The Rabbit as Psychopomp

Darkness and light in J.K. Rowling’s Troubled Blood

Iain Spence
Nov 23, 2020 · 5 min read
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Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, Pixabay

This is a brief analysis of the rabbit and its role of psychopomp in J.K. Rowling’s novel, Troubled Blood. The article contains spoilers to the book.

Hidden jokes

The search for Oonagh’s missing Playboy Bunny friend, Margot Bamborough, leads Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott to a strange mother and son duo with ‘massive’ ears: Deborah and Samhain Athorn. Oonagh is described as having prominent buck teeth, while the mother and son have the opposite; a definite underbite. Oonagh looks up to her light spiritual father figure (God/Christ) while Deborah looks down to her dark, inverted son. So we can see a parallel of psychic opposites play out as the detectives search for the missing woman.

To find the dead body of Margot Bamborough, Robin and her assistant have to navigate their way past Deborah and Samhain. The pair have been unwittingly holding the body of the former Bunny Girl in their flat. Margot is encased in concrete, in an ottoman, in their living room. The ottoman is covered with an old hippy cloth that has a large mandala imprint; a symbol of wholeness and completion. The odd couple are distracted from the room while Robin and her assistant break open the box to reveal its sad content.

Opposites attract

Rabbit symbolism appears briefly with symbolic depth in another part of Troubled Blood. Margot’s daughter Anna hides her photographs of her missing mother in her pajama case, which is in itself, a toy rabbit. But it is the giant-eared sad couple along with the happy, buck-toothed, retired vicar which builds the hidden symbolism towards solving the case. The conscious process of finding the murderer is handled by Cormoran Strike. The unconscious symbolism is mostly navigated by the intuitive Robin Ellacott.

Symmetry within the quest

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Lamb photo by author

By contrast, the relationship between Deborah and Samhain is introverted and closeted. It occurs as a result of their joint affliction of Fragile X. Oonagh opens up to the light while the name Samhain relates to Halloween, a celebration of the dark. Samhain curls back into his mother’s sad shade for emotional and practical support while Irish Oonagh took a brave leap from her strict family to reach out for life in London. The bucktooth leaping forward and the undercut folding back.

Competing myths

In strict terms, the psychopomp is often seen as the psychopompós, the angelic guide to the soul as it leaves the body for the supposed afterlife. In psychological terms, it sits between the unconscious and conscious realms as a mediator or guide. It’s often portrayed by the subconscious mind as an animal.
There is a rule in fairy tales (and in personal dreams) that if you should ever encounter a lost or injured animal, you should give it help. It will then repay you by helping you along in your quest. The animal has intuitive and instinctive gifts that have been lost over time by us over-intellectual humans.

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Rabbit praying: by author (back garden)

Ms. Rowling’s first-ever story was written in early childhood when she was around 6 years old. It was called Rabbit. How strange that it should lie dormant and then manifest later with the richness of Troubled Blood. In this case, at least, it has taken the role of her personal ally.

References:
1 — For a brief analysis of this symbolic bridge see: J. K. Rowling’s The Silkworm in relation to Troubled Blood
2 — J.K. Rowling, Troubled Blood, Chapter 24, digital edition, Sphere, 2020.
3J.K. Rowling, interview on her Robert Galbraith website, 2018.

Photography:
The introductory photo at the top is actually of a hare not a rabbit, but I liked her sleepy pose: Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto, at Pixabay.

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Iain Spence

Written by

Based in Scotland. Interests in pop culture, mythology and psychology. Profile photo is rather out of date.

Books Are Our Superpower

Book reviews, recommendations, summaries, rants — as long as it is related to books, your piece is welcome here. We aim to build a community of book lovers sharing about the books that moved them the most.

Iain Spence

Written by

Based in Scotland. Interests in pop culture, mythology and psychology. Profile photo is rather out of date.

Books Are Our Superpower

Book reviews, recommendations, summaries, rants — as long as it is related to books, your piece is welcome here. We aim to build a community of book lovers sharing about the books that moved them the most.

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