to be the gift that keeps on giving. For instance, I’ve stumbled upon the most astounding fact in connection with Dylan Thomas and the 50s Beat Poet and novelist, Jack Kerouac. For those who don’t who I’m talking about, imagine a precursor warm-up act to guys like Ken Kesey, John Lennon, or Jimi Hendrix and you’ll have at least a workable, beginning idea of who the author of “On the Road” was. Anyway, in trying to find if there was a connection between the Welsh poet and perhaps the quintessential American Beatnik writer, I came across a shared watering hole each of them frequented, and it’s name will jump out at you.

    It’s called “The White Horse Tavern”, and information about it can be found here:


    As the webpage lays out, “Perhaps most famous as the bar in which Dylan Thomas drank the night he died, Kerouac hung out in the White Horse Tavern a lot while he was living with Helen Weaver nearby. Apparently it was here that Kerouac found a scribbled ‘Kerouac Go Home!’ on a toilet cubicle wall (see ‘Desolation Angels’ and ‘Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957 -1969’)”.

    It’s hard to tell if Rowling herself has read Kerouac, and yet he seems to be just another aspect of the literary links of Dylan Thomas that points to the counter cultural aspects of the poet’s legacy. For me, it’s yet another possible indicator that Leda’s hippie background might get spotlighted in “The Running Grave”.

  17. ChrisC

    “For me, it’s yet another possible indicator that Leda’s hippie background might get spotlighted in “The Running Grave”.”

    I hope you’re right. I don’t want to listen to hours of Twitter hashtags again. :o)

  18. MathMom,

    How’s about trade-off, Blue Oyster Cult quoting Kerouac in one of their most famous songs.


  19. ChrisC – Ha! The White Horse Tavern is one of our longtime ‘locals.’ Iconic in its own right, but these days often overrun with a distinctly un-beat generation – think more Finance Bro’s than Kerouac. (Still a nice place to sit outside on a warm night with a beer, when not too crowded.)

    Anyway, in terms of musical associations with Dylan Thomas, I immediately thought of Bob Dylan too, of course. Besides the name, DT was a big influence – many of BD’s lyrics focus on similar themes: lost innocence, looking back on one’s history/childhood, death…And not so incidentally, both artists were heavily influenced by William Blake’s poetry and illustrations – specifically their frequent uses of religious/mystical imagery. (BD has spoken about this and Blake is often cited as an influence on DT.) But bringing this back to the subject at hand, it’s already been suggested that JKR’s new twitter header may in part relate to Carl Jung’s ideology (via his great interest in the I Ching.) Relatedly, like DT & BD, Jung was deeply influenced by Blake (his central concept of ‘archetypes,’ and more.) Many intersecting threads there.

    Remains to be seen if/how all this might tease out in TRG. We know Strike’s sister, the Jungian psychologist, looks to figure into the narrative. And I can well imagine Strike having disturbing memories of pseudo-mystical shenanigans at that cult-ish Norfolk commune (a messy ‘bollocks’ version used as a destructive/controlling force, rather than as a means to self-knowledge/liberation as posited by Jung and I Ching.) Given the time period Strike spent at the commune, it’s also possible that he may recall BD’s music in the air. So many of BD’s songs are extremely apt regarding Strike’s ‘current’ psychic struggles (from much of his career, especially songs on his Blood on the Tracks album, released 1975 – not too long before Leda would have decamped her brood to Norfolk.)

    Anyway, of course all these associations may just be my imagination run amok, or general cultural backdrop. But even if we don’t actually get Strike humming along to ‘My Back Pages,’ I’ll not be surprised to see at least some epigraphs from Bob Dylan and William Blake, in addition to Thomas and Jung.

  20. ChrisC –

    I’m game! :o) Sounds like a plan.

  21. Amy,

    Something tells me you’re imagination isn’t running away with you. In fact, the more I think this whole thing over, the more I begin to wonder if this title choice from Thomas might be the point at which all of Rowling’s previous quotations and thematic allusions begin to make a greater sense in terms of their place in the overall story. For instance, you mention Blake’s influence on DT. Well, it also turns out he’s another poet that’s been referenced in the previous Strike entries. Now we have yet another author with connections to the same Romantic mythographer. Another thing they have in common is the way both Blake and Thomas went on to have an impact on the music of the 60s.

    Once you put all this information together, it is just possible to claim that a pattern is starting to emerge in the carpet. In this case, it all begins to suggest a way in which all of the authors and artists alluded to so far can tie into the narrative trajectory of the main character. By adding DT into the mix of running commentators for the series, including writers as disparate as Henrik Ibsen, Christina Rossetti, Horace, or Spenser, it does begin to appear as if the author is at last providing a quotation source that is able to tie them all together in a way that makes sense for both the background and primary mystery of the series. It all points to the way in which Mythopoeia was utilized in the 1960s and how Strike’s own life forms a part of that legacy, something which he still comes to terms with.

    So no, I doubt this is a case of the Imagination playing tricks on anyone here. Well spotted.

  22. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Would Anthony Hopkins playing the Dylan Thomas figure in Anthony Terpiloff’s memorable Poet Game (1972 UK broadcast – if IMDB got that right) fit into the Strike background? Hopkins reading “Do not go gentle” is worth comparing and contrasting with Dylan Thomas’s own reading (or perhaps readings in both cases: I did not do my homework about different recordings…). I heard a curious, intriguing guest lecture at Harvard back in the day suggesting the structure of “Do not go gentle” might (among other things) be playing with the ‘hwyl’ of some Welsh preaching (see, e.g., Wiktionary). When I went looking for any Poet Game-related stuff on YouTube (without success) I ran into “Prince Charles’ royal performance of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood – BBC” from last 6 July!

    Paul Fiddes has a chapter on Williams and Blake in Charles Williams and C. S. Lewis:
    Friends in Co-inherence (OUP, 2021).

  23. D.L. Dodds,

    I’m afraid the answer to your question will have to be filed under the heading of “more than I know”. What I have found out is an interesting article on how Dylan Thomas influenced both the San Francisco Beat Poetry scene, along with fellow Welsh musician John Cale:


    The article above is useful for the way it helps establish the first hints of a literary lineage from the poetry of the literary Dylan all the way to the art and sound of the musical one. In other words, it helps grant a better idea of how Thomas wound up as a pre-cursing shaper or co-creator of the same counterculture that scholars like Theodore Roszak spent their entire life studying. This bit of knowledge is intriguing for two questions it raises about the nature of the seventh “Strike” novel. The first is whether this hippie sub-culture will play any part at all in the seventh case? The second question, assuming the answer to the first one is yes, hinges on how will Rowling portray it in her work?

    There seem to be at least three ways she can write about this colorful bit of history. Two of these options are diametrically opposed to each other, with the third occupying some perhaps dramatically conciliatory middle ground. The author can portray it all in a negative light, as something to be escaped from. Or else Rowling could take the opposite option, and portray it in a positive one. This latter choice wouldn’t necessarily negate the final path of compromise, either.

    The most logical dramatic choice would be to portray the counterculture as something with a good idea at its heart, or center, something like an ideal to be strived for, and a goal that characters such as Leda Strike might have set for herself, with the characteristic, Tragic irony being that she failed to live up to her own ideals. Such an artistic procedure would then serve the purpose of turning the historical counterculture movement into a metaphor, of sorts, for the concept of macrocosm and microcosm. In other words, the struggle of the individual will to orient itself in a positive relation with the fundamental Ground and order of things.

    It would at least make sense that Strike’s hippie background could wind up as a representation for all the Mercurial aspects of himself that he needs to both recognize and incorporate into his life if he’s to ever simultaneously let go of the past, while also maintaining a better grip on it in a way that allows him to solve the mystery of his mother’s death once and for all. Making peace with people from that commune would be one viable way of going about it. Though really, it is all a wait and see game.

  24. Amy, like Chris, I do not think your imagination has run amok either. I also thought of Bob Dylan. As I was reading the Notes of the Wikipedia article on Dylan, this was the first rattle out of the bag: “While [Robert] Shelton was writing Dylan’s biography in the 1960s, Dylan told him, “Straighten out in your book that I did not take my name from Dylan Thomas. Dylan Thomas’s poetry is for people that aren’t really satisfied in their bed, for people who dig masculine romance.” And here I was thinking he did take his name from DT.

    David Llewellyn Dodds,
    I listened to both Anthony Hopkins and Dylan Thomas reading “Do not go gentle” and am really torn. I was surprised how deep Thomas’s voice is! I’m leaning toward the quietly haunting timbre of Hopkins’ voice. He takes his time and I can’t not listen.

    I wish you’d say more about “playing with the ‘hwyl’ of some Welsh preaching….

  25. Interesting, Sandy. It’s very possible Bob Dylan didn’t actually take his name from Dylan Thomas. Over the years he’s given various accounts of that for sure. But it’s worth mentioning that he’s notorious for playing with interviewers, giving contradictory, even fanciful details of his history and influences. I’ve heard this attributed to a resistance to the extensive myth-making surrounding him, subverting it by authoring his own versions. (Martin Scorcese’s excellent documentary about him, No Direction Home, touches on this refusal to be defined.) Anyway, regardless of his name’s true origin, the influences he shares with DT and his lyrics’ affinity with Strike’s arc could make for good epigraph material – if we’re right in our musings re TRG’s direction.

  26. Amy, Sandy,

    I just remembered something cool! After doing a further bit of digging, it turns out there’s another famous musician out there who is not only a major fan of Dylan Thomas, he’s also one of Cormoran Strike’s favorite artists. I’m talking here about none other than Tom Waits, who has been referenced at least once in the course of Rowling’s series. I was able to discover Waits’ DT fandom here:


    With all this in mind, I really do have to recommend you pick up Waits’ 1974 second album, “Heart of Saturday Night”. It’s a nice, melodic, Jazz influenced tribute to guys like Thomas and Jack Kerouac. I’d say it’s one of his best, really. Also, thanks for bringing up Scorsese’s “No Direction Home”, Amy. That’s how I first found out about how Thomas might have influenced the musical Dylan. Great documentary.

  27. Amy, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the contradictory nature of Bob Dylan! The article Chris posted confirms that: “A man of contradictions is the artist formerly known as Robert Zimmerman./First of all he admits to renaming himself after his South Wales idol in his own autobiography, the next he’s telling Playboy magazine that he hadn’t read very much of Thomas’ work at all whilst growing up./’It wasn’t that I was inspired by reading some of his poetry, went ‘Aha!’ and changed my name to Dylan…If I thought he was that great, I would have sung his poems and just as easily changed my name to Thomas.’”
    I have never liked Bob Dylan much as a singer (pick-a-note Bob) but with this dialogue we’re having I want to read his lyrics because you have intrigued me about “their affinity with Strike’s arc.”

    Chris, thank you for that last article. I loved this bit: “Thomas would have no doubt enjoyed Waits’ woozy wordplays such as ‘I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.'” LOL!

  28. Sandy, Prof. Groves,

    “Bob Dylan took Latin. I didn’t know this before reading Why Bob Dylan Matters, an insightful reflection on Dylan’s investment and, ultimately, his participation in the Western literary tradition by Richard Thomas. Thomas has been publishing scholarly articles on Dylan for over a decade and has taught a Harvard freshman seminar on the songwriter every four years since 2004, but it is because of his day job that I mention Dylan’s exposure to classical languages—Thomas is the George Martin Lane Professor of the Classics at Harvard, known within the field as a leading literary critical voice on Virgil and intertextual poetics. Dylanologist Thomas joins forces with Classicist Thomas in this book, elucidating “Blonde on Blonde” through the “Aeneid”, drawing parallels between Modern Times and ancient times. The result is suggestive, quite often illuminating. It would not be an overstatement to say that what we have here is as much a book about Dylan’s literary significance in the twenty-first century as one about the continued significance of Virgil—or Homer or Sappho or Catullus or any of the other classical poets Thomas discusses.

    “To continue, Bob Dylan took Latin at Hibbing High School for some number of years between 1955 and 1959. He also participated in the Latin Club during his sophomore year. Dylan biographer Anthony Scaduto does not mention this detail. Neither does Dennis McDougal, Howard Soundes or, I would guess, most of Dylan’s biographers. (Toby Thompson mentions it in his 1971 “, incredulous.) But for Thomas these details play a key role. A main reason why Dylan matters, for Thomas, is because he wants to place, and is largely successful in placing, the songwriter in a literary tradition that runs from Homer and Sappho straight through to the present, with significant stops along the way for the Latin poets. The earlier Thomas can establish Dylan’s classics bona fides the better.
    “Thomas’s career has in large part helped define the Hellenistic bent of the Latin poets, in particular the Augustan poets and, above all, Virgil. The Hellenistic Greek poets, primarily those of third-century BCE Alexandria, like Callimachus and Theocritus, developed a notoriety for their literary style. Bookish, deeply allusive, and highly self-conscious about their bookishly deep allusivity, the Alexandrians set the standard for literary taste that Virgil and his contemporaries inherited. By this standard, Dylan is the perfect modern subject for Thomas’s literary critical style. As a poet, Dylan is a modern-day Alexandrian with a breadcrumb trail of literary influences wending through over five decades of song lyrics, memoirs, and interviews. Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Blake, Rimbaud, Whitman, and Shakespeare make regular appearances. As do Byron, Shelley, Longfellow, Poe, Thucydides, Sophocles, Tacitus, Suetonius, Ovid, Dante, Machiavelli, Milton, Gogol, Balzac, Maupassant, Hugo, Dickens, Freud, Rousseau, in a dizzying recapitulation of Dylan’s own account—part memoir, part self-mythologizing—of the library in the New York apartment where he lived in 1961. (What a classicist would give to have a catalog—even a dubious, self-consciously misreported catalog—of Virgil’s books at twenty years old!) Kipling, Shaw, Mann, Buck, Camus, Hemingway all make appearances in Dylan’s acceptance speech for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is the literary critic’s challenge to make sense of it all and Thomas does an admirable job.

    “But it is a particular pleasure to follow Thomas as he explicates Dylan’s tight patterns of quotation and adaptation of Ovid’s exile poetry on the 2006 album Modern Times. In this section, the highlight of the book, and the section that best conforms to the intertextuality-obsessed Latin literary criticism that has defined Thomas’s career in classics, he recounts the discovery by New Zealand poet Cliff Fell of numerous quotations among the album’s lyrics. Fell noticed that Dylan borrowed liberally from Peter Green’s translation of Ovid’s “Tristia” and “Letters from the Black Sea”. Thomas presents the poetic evidence side-by-side—Dylan in column A, Ovid/Green in column B, lexical echoes on display—and, as he does in his best scholarship on classical poetry, for example his commentaries on Virgil’s “Georgics”, he homes in on his subject’s talent for selecting, reworking, and deploying snatches of literary antecedents. Since Ovid was no intertextual slouch himself, a millennia-old proto-Dylan, happy to adapt, transform, and even distort material from the songs he heard growing up, Thomas’s method has a lot to teach readers about how to read both sides of the allusive game”.

    More can be found here:


  29. The only thing that came to my mind is “what, more graves”? Surely it can’t feature cemeteries and graves again, it would be repetitive. Could it be a general reflection of how Strike feels time is running away from him in trying to achieve what he wants, or find justice for the death of his mother? Troubled Blood was a reflection on his family, and it’s possible The Running Grave is also (rather than being, like The Silkworm and The IBH, a direct reference to a “thing” that is central to the plot).

    If most of the action centres in Norfolk, it won’t have much to do with Thomas himself, who was Welsh. But it would be high time for a murder that is more directly related to Strike’s own past or family, after CoE. My guess: someone related to that Norfolk commune gets up to mischief or dies, and, in following the clues, Strike gets close or even solves the mystery of his mother’s death. I think the clues will lead him somewhere uncomfortably close to home (his uncle Ted, or Polworth)

  30. David Llewellyn Dodds says


    I agree – I’m always delighted to hear Dylan Thomas reciting any of his work, but that Anthony Hopkins reading is excellent. The YouTube channel I tried has links to other readings, including by Tom Hiddleston and Jonathan Pryce (which I have not tried yet, but different interpretations of poems are regularly fascinating…).

    I wish I could do justice to talking about ‘the hwyl’ – I learnt about it from my grandmother, and have never witnessed it, but it is a sort of exalted state of eloquence which some Welsh preachers enter – or which descends upon them – and which (this being, as I recall, part of the lecturer’s point) can include forceful repetition. Having posted my previous comment I began to wonder if the lecturer mentioned “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” as well as, or instead of, “Do Not Go Gentle” but the point was (as I recall) the combination of strict poetic form with effect of the hwyl. Maybe Welsh readers can correct me! I remember once talking with someone writing a dissertation on Dylan Thomas’s knowledge and use of Welsh, something he apparently often pretended ignorance of.

  31. David Llewellyn Dodds (btw your name is fantastic and so I can’t not try to spell it out), thank you for sharing about the hwyl! And from your grandmother how precious that is. It sounds almost Pentecostal (which I’ve lately come to thoroughly appreciate, so I mean that in the best possible way) or even anointed. It sounds like Welsh wasn’t much appreciated, maybe even censored (please forgive my American ignorance, I just don’t get pretending ignorance of one’s native language) Anyway I also wanted to thank you for mentioning Prince Charles’ – or as we must now call him King Charles’- royal performance. I had no idea he had such a feel for poetry reading! Very pleasant surprise. He should do that often.

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