Welcome to Part Two in our series of guest posts written by Dr. Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter. (You can find Part One here.) Dr. Groves teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance English Literature at Oxford University, and her blog Bathilda’s Notebook can be found over on Mugglenet. In this second and final part of the series, Dr. Groves discusses the Paradise of Eden as seen in three separate pieces of glass in The Ink Black Heart. (We’re sure you can guess which of these three is our favourite!)

Stained glass plays an important role in the only scene set on holy ground in Harry Potter. Harry and Hermione stand in Godric’s Hollow churchyard as Midnight Mass is celebrated, and the light streaming from inside this ‘jewel bright’ church shines through its ‘brilliant windows’ and falls on them. The snow on which they stand is transfigured by this light: ‘a blanket of pale blue that was flecked with dazzling red, gold and green wherever the reflections from the stained glass hit the snow’ (Deathly Hallows, Chap 16). The beauty of these stained-glass windows and the way in which they transmit that beauty to the world outside are an important part of the religiosity – the numinous aura – of this scene (I’ve written more about this here). George Herbert, one the greatest English religious poets, has written of stained-glass windows as a metaphor for people in their ability to transmit the divine:

Lord, how can man preach thy eternal word?
He is a brittle crazy glass;
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.

But when thou dost anneal in glass thy story,
Making thy life to shine within…
…then the light and glory
More reverend grows, and more doth win.

(George Herbert, ‘The Windows’)

There are three stories ‘anneal[ed] in glass’ – as Herbert calls it – in The Ink Black Heart and I think they are connected, both with each other and with the religious colouring that stained glass carried in Deathly Hallows.

Herbert’s poem speaks to the simultaneous fragility of glass – ‘a brittle crazy glass’ – and its transcendent possibilities. When a stained-glass window is lit by the sun it becomes a ‘glorious and transcendent place.’ The brittle beauty of the three stories annealed in glass in The Ink Black Heart express the vitality and vulnerability of hope and human connection in the bleak, anomic world of this novel. The first two glass artworks in the novel are pieces of stained glass, and they are both images of Paradise.

The first is Christopher Whall’s ‘Adam Naming the Animals’ (1880) and this traditional Edenic image (seen by Robin at the William Morris Museum) primes the reader to recognise the Edenic hinterland of the secularised version that follows in the window at North Grove. In Mariam’s beautiful artwork we are shown what the commune could and should have been: the happy and creative coupling of Josh and Edie as the Adam and Eve of this perfectly realised imagined world. The final story told through glass in Ink Black Heart also represents a man and woman, and just as we saw Adam naming the animals in the first image, so some new naming has occurred here likewise. The images of Eden annealed in glass earlier in the novel suggest the hope that the union within the newly named ‘Strike and Ellacott Detective Agency’ does indeed represent a paradisal future for the pair.

Although, as mentioned in yesterday’s post the word ‘Eden’ only appears once in The Ink Black Heart, Eden appears in a visual representation when Robin follows the agency’s targets to Walthamstow:

…a stained-glass panel showing a naked Adam naming the animals. He sat round-shouldered on a grassy tussock, pointing at a tiger, while a bearded angel beside him recorded the chosen name in a book. Two tropical birds seemed to be poking out of the top of the angel’s halo. Adam’s expression was vacant, even clueless.

Groomer and Legs were standing with their backs to Robin on the other side of the room, discussing the symbolism of the pelican in a design by Edward Burne- Jones…. Robin had been pleasantly surprised when her targets pulled into the car park of the William Morris Gallery… Having explained the Christian symbolism of the pelican, which was feeding her chicks with her own blood, Groomer wondered aloud whether Legs was ready for a coffee. (Chap 16, 143-44).

The animals in Whall’s ‘Adam Naming the Animals’ are rather lovely, and they include a Pelican which gets fuller treatment in Burne-Jones’s depiction (drawn in the same year and hung, according to The Ink Black Heart at least, opposite it in the same room). The narrative voice is quite right about Adam, whose expression is vacant to the last degree, but it has simplified what is happening with the angel: ‘a bearded angel beside him recorded the chosen name in a book.’ Actually, divine knowledge (symbolised as another book placed in the top right of the image) emits beams of light that fall simultaneously on Adam and the Book into which the angel writes. The symbolism of the stained glass suggests that divine inspiration (from the divine book) is directly active both in Adam’s knowledge of the animals and in the book of nature into which it is written (which is a pleasing piece of two-text symbolism given the text-within-a-text nature of The Ink Black Heart!)

The Christian symbolism of the pelican will, of course, return in Highgate cemetery – the place where inspiration first struck Edie was ‘near a grave Edie always liked. It’s got a pelican on it’ (p.618). The Ink Black Heart takes care to remind the reader of the traditional symbolism of the pelican (which had been explained nearly 500 pages earlier):

To Robin’s slight surprise, she saw again the image she’d heard Groomer explaining to Legs back in the William Morris Gallery: the mother pelican plucking at her own breast, with a nest full of hungry chicks, beaks upturned, ready to be fed with her blood.

The girls surrounding the young man in the Drek T-shirt were now clutching each other.

‘That’s it, that must be it!’

‘Oh my God,’ breathed the girl in the Paperwhite T-shirt, speaking through the fingers she pressed to her mouth. ‘I’m going to cry.’

The guide had stopped too. Turning to face the group, and ignoring the agitation displayed by the Ink Black Heart fans, he said:

‘This unusual headstone is that of Elizabeth, Baroness de Munck. The device of the pelican represents sacrifice. This tomb was erected by Elizabeth’s daughter, Rosalbina…’

But Robin wasn’t listening. She’d just remembered what Josh Blay had said about the place where they’d had the first ideas for the cartoon – the place where Edie had been murdered. ‘Near a grave Edie always liked. It’s got a pelican on it.’ (p.647)

Elizabeth Baird-Hardy and John Granger have discussed the symbolism of the Pelican in some detail (here and here), and Elizabeth’s piece shows how it remained popular in the nineteenth century (the aesthetic home of this novel): ‘the pelican is the second-most popular bird symbol in cemetery art, ranking just behind the extremely popular dove.’

The Christian symbolism of the Pelican can be found throughout literature and a favourite example of mine is in The True Chronicle Historie of King Leir (Shakespeare’s source play for King Lear) in which Leir compares himself to ‘the Pellican/ That kils it selfe, to save her young ones lives’ while his daughter Cordella is compared with the Phoenix (the Pelican’s sister-bird in Christological symbolism). It is an image that Shakespeare remembers- but reverses – in King Lear by focusing on the ‘Pelicane daughters’ who tear the flesh of their parent rather than the loving sacrifice of the parent bird. Another example which pairs the Pelican and the Phoenix – making their Christological symbolism inescapable – is this fabulous pair of miniatures painted of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard.

The Pelican in her Piety is a strikingly Christological animal to find in Strike, but it is one I have been waiting for.

Last month Rowling ran a Twitter competition encouraging us to (accurately or wittily) guess the plot to Running Grave – and *many* congratulations to @LudicrousMonica who actually won this competition! (I hope you will wear Narciso and chat Sheep Management on your fabulous dinner!). My guess failed to bring home the prize, but I was nonetheless was delighted when Rowling commented on it:

She has spotted that we’re paying attention to her headers, but she does not, I suspect, know the half of it. She put up a pelican as her Twitter header in May 2018 and I’ve been waiting ever since for this superbly symbolic bird to make an appearance.

I discussed this beautiful header (from the thirteenth-century Aberdeen Bestiary) at the time and, while it fitted in with the general importance of bestiaries for Fantastic Beasts (as I’ve discussed in detail here) no actual pelicans have turned up in her work until now.

The text underneath this superb image runs:

[The mother pelican] lets her blood pour over the bodies of the dead, and so raises them from the dead. In a mystic sense, the pelican signifies Christ… It kills its young with its beak as preaching the word of God converts the unbelievers. It weeps ceaselessly for its young, as Christ wept with pity when he raised Lazarus. Thus after three days, it revives its young with its blood, as Christ saves us, whom he has redeemed with his own blood.

The Pelican in her Piety, most visible in The Ink Black Heart in the grave-image Edie is so drawn to, is also present in Whall’s ‘Adam Naming the Animals’ as well as in Burne-Jones’s beautiful cartoon opposite. ‘Cartoon’, centuries before animated cartoons were thought of, meant something done on paper: from French carton or Italian cartone ‘augmentative of carta paper:’ ‘A drawing on stout paper, made as a design for a painting of the same size to be executed in fresco or oil, or for a work in tapestry, mosaic, stained glass, or the like’ (Oxford English Dictionary). And this, indeed, gestures once more at the religious stained-glass symbolism in Ink Black Heart as it is a cartoon for a stained-glass window.

The striking religiosity of Whall’s ‘Adam Naming the Animals,’ and perhaps even the pelican stained-glass cartoon, is recalled when Robin next looks at a secular paradise annealed in glass:

Directly opposite Robin was a large and beautiful stained-glass window that she guessed was Mariam’s work. It had been cleverly illuminated with an artificial light source on the exterior of the building, so that even in the evening light it cast patches and flecks of cerulean, emerald and crimson light over the scrubbed wooden table and the many large pots and pans hanging on the walls. At first glance Robin thought the window might depict a vision of paradise, but the many people depicted there bore no wings or halos. They were working cooperatively on different tasks: planting trees and picking fruit, tending a fire and cooking over it, building a house and decorating its front with garlands…. Robin glanced up at the stained-glass window again, trying to make out Edie or Josh. She had a suspicion they might be the two people picking fruit: both had long brown hair and the female figure was throwing apples down to the male. Then she noticed, with a little start of surprise, the ruby-coloured glass letters set across the top of the picture, like a biblical verse.

A state of anomie is impossible
wherever organs in solidarity with one another
are in sufficient contact,
and in sufficiently lengthy contact. (372, 376)

This is, of course, a crucial clue – but we are also given a number of pointers here to recognise this as an Edenic re-imagining of North Grove: it depicts a man, a woman and an apple tree; Robin thinks at first that it is an image of paradise and words are set above it ‘like a biblical verse’ in a church window. As Gerard Manley Hopkins writes in his wonderful sonnet ‘Spring’ every fresh spring, each new start, has ‘A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning/ In Eden garden.’

This window expresses the way in which something good – both Edie and Josh’s initially joyful relationship and the ideals of North Grove – has fallen away from that Edenic hope, has ‘sour[ed] with sinning.’  But the final story written in glass in Ink Black Heart inverts this trajectory.

In doing so – in showing how good can come out of destructive acts – it echoes something that is central to Milton’s poetic creative reimagining of the Fall. When Adam hears about the Incarnation in Paradise Lost, he rejoices:

Oh goodness infinite, goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin
By me done and occasioned, or rejoice
Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring. (12.469-76)

This idea that the Fall might actually be something to rejoice at because it brought the gift of the Incarnation is a traditional Christian idea known as the ‘fortunate fall’ or felix culpa. The belief that Paradise Lost subscribes to this view was rejected by many critics at the end of the 20th century, critics who rightly recognised that Adam’s tentative recognition of his sin as a ‘happy fault’ is phrased as a question, reanimating the paradox within the felix culpa idea. But I think that Paradise Lost does encourage the reading of the ‘fortunate fall’ (as I’ve discussed in my book The Destruction of Jerusalem in Early Modern English Literature) and one reason for thinking this is that God’s creative redeployment of evil for good is not a lone insight of Adam but a central theme of the poem. Over and over again Paradise Lost tells us that this is how God works: ‘his providence/ Out of our evil seek to bring forth good’; ‘all his malice served but to bring forth/ Infinite goodness, grace and mercy’; ‘evil/ Thou usest, and from thence creat’st more good’ (1.162-3; 217-8; 7.615-6).

Central to Paradise Lost is the idea that evil cannot win: ‘evil/ Thou usest, and from thence creat’st more good.’ Satan’s actions are used against him by God whose reflex is always to make ‘evil turn to good’ (12.471). Satan’s instigation of the Fall will be answered by the gift of Christ. Paradise Lost writes the Christian story as an inversion of the story of Pandora and Prometheus – Eve’s eating of the apple (the Christian version of Pandora’s opening of the box) is not the punishment for Prometheus’s sin in trying to save mankind, but its opposite: the gift of Christ, the new Prometheus is the result not the instigation of the Fall.

This optimistic reading of evil hoist on its own petard is central to Paradise Lost, and it is shared by Harry Potter. At the centre of Harry Potter is the idea that Voldemort’s decision to commit a terrible crime – the murder of a baby – was what gave that baby the power to defeat him. The bleak world of The Ink Black Heart contains only a tiny refraction of this idea of good coming out of evil, but it is a pleasing connection nonetheless. The bomb that destroys the Agency’s office does not only get rid of a sofa which, it seems, will be much missed among the Strike fandom, it also enables Strike to anneal in glass an acknowledgement that someone has transformed his agency – and his life – for the better.

The Ink Black Heart has created a new bond between Strike and Robin – we learn that they are going to become godparents to the same child (a duo of godparents – replacing the lone godparents of Harry Potter [Sirius (to Harry) and Harry (to Teddy Lupin)] symbolic of the way in which the singular hero of Harry Potter has been replaced by the twin-heroes of Strike). And their new professional parity has likewise now been openly expressed. The evil act of the bomber necessitates new glass for the door, providing the opportunity for Strike to give Robin a gift which is also a promise. Evil is transmuted into a new togetherness, writ in glass. The Edenic promise of a perfect union between a man and woman – seen in the stained glass earlier in the novel – finds its realisation in this moment which is likewise an apotheosis of the hope felt by Robin as she first glimpsed in that glass the life she had longed for:

Robin stood quite still, with her mouth slightly open, experiencing a moment of wonder… her lifelong, secret, childish ambition…

Taking this…. vow… gave back to her some of the mystique, even glamour, that she had imagined lay beyond the engraved glass door ….

Five years previously, the words engraved on the glass had read: ‘C. B. Strike, Private Detective’, but no longer. She was now looking at ‘Strike and Ellacott Detective Agency.’

(Cuckoo’s Calling, Chaps 1 and 6; Ink Black Heart, Chap 107)


5 thoughts on “Paradise Lost and Recovering Eden in Ink Black Heart | Part Two: Annealed in Glass

  1. Thank you, Beatrice! I enjoyed this very much, not least because it tickled the engineer in me.
    To anneal something is a wonderful phrase. I first came across this term in college as a process of changing the properties of metal. After metal is worked or quenched from a high heat it becomes harder and less flexible. In this state it is brittle and weak due to the stresses introduced to the structure of the material. To cure this you can heat the metal to cherry red to soften it, the stresses internal to the material relaxes and if cooled slowly (not quenched) the metal gains strength, flexibility and is easier to work.
    The same is true for glass, in its manufactured state panes of glass contain stresses that can cause them shatter when attempting to cut them to shape. If the glass is heated and then cooled very slowly the internal stresses are released and it is stronger and easier to shape. This is annealing. A form I suppose of solve et coagula.

    1. Thank you Nick! I am really glad you liked it – and did not expect this piece to have an engineering angle!

      Anneal is a fabulous word – from ‘Old English ǣlan to kindle, light (a fire or lamp), to burn (something) up, to bake, burn, heat (something, e.g. tiles) < the Germanic base of Old English āl fire' – and I (and Herbert) am using it here to mean: 'b. transitive. To fix (pigment, a design) on or into glass, metal, etc., by the application of strong heat; (also) to colour or decorate (an object) in this way.' (OED meaning 2b) – first reference pleasingly! is in the Morte Arthure: 'c1440 (▸?a1400) Morte Arthure l. 1294 (MED) The emperour for honour ewyn in the myddes, Wyth egles al ouer ennelled so faire.'

      Yours is slightly different ' 2c. transitive. To subject (metal, glass, etc.) to a process of heating followed by (typically slow) cooling in order to remove internal stresses and make the material less brittle or more workable.' – which I had not thought about in relation to this poem although interestingly it is very much the same thing as 'tempering' which is a favourite Herbert word – and one I've actually written a very short article about!

      I love the idea that Herbert may be bringing in another metal-working metaphor here, and the alchemical possibilities for both his and Rowling's work – solve et coagula indeed!

  2. Wonderful, Beatrice! It’s been a while since I’ve read or taught PL and this was both a welcome refresher and an acute lens through which to study The Ink Black Heart.

    On the topic you raised in Part 1 of Satan’s antagonism toward creatures and creatureliness and his wish to be sole creator, I love the way that Milton contrasts his attitude toward his “incarnation” in the serpent —

    O foul descent! that I who erst contended
    With Gods to sit the highest, am now constraind
    Into a Beast, and mixt with bestial slime,
    This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
    That to the hight of Deitie aspir’d;
    But what will not Ambition and Revenge
    Descend to? (PL, 9: 163-69)

    — with the Son’s humble, free, and rather eager (“Well pleas’d”) willingness to take on human flesh:

    I for his sake will leave
    Thy bosom, and this glorie next to thee
    Freely put off, and for him lastly dye
    Well pleas’d, on me let Death wreck all his rage;
    Under his gloomie power I shall not long
    Lie vanquisht. (PL, 3: 238-43)

    Your essay has left me even more excited about the “felix culpa” theme of the series as we see time and again, as we did with Harry & Co., evil hoist with its own petard, or as you so eloquently state, “Evil is transmuted into a new togetherness, writ in glass.” I don’t know whether you’ve seen my S&E Files post on the paradoxical reversal of graves becoming new beginnings rather than dead ends which may play out in TRG and beyond ( )

    I could go on and on commenting on all of your fantastic insights (especially the connection of the stained glass with the new glass door of the detective agency) but I’ll confine myself to a final question: one of the most poignant moments in the Strike & Ellacott series for me is in Chapter 41 of Troubled Blood when Robin, as she tells off Strike for showing up drunk & ruining the dinner party. We read:

    “‘It’s. What. I. DO!’ shouted Robin, thumping herself hard on the sternum with each word.”

    I was wondering whether this moment is reminiscent of the Pelican in her Piety for you? I realize that there is much to go against this reading, not the least of which is the fact that Robin is not at this moment a mother. But it could be argued that her conciliatory behavior has maternal qualities, particularly as this shouted exclamation follows on a scene in which those qualities have been drawn out. I suppose I’m curious as to whether you have seen or think we’ll see Robin compared to the Pelican in her Piety?

    Thanks again for your wonderful essay!

  3. Thank you so much for this Kurt!

    I really enjoyed your essay, too, and will certainly be thinking about it (and the alchemical image of the lovers embracing in the tomb – the first alchemical think I ever wrote on, back in my thesis re: Romeo and Juliet!) as we move towards Running Grave. I think your idea really complements the felix culpa idea here – both forms of solve et coagula!

    Re: Paradise Lost that is an excellent point and those two quotes really bring together the difference between these two hero/antagonists of the poem! Christ’s ‘Freely put off’ is Milton’s reworking of the word ‘kenosis’ in Philippians 2.5-11 – one of the central texts about the Incarnation: the Bible’s central passages about that event: ‘Christ Jesus, Who being in the forme of God thought it no robberie to be equal with God: But hee made himselfe of no reputation, and tooke on him the forme of a seruant, and was made like unto men.’ And I think this sentence lurks behind Satan’s words too.

    Re: Robin thumping herself of the sternum – yes! We see her reaction to children in need strongly throughout the series – esp. in 2, 3 and 6 – as something instinctual and something for which she is prepared to suffer. And in IBH we see her for the first time unthinkingly risking near death for someone, and not merely anyone – one of the most unpleasant people in the series who habitually attempts to goad women into suicide. ‘For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ – saving Peach is a truly Christlike action!

    Thanks again Kurt for this thoughtful response 🙂

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