If Running Grave is 'Deathly Hallows 2,' What Strike Series Characters will Play the Parts of Dobby and Kreacher?
Rowling's Two Series of Novels Run in Parallel; Whose Death in Strike7 will Echo the Demise of Harry's Beloved House-Elf in the Hogwarts Saga's Finale?
I promised in my review of Prudentian psychomachian allegory in Harry Potter earlier this week that my next post would be a deep-dive into the virtue of Prudence and its possibilities as the over-arching virtue-vice conflict of the Cormoran Strike novels. That involves some heavy-lifting, as you can imagine, to include dusting off my copies of The Republic and The Nicomachean Ethics as well as reading Rita Singer’s MA thesis on the subject and Jungian pieces about Prudence, so it’s not happening as promptly as I hoped. Stay tuned.
Evan Willis has written me on the HogwartsProfessor back-channels to report that his next post will be about the structure of a ten book series. When I responded that I look forward to reading it because I don’t think it is a ten book series, but a seven book one with three add-ons, pre-Covid, he wrote that he hoped I would post on that subject because his theory requires the septology-plus idea to be true for the ten book structure to work.
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I feel like I’m being set-up, but I will oblige him by repeating here what I’ve written before about the number of Strike novels. I will add-on to those comments an answer to a question Evan asked me on that same backchannels thread, namely, who did I think would be the Dobby parallel figure in Strike7, the side-kick who dies a sacrificial death and catalyzes the hero’s rubedo chrysalis?
First, though, why Running Grave is best thought of, at least in the run-up to publication, as the climax or Deathly Hallows equivalent in the Cormoran Strike series.
Seven or Ten Books? Or ‘Seven with Add-Ons’?
When Rowling and her publishers made semi-official declarations that the Strike series would be ten books long in April, 2023, I made the preposterous but still compelling argument that this didn’t mean what we thought it meant:
Since the Parallel Series Idea (PSI) was proposed here at the publication of The Silkworm, the evidence that Rowling has been playfully echoing her Harry Potter novels in the apposite number book in the Strike series has only snowballed. See the PSI Pillar Post for a collection of the HogwartsProfessor articles detailing these fun reflections between the series. The Half-Blood Prince/Ink Black Heart echoing was discussed as well at HogwartsProfessor, as recently as last week, and at both The Rowling Library and even MuggleNet. Louise Freeman has noted that PSI is no longer just a possibility but a “theory” due to all this evidence.
Rowling has mentioned the ten book end point previously, so writers here have tried to figure out how the seven book parallels could be stretched into ten, ‘Strike Extended Play,’ as well as why Rowling is doing this — just for grins and giggles, to suggest the right way to read the Hogwarts Saga, or to give her serious readers an inside track to the next book’s contents? Or is it ‘None of the Above’?
The real sticking point for this Potter Pundit and Serious Striker is less the series-in-parallel idea that suggests strongly that The Running Grave will be a finale of some kind as Deathly Hallows was to Harry Potter’s adventures than it is the ring structure of the Strike-Ellacott psychomachian drama. The parallels between the first and fourth books are in place, to include Rowling-Galbraith marking the second half of the seven book series turn as ‘Part Two’ at the halfway point of Lethal White, and we have the requisite parallels between books two and six as well as three and five, the so-called ‘turtle-back lines’ of a ring composition. All of this suggests strongly that Strike7 will present a solution to the over-arching mystery of the series thus far, namely, the seeming suicide of Leda Strike, Cormoran’s mother, just as Lula Landry’s and Jasper Chiswell’s staged suicides were solved in Strikes1 and 4 respectively.
So… The author and publisher have committed to a ten book series. This does not necessarily mean that Running Grave will not be as full of Deathly Hallows echoes as the first six books were with their Harry Potter equivalent numbers. Nor does it mean that all the structural evidence must be wrong in its pointing to the possibility that the series will come to an end of sorts in its seventh installment, a conclusion of at least one of the questions raised in the first book, say, about Strike’s conception, his mother’s death, the death of his child with Charlotte Campbell (?), or the IED explosion that cost him a leg.
One thing I didn’t mention in that piece is that the ending of Cuckoo’s Calling parallels the end of Lethal White. So what?
Irvin Khaytman wrote a series of posts on MuggleNet in 2015 that detailed how the gauntlet that the trio run from Cerebrus to the Mirror of Erised in Philosopher’s Stone is a depiction of each of the books to come in the seven book series with especially detailed foreshadowing in the exact placement of items in the Logic Test of potions bottles (see here, here, here, and here for those posts). I wrote in 2011’s Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle that Stone’s gauntlet of obstacles was repeated in the Goblet Triwizard Tasks and in Hallows’ finale, i.e., a magical plant, mythological creature, broomstick flight, logic test, help from friends (p 111).
Khaytman makes a fun case in the articles above that the gauntlet the trio run in Stone foreshadows the hurdles Harry will have to clear in each of the subsequent six books. If he's right, is there a sequence in the solving of Cuckoo's Calling, the final race to trap John Bristow, that is a parallel and similar road-map to the cases in Strikes 2-6?
If the Parallel Series Idea (PSI) holds down to the remarkable details of the Hogwarts Saga's ring structure, we would expect to see a series of hurdles cleared in close to exact sequence in the first, last, and middle books. Just as Harry Potter's race to the Mirror of Erised in Stone is repeated in the Triwizard Tournament Tasks and confrontation with the Dark Lord and in the Battle of Hogwarts challenges, PSI suggests that there may be a similar gauntlet in Cuckoo and White's finishes, one that will be repeated in Running Grave.
I have not given this possibility close attention, but it's obvious that the ending of White is an echo not only of DDore's breaking in to save Harry from Faux-Moody but also of the climactic confrontation between Bristow and Strike in Cuckoo's Calling. Robin burst in ex machina then to prevent Strike from killing Bristow and saving his life by getting him the medical help he needed; so Strike broke down the door and rescued his partner from Raphael. I think there's deception via a phone call to set up both confrontations, playing with shades in each scene, as well as the necessary Big Reveal of how the murders were done and why.
If a Serious Striker can identify two or three more similarities -- how about "denouement with half-siblings or sidewise relations" for starters? -- we may have the format of Strike7's last chapters.
That’s a challenging possibility I include here as a marker for future discussion, but primarily to note again that, if PSI is true — and the evidence at this point is whelming — then the seventh Strike novel will be written in parallel with Deathly Hallows just as the series thus far has echoed each mystery’s corresponding number in Potter and the relationships between the Hogwarts novels in that ring cycle.
Who is the Dobby Character in Running Grave? Kreacher?
As mentioned above, I have been discussing Running Graves on the back-channels of this site with the faculty here and like-minded friends. The question has been whether Rowling’s assertion that the series is ten books in length precludes the seventh book being written in parallel with Deathly Hallows. Evan Willis volunteered that his next post was about the ten book series structure, to which I responded, “I look forward to reading it, but have a hard time imagining Strike7 not being a Deathly Hallows echo.” He responded:
I hope Running Grave is the Hallows equivalent, else my theory on why 10 books (tetractys parallelism) goes up in smoke. Any theory on likely Dobby-death equivalent for 7? My current bet is Barclay (having supplemented the book 6 surveillance shortage in Dobby-esque fashion) or, failing that, Shanker (book 2 introduced Hermetic outsider having settled into a good position circa book 4).
Like me, I’m guessing you are scratching your head about “tetractys parallelism” and the idea that Running Grave will parallel Deathly Hallows but will not be the series conclusion or climax. I am very much looking forward to Evan’s explanation of all that.
But to his question about the Dobby equivalent in Running Grave as an echo of Deathly Hallows, I think he’s right to be looking for the character that will die as Harry’s house-elf friend did, the emotional summit or nadir of that book, but wrong in his guesses.
I mean, Rokeby has largely been accepted as the Dumbledore of the series (despite my efforts early on to cast him as the Dark Lord), many think that Whittaker will wind up as Severus Snape (my distaste for the possibility only highlighting its likelihood), and certainly Strike, Ellacott, and Barclay can be read as the Agency equivalent of the Hermione, Harry, and Ron trio (yes, I think Robin is more the Harry of the series at times than Strike, captain of ‘Team Rational’).
But Barclay or Shanker as Dobby? I’m going to say, “No way.” Evan Willis is brilliant and I see his lines of thought, but there is a better candidate for the Dobby role among the Strike series’ players and a corresponding cretin for Kreacher.
The House-elves of the Cormoran Strike series are Dave Polworth as Dobby and Carl Oakden as Kreacher.
No doubt that strikes you as preposterous, but try to keep an open mind, no matter your thinking about my theory that Dave Polworth played a major role in the death of Leda Strike. How many super-devoted, short friends does Strike have? Friends that played heroic roles in books two and five of the series in question?
Polworth is the short and intensely loyal friend who will do anything and everything to help his revered friend. His biggest help, of course, comes at the end of The Silkworm in parallel with Chamber and Dobby’s role in it, in book 5 where he helps Cormoran and Lucy get through the flooded plains of Cornwall in parallel with Dobby's heroic aid in Phoenix in finding Kreacher, and in book 7 it might be assumed he will arrive in Norfolk ex machina to save Strike (and Lucy?) from the commune prison where they are being kept. Remember ‘Little Dave’s devotion to the Nancarrow clan for no explicable reason to date and it’s hard not think of him as the family house-elf.
And Carl Oakden as Kreacher? That’s a little harder to make out, but the connections are there.
Oakden is the belligerent outsider despised by Strike and Robin who provided all the necessary information in Troubled Blood to solve the crime at hand but who gets no credit, because, y'know, he's an unhinged misogynist. He is the servant, the Hermes messenger and trickster as I've argued elsewhere (see here and here), of Jonny Rokeby, the Zeus figure (the big clue to this relationship is in the Oak names). In Dumbledore/Rokeby's will, something that may be read at the start of Running Grave, Oakden could be bequeathed to the Strike and Ellacott Agency as a paid worker to solve the case at hand. Despite Kreacher/Oakden’s disgust for the Mudblood/woman Hermione/Robin, he is won over to the Agency’s side by a generous gesture from Harry/Cormoran and becomes an invaluable team player.
To get this, you have to see what house-elves represent in the Hogwarts books.
The House-elves, as explained by Katy McDaniel is the first Harry Potter for Nerds, are the equivalent of "house-wives," the women who missed the second-generation feminism bus. I had the great good fortune of being on the dais at the Tolkien convention at which Professor McDaniel first discussed this meaning of Rowling’s bizarro magical creatures (and I had the equal misfortune of following her as a speaker when my mind had just been blown).
Just as in Ring Composition parallels across the story axis, so in PSI the parallels can be direct echoes or inversions, even opposites of their originals. So with the house-elf characters in Cormoran Strike.
In these mysteries, the equivalents of the “house-wives” are the noxious male correspondents who think that women are good for nothing more than use as sex toys (and not to be trusted ever). Both house-elves and their Strike correspondents have an anti-feminist understanding of women.
Polworth a la Dobby early on screws up Harry's life trying to help his hero; it works that Polworth's role in the death of Leda Strike may be the Big Reveal of Running Grave -- and Polworth's sacrificial death of redemption the great tear-jerker of the piece. I suspect he will have to die for Strike's women in danger -- Robin, Lucy, Prudence? -- for the misogynist traits to be confirmed/redeemed?
Oakden/Kreacher will have to become a devoted member of the Agency, despite the misgivings of everyone there about him, as Kreacher did in Hallows after being given the necklace. A servant in Rokeby's home after the Agency is expelled from Denmark Street? He'll disappear from the story, though, when the duo/trio are forced into hiding/travel outside London.
Really, we should do a Round Table discussion of Hallows equivalent moments and characters to expect to hear echoes of in Running Grave.
Here are twelve from the top of my head:
Death of Charity Burbage (Prudence?)
Escape from Privet Drive (Denmark Street?)
Dumbledore's Will (Rokeby’s?)
Kreacher and the House of Black (Oakden on retainer?)
Raid on the Ministry, Recovery of Locket and Eye of Made-Eye (not a clue!)
The Camping Trip and Silver Doe interlude (Whittaker in Norfolk?)
Death of Dobby, Burial at Shell Cottage (Goodbye, Dave!)
Raid on Gringott's (Return to the Norfolk Round Tower Church?)
Hallows or Horcruxes? (Robin or Charlotte? or Lucy?)
Battle of Hogwarts, Death of Snape (Cuckoo and Lethal White gauntlet?)
Death of the Dark Lord (Revelation of the truth about Leda Strike’s life and death? Death of Uncle Ted?)
(Three Book?) Epilogue (parallels with Casual Vacancy, Ickabog, and The Christmas Pig?)
No, I don’t think this will be an especially edifying or productive game of guesswork — we know from experience that we will all be fooled (please review ‘The Value of Interpretative Speculation’) — but I do think it will be both a valuable exercise in Parallel Series thinking and a bit of fun. As it stands, I have a weekend of psychomachia and Prudence study ahead of me and only Evan Willis’ article on Monday to look forward to.
Please let me know what you think: (1) of the possibility that Irvin Khaytman’s theory about the key to the Hogwarts Sage being embedded in the gauntlet of Philosopher’s Stone may have its equivalent in the Cuckoo’s Calling trap of Bristow and Lethal White’s confrontation with Raphael; (2) of the theory that Dave Polworth and Carl Oakden will be the Dobby and Kreacher of Running Grave/Deathly Hallows; and (3) whether you want to read more risible speculation about Running Grave along PSI lines.
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