Are there Nargles in your mistletoe?

nargle1If you’re worried about Nargles in your mistletoe then you’ve probably been reading too much Harry Potter, for that’s the only world where they occur. If indeed they occur at all.

Even in the Potter world the only evidence of their existence is from Luna Lovegood, a fellow Hogwarts student, who suggests they are mischievous beings who steal things. And often live in mistletoe.

Her mistletoe remarks are made in Chapter 21 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry is discovered alone in a roomful of Christmas decorations by Luna.  She points out he is standing under some mistletoe. As he hastily retreats she suggests that he’s wise to do so as ‘it’s often infested with Nargles’. Harry has never heard of Nargles but doesn’t admit this.

Three pages later he’s in the same spot, but this time alone with Cho Chang, a young lady who has made it clear she, er, likes him. She, like Luna, mentions that he’s standing under the mistletoe. Harry warns her that ‘it’s probably full of Nargles’ but admits to her he has no idea what Nargles are. This time he doesn’t retreat, throws caution to the wind and kisses Cho, despite the risk of Nargles. [the film version is on Youtube here]

But what is a Nargle? No-one seems to know – they’re never explained and the implication, from other remarks, is that they are either non-existent (i.e. made up by Luna) or extinct or, possibly, just very elusive. In some of the (many) analyses of J K Rowling’s storylines online there are suggestions that maybe Luna made them up to avoid awkward situations – such as meeting Harry Potter under the mistletoe.

So that’s all clear. Nargles are possibly a fictional invention of a fictional character in a fictional world. But if they did exist, in the fictional world, they would infest mistletoe and steal things.

Nothing to worry about really. You’re far more likely to have one of the UK’s six mistletoe insects in your mistletoe. Of which my favourite is the Mistletoe Weevil Ixapion variegatum. Perhaps these are Nargles – they always look fairly mischievous to me.  Though, being only a few millimetres long, it’s difficult to imagine them stealing much:

nargle2

Mistletoe Mysteries

There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of novels with mistletoe in the title, though they are, mostly, romantic fiction and I tend to ignore those. But I was reminded, recently, of P.D.James’ The Mistletoe Murder (published in The Spectator in 1991 and in anthology The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories in 2016) and realised I couldn’t remember the plot, particularly the mistletoe bit, assuming there is one. mistletoemurderSo I re-read it yesterday and re-found, to my disappointment, that mistletoe only has a bit part. Indeed the un-named narrator (the inference being it is P.D.James herself, though the biographical details don’t match) acknowledges this from the start, excusing the title on the basis that she likes alliteration. The story is a classic country house mystery with a body in the locked library. The sole role given to mistletoe is a place to hide a key, an action that is given away by the clue of some dislodged berries on the floor below the library door. Which is fine, except that, in reality, mistletoe berries mostly stay in place. But fiction is fiction (assuming of course, that in this case it is…). HangmansholidayTo make up for the disappointment I looked out more stories of mysterious mistletoe misconduct and seized upon The Necklace of Pearls, a story by Dorothy L Sayers (a chapter in the anthology Hangman’s Holiday published in 1933). No mention of mistletoe in the title but it does play a major role. This story is also set in a country house where, after dinner one Christmas, a string of pearls is found to be missing. Lord Peter Wimsey, the aristocrat detective, takes charge and everyone is searched. No pearls are found. But Wimsey works it out. A day or two later he gets his man by showing that the pearls had been pinned to some mistletoe, where they would look just like berries, to be collected at leisure. Ingenious. Though not really that unusual, not for us mistletoe people anyway. When I used to supply mistletoe I often had summer time requests from advertisers doing Christmas shoots for TV or magazines. They wanted real mistletoe, but in August. This could be supplied, no problem, but of course it wouldn’t have the pearlescent white berries that make it extra distinctive. So we would advise them to glue or pin artificial pearls onto the plants, no-one would tell the difference as long as it was only a background decoration.
Grow your own pearlescent berries with Mistletoe Grow-Kit from the English Mistletoe Shop.