How the Death Eaters got their name (maybe)

Following on from my wonderings about wands in Harry Potter, I wanted to talk a bit more about Death Eaters.

As I said yesterday, it’s a very silly name. Apparently J.K. Rowling was originally going to call them the ‘Knights of Walpurgis‘ (thanks to Arwen on Twitter for that gem!) – at first glance an equally silly name.

But J.K. doesn’t do things at random – this is the author who even chose the wood Harry’s wand was made from very deliberately:

European tradition has it that the holly tree (the name comes from ‘holy’) repels evil, while yew, which can achieve astonishing longevity…
~Article on Harry Potter’s Wand, from the Harry Potter Wiki

It appears that the Knights of Walpurgis is based on Walpurgis Night or Walpurgisnacht, the 30th of April, the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga. In German folklore Walpurgisnacht is believed to be the night of a witches’ gathering.

So, how did we get from the Knights of Walpurgis to the Death Eaters? I’m struggling to find out – if you can shed any light on it, please let me know!

You can just imagine the scene though…

Voldemort: I’ve gathered you here tonight, my loyal friends, for a very special occasion. Tonight I shall announce the name that I have chosen for you all!
Voice from the back: Oooh, Voldy. Do tell!
Voldemort: Right. Who said that? I’ve told you before. It’s LORD VOLDEMORT. Or HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED!
Voice from the back: Or ‘you know who’ [giggles]
Voldemort: That’s it! I’ve had enough! AVADA KEDAVRA!
Voice from the back: ouch! Oh, bum [dies]
Voldemort: We shall henceforth be known as THE KNIGHTS OF WALPURGIS!
All: Eh? The Knights of what?
Voldemort: The Knights of Walpurgis! It’s a play on Walpurgis Night! The gathering of witches? In Germany? End of April?
All: Errr…
Voldemort: Hey, that’s not bad actually. How would you feel about being called DEATH EATERS?

Wondering about Wands

Have you ever wondered about the wands in Harry Potter? I have…


The wand chooses the wizard, remember…
~ Garrick Ollivander, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

We were in Alnwick Castle recently. They filmed parts of the first Harry Potter movie there, and the gift shop had quite a range of collectable replica wands. Harry, Ron and Hermione’s were all there, as were the wands belonging to Snape, Luna, Tonks and assorted other characters. The kids and I spent a while poring over them discussing which ones we liked best.

It was the wands belonging to the dark wizards which struck me as most interesting.

If, as the book suggests, the wand chooses the wizard, would it not be really easy to tell a bad ‘un by their wand?

Take, for example, the Death Eater wand (it’s the one next to Voldemort’s in the photo). The grinning skull in the handle has got to be a bit of a giveaway, hasn’t it? Imagine before You Know Who turns up again. You’re a Death Eater[1], minding your own business when someone spots your wand.

“Ere, you’re one of them Death Eater’s, ain’t cha?”
“Me, madam? Certainly not! What a preposterous suggestion!”
“Why’s your wand got a skull on it then?”
“Oh, drat. Avada Kedavra!
“Oh, bum.” [dies]

Or the ‘snatcher’ wand.

“Ere mate. That’s not a wand. It’s a stick.”
“It’s a wand! Look!” [flourishes]
“Oh, bum. You’re right. It’s a stick. Now, where did I put me wand?”

[1] What a stupid name that is. Honestly, if anyone can give me a *good* explanation of why they’re called Death Eaters, I’ll give you ONE MILLION HOUSE POINTS.

The Roundtable Podcast

I’m a huge fan of podcasts. I’ve got about a dozen set up on my phone to automagically download and I’ll usually stick one on whilst on the way to or from work, or when I’m out and about.

Recently one of my writer friends mentioned The Roundtable Podcast and I decided to check it out. As you may recall from an earlier post, I’ve been prompted by my friend John to do some writing, so I’ve been looking out for good resources online.

I *love* the Roundtable. Hosted by Dave Robison episodes alternate from a ’20 minutes with… [insert name of awesome author here]‘ one week to a longer workshop session the following week with that author.

The workshop consists of Dave, his co-host, and [awesome author] working through a story idea with a guest author – the guest has 5-8 minutes to pitch their story idea, setting, characters and plot before Dave and the others brainstorm their way through the tale, unearthing a veritable cornucopia of Literary Gold, picking at plot points, brainstorming, asking questions and getting to the nub of the story nuggets within.

It’s brilliant. So many ideas, so many bits of advice that I find myself wanting to apply to my own story ideas. The awesome guest authors are great too (recent episodes have featured Cat Rambo and Kameron Hurley) and I’ve had to add a number of books to my list as a result!

If you’re interested in writing, or the writing process, I highly recommend it.

Broken Monsters | Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. She’s seen stupidity, corruption and just plain badness. But she’s never seen anything like this.

Clayton Broom is a failed artist, and a broken man. Life destroyed his plans, so he’s found new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city. And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.

A killer who wants to make you whole again…

I’ve been a huge fan of Lauren Beukes ever since I stumbled across Zoo City, a gloriously… different tale which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction Literature in 2011. It was followed up by The Shining Girls, which involved a time-travelling serial killer and a girl who didn’t die. Very different from Zoo City, but still utterly splendid and highly recommended.

So it was with much excitement that I was sent an advance copy of her latest book, Broken Monsters by the lovely folk at HarperCollins (@KillerReads). Again, all other books on the Great Unread Book Pile were promptly shifted to one side to put this one front & centre.

Short version – brilliant, go read it.

Longer version:
Lauren has brought us another serial killer novel, but one very different in tone from The Shining Girls. Our murderer here is building monsters from the darker part of dreams – part boy, part faun. Indelible images of a warped mind. And that’s just for starters. The story jumps between the viewpoints of multiple, beautifully realised characters – Detective Versado on her hunt for the killer, her daughter Layla and best friend Cas, trying to track down a paedophile online, freelance wannabe-famous journalist Jonno and his DJ girlfriend Jen, looking for an angle on the story, and of course the killer himself.

The plot spirals and unfurls, myriad threads twisting and turning inexorably towards the finale. It starts as a seemingly straightforward police procedural, but quickly escalates to something more, something other. Something which will stay in your mind for a long time afterwards…

Lauren shows a real mastery of the minutiae of character and has a knack for getting under their skin – scenes are beautifully written and the whole paints a chilling picture of a broken Detroit.

I loved the way she wove social media into the story, from Jonno’s listicles and his shot at fifteen minutes of fame on YouTube to Layla & Cas playing out school life against an backdrop of texts where secrets never remain secrets for long. The subplot where the girls track down a paedophile is particularly chilling and nicely played. The characters are all ultimately the broken monsters of the title.

In anyone else’s hands it could have been formulaic, but Lauren’s broken monsters inhabit the page and edge their way into your dreams.

Sleep well, she said…

Fat chance.


disclaimer: as I mentioned above, I received an advance copy of the book for review. However, the review is my own honest opinion.

A Creativity Blog Hop

Earlier this week I was tagged by Kay from Cheery Little Thing to join in with the Creativity Blog Hop. Thanks for the tag, Kay and thanks for the nice things you said about my blog and my photos!

The rules of the blog hop are to answer the three set questions and then nominate two other people to take part. So without further ado, here are the questions and my answers:

#1 What have been the doings/makings/scribblings at your desk over the past week or so?
Ooh, right. Now then. I’ve been working on a story idea with my friend John who I’ve known for about ten years now (crikey, time flies) and was introduced to as part of a writer’s group.

We used to meet up for a chat and to exchange story snippets (and eat chips, if I recall correctly). I ended up getting a job at the same place as John, the writing continued but he was always more prolific than me, but not as prolific as Dave, the guy who introduced us. Dave would regularly churn out tens/hundreds of thousands of words whilst I would manage a bit, usually starring Monty (some of which has featured on this very blog and which was mainly written to amuse myself.

Recently John suggested a collaboration – he’s come up with a start of story snippet and we’re working on that together. Though mainly bouncing ideas around at the moment, but it’s definitely got some potential.

Also, a few years back I found myself in the middle of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where I managed to churn out 50,000 words of sci-fi shenanigans. It was fun to write and has the germ of a plot in it, but I could never work out quite what was wrong with it. Various people turned up and did various things to various other people. They went from point A to point B whilst others went from point C to point D, when really the people at D needed to be at A in order to to get to C before they got to B. It was all very confusing so I put it to one side to pick up another day.

Then I saw a post about how J.K. Rowling plotted Harry Potter with a hand-drawn spreadsheet and was struck that this was the answer – take the plot threads as I have them and put them into a spreadsheet – this will let me see who’s doing what, where and when. And, more crucially, will let me work out how the various threads all tie together.

So I’ve been looking at that too. Fun!

#2 Where are you currently finding your inspiration?

See, I should really read the questions first, eh? See above for the writing stuff.

Regular readers will know that I’m a keen photographer. I’ve posted up some photos on here and I’ve got a ton over on Flickr. Inspiration for photos can come from anywhere, but I really like exploring and finding the little bits of everyday life which often get missed. I’ve spent years exploring Leeds and taking photos. I also like sunsets a a lot.

Inspiration for blog posts comes from anywhere – you may have noticed (or you will if you stick around) that this blog doesn’t really have a focus, it’s more of a random collection of stuff I’ve found interesting. It varies wildly from musings about maps to a recent A-Z of movies. Seriously, anything could take my fancy at a moment’s notice – some days I’ve blogged three or four times, other times it’s weeks between posts. Hopefully you’ll find something entertaining in here.

#3 How important is being creative to you & how do you blend this with your work/life/family balance?

Ah, now there’s the tricky bit. What with family life (two kids, two guinea pigs and a hamster) and other stuff, we’re usually busy off doing something or going somewhere to visit someone, and by the time the kids are in bed and it’s time to settle down, it’s late and often hard to motivate myself to do anything other than sit in front of twitter or surf the internet rather than do creative things. But then again, Liz has some excellent thoughts on making time for creativity, so I shall be trying to follow her good example…

Now that tagging – I’d like to tag my good friends (and super-creative people) Lucie from Love, Lucie and Mike from Backwards Lion, both of whom are creative in very different ways!